Digital Homes: Who Are They For?
The "digital home" is often regarded as an expensive plaything for a the image-conscious elite, but this is not necessarily the case: the underlying technology is not necessarily expensive, nor does it cater to the needs of the "executive" consumer. There is evidence that the benefits of being connected and online can provide cost-effective benefits to various social strata.
Most technologies, at the onset, were baubles for the wealthy and avant-garde, but eventually became a part of the mainstream: automobiles, telephones, television, home security systems, washing machines, microwave ovens, and other innovations have become a standard fixture in middle-class and even poorer households. EN: This is a point that many authors miss entirely, and it's well taken.
In general, a new invention is a bauble until such time as a "killer application" is discovered, a use of the gadget to do something that's useful and practical, and of value to the mass market. The prime drivers of technology is that it accommodates an essential task, or relieves the drudgery of a task that is already being done, or saves time and/or money. EN: Even when its "killer" application is discovered, demand is not instantaneous. The application must be relevant to a broad range of users, and the economics of supply and demand kick in to bring the price to an agreeable level to the lower markets.
Also, while the ultimate consumer of the digital home is the resident, the initial customer may include others:
- Home builders - Providing elements of the digital home is perceived to give home builders a competitive advantage over others that don't provide them, and enables them to generate additional profit (much like "eco-friendly" features are currently used by some builders to attract customers and generate profit)
- Real Estate Developers - Developers who refurbish real-estate have the same incentives as builders to include "digital" features when they upgrade a residence
- Facilities Management Companies - On the commercial side, companies that rent office space to businesses must already provide IT and communications capabilities in order to be competitive, and those that provide public spaces must accommodate the personal needs of their tenants
- Housing Associations are presumed to be interested in the benefits of digital home technology, especially when negotiating services for their residents. This, admittedly, seems like a bit of a stretch.
- Tenants - Residential tenants (apartment dwellers) can also drive demand for "digital home" features, especially since it's much easier for a tenant to switch their residence to a property that offers such features than it is for a homeowner.
- Social housing tenants - Are also expected to drive demand for the digital home, as having access to technology is expected to be on par with the exercise of other civil rights.
The author concludes by suggesting that the benefits of a digital home are applicable to all strata of society, and predicts that they will quickly move from the wealthy and technically adept to the homes of average persons.