Smart home technologies in Europe: A critical review of concepts, benefits, risks and policies

Elsevier, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 120, March 2020
Sovacool B.K., Furszyfer Del Rio D.D.

Smart home technologies refer to devices that provide some degree of digitally connected, automated, or enhanced services to building occupants. Smart homes have become central in recent technology and policy discussions about energy efficiency, climate change, and the sustainability of buildings. Nevertheless, do they truly promote sustainability goals? In addition, what sorts of benefits, risks, and policies do they entail? Based on an extensive original dataset involving expert interviews, site visits to retailers, and a comprehensive review of the literature, this study critically examines the promise and peril of smart home technologies. Drawing on original data collected in the United Kingdom, which has access to European markets, the study first examines definitions of smart homes before offering a new classification involving 13 categories of smart technology covering 267 specific options commercially available from 113 companies. It situates these different technology classes alongside six degrees or levels of smartness, from the basic or traditional home to the fully automated and sentient home. It then elaborates on the 13 distinct benefits smart homes may offer alongside potential 17 risks and barriers, before introducing seven policy recommendations from the material. It lastly suggests three areas of future research on the demographics and behavior of actual smart home adopters, rethinking the duality of “control,” and looking beyond “homes” towards socio-technical systems, practices, and justice.