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Living like the Jetsons: Middle East homes go smart

The Jetsons, pioneers of the smart home David Rodriguez/USA Today
The Jetsons' vision of the smart home future, including Rosie the home-cleaning robot, is now close to the present
  • ‘Smart home’ market to grow 80%
  • Demand soars for smart security systems
  • Boom helped by high internet penetration

It has been six decades since the American animated sitcom The Jetsons offered a glimpse into a future filled with robots and smart kitchens. Now reality seems poised to beat this once-fanciful vision. 

Today, voice-activated assistants seamlessly control everything – from adjusting lights and thermostats to automating tasks such as unlocking doors or turning on sprinklers.

A “smart” home is one equipped with appliances that can be controlled remotely using a device connected to the internet.

These devices offer convenience, energy efficiency and security, allowing users to control them remotely and track energy consumption.

Urban demand

Rapid urbanisation has spurred a heightened demand for smart home solutions in the Middle East. More than 70 percent of the population live in urban areas, and the GCC is one of the most urbanised regions globally.

The focus on building smart cities – in which information is gathered to manage resources and improve operations – is gaining momentum, Indian market research company Renub says.

Data from market intelligence firm Statista showed that the smart home market in the GCC is projected to grow almost 80 per cent in five years, from $650 million in 2023 to $1.16 billion in 2028.

The uptake of different product categories varies across the region, depending on local lifestyles. 

In Turkey, for example, use of smart home appliances, such as robotic vacuum cleaners is high. This is driven not only by availability and affordability, but also by lifestyle choices.

“The average household in Turkey does not have an in-home cleaner, making robotic vacuum cleaners particularly attractive,” said Isaac T Ngatia, a Dubai-based senior analyst at research company IDC.

“This contrasts with the Gulf region, where home cleaning services are readily available, hence the demand for robotic vacuum cleaners is not as high.”

In the UAE, demand is soaring for smart home security systems such as indoor and outdoor video cameras; smart locks that can be activated from a smartphone app; smart doorbells that allow you to see, hear and video record who is at the door; and alarm systems, according to Zohaib Azhar, head of operations at maintenance company Hitches & Glitches.

A survey by Statista of more than 1,000 people found that 37 percent of respondents in the UAE like to own smart home devices for safety and security purposes – a higher proportion than respondents in the US and Australia, for example.

Faraz Mehdi, general manager at consumer products company Anker Innovations, said: “AI-powered surveillance systems and smart locks are gaining prominence due to a growing emphasis on safety and privacy.

“Additionally, the integration of smart home solutions with mobile apps and voice assistants offer users seamless control and management of their smart devices from anywhere.”

An expanding market

Companies such as Anker Innovations and Samsung are experiencing substantial growth in the smart home market.

Anker’s global revenue of $2.12 billion showed year-on-year growth of 13.3 percent, indicating the increasing market demand. 

Electronics company Samsung, meanwhile, has gained 21 million registered users of its SmartThings app in the Mena region alone, a 60 percent surge since 2021.

SmartThings allows users to manage their home appliances and other compatible electronic devices directly from their smartphone or tablet.

Burcin Arabul, director of the home appliances division for Samsung Gulf Electronics, said its smart refrigerator, for example, allows customers to see the contents of their refrigerator from anywhere and purchase groceries directly from the fridge.

The GCC region’s high internet penetration rates – exceeding 90 percent in most states – also provide a digitally receptive audience, the Bahrain Economic Development Board said.

As IDC’s Ngatia summarises: “More and more end users are realising the benefits of installing smart devices in their homes, which is driving demand across the region.”

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