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Small but steadily growing, the outlook is positive for the US$126m (Statista) Poland smart home market in the next four years. Charlotte Ashley finds out why.
There’s not an abundance of data on consumer attitudes to connected technology in the home in Poland, but what has been reported indicates a definite openness. At the close of 2016, daily local newspaper Rzeczpospolita found 6 in 10 Poles are convinced that most Polish homes will be “smart” five years from now, and the stats back it up – Statista expects penetration of such technology to increase almost five-fold from 2018 (2.2%) by 2022 (10.1%). In the same period, revenue is forecast to show an annual growth rate of just under 50% to surpass $600m.
What may propel this? “Controlling appliances with a smartphone” and “increased safety” says Rzeczpospolita, with property developers also reportedly increasingly looking to incorporate smart technology into buildings, but what does the custom installation industry think?
“We’re living in a very interesting period of time. People are aware of new technologies – they are buying new phones, gadgets and IoT products. They want to know more about technology and technology is changing the way they living, learning and working. That’s why they are coming to us,” says Wojciech Nowicki, technical director for Continental Europe at integration firm Andrew Lucas. “The last 12 months have been pretty successful. We have completed more project than initially expected,” adds Klaudia Mania from Wrocław-based smart home consultancy SmartSpace.
“From my point of view – it’s going in the right way,” Nowicki expands. “We don’t have any issues to get a new clients, the market is growing year-on-year, and people are more aware of the smart home sector and are asking about new products, features, prices.” He adds: “And yes, even real estate developers are trying to take something from the market providing new houses or apartments with smart features.”
“Generally the building market is blooming now – especially in the residential market, but developers still are using mostly the conventional or simpler technologies (not standard technologies),” adds Jan Worobiec, president of the Poland division of the KNX Association. “From our point of view, KNX business is more or less neutral, but the wider home automation market is growing.”
With the economy in fine shape and some tipping Poland to be the “next economic powerhouse” (thanks to strong household spending and robust government spending ahead of next year’s elections), analysts expect growth of 4.5% in 2018, up 0.1% from last month’s forecast, and 3.5% in 2019 (FocusEconomics). Spurred by this, the industry collectively is holding its breath that this could fuel increased openness to calling on a professional to make their home ‘smart.’
Bottom line blues
“The biggest challenge in our work since I can remember is finding a sweet spot between client expectations and a price of our solutions,” explains Nowicki. “We were a very poor society not so long ago, and we’re still working and trying to grow our wealth. That’s why the price is a very important factor when it comes to the investment in our market, and will be for next couple of years.”
“Our products and services are still seen as luxury goods in Poland, even though we have companies like Fibaro trying to reach low-end part of the market and increase awareness of the whole industry,” he adds. Renowned for its Z-Wave line-up of IoT automation and security devices, Fibaro was recently acquired by Italy-based home entry and home specialist, Nice Group, to push its reach in the market.
“In a country where the government still support coal production as a basic for hitting and energy production, developers are going to be focused on cheap technologies. Energy efficiency makes for good headlines,” says Worobiec. “We have a long way to go when it comes to raising customer awareness about different technologies and pressing for implementation of the necessary government legislation.”
Opportunities for growth
Of course the issue of price that can effect even the healthiest of markets, but in Poland installer Nowicki says it is clearly shaping what’s going into projects (on a different scale to the work of Andrew Lucas’ London branch), alongside comfort and functionality. “We’re finding all of the new streaming services to be very popular,” he says. “From my point of view, clients are going away from expensive solutions like Kaleidescape and going into streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video – obviously it’s cheaper, but also much easier to set up.”
“The same is happening on the audio side – some time ago we were selling high-end CD-players or turntables and now almost all installations are based on some streaming devices like Autonomic.”
“People usually have very basic knowledge about new technologies for home from adverts, press, the internet or a friend who has intelligent home control system in their house. They see some devices, they like the design, sometimes they read an article about some gadgets and smart home and it inspires them to look further,” says Mania from SmartSpace. “If they want to have it in their house, they look for a company that does such installations, but it is our role to educate them. Our clients are usually not familiar with all of the technology, so we show them all of the possibilities.”
Mania further pinpoints that its work in Chmielowice and Tokarska Street in Wrocław have been the hotspots for the company when working in particularly high-end projects involving “extraordinary solutions” when it comes to system integration.
In Poland, business doesn’t differentiate too much from the typical structure of manufacturer-distributor-integrator due to the market’s size (although some distributors to do some installs), with seven CEDIA member companies working here. Nowicki says for Andrew Lucas, one of these seven companies, business in and outside of company is currently at a 50/50 split, with the company sometimes venturing into commercial for certain large-scale projects (recently including one of the largest Polish TV stations). “We’re working in Poland all the time, but over the past few years we’ve also completed projects Venice, New York and even Muscat.” Most of those working inside the country on installations are Polish but Nowicki believes the market would be open for companies based outside the country to get work here. “More and more integrators are getting contacted about work outside of Poland,” states Worobiec from KNX, adding that these are mainly family house projects whilst adoption of the protocol is still growing in the country.
Although word of mouth may help spread the message of the industry’s work to new clientele, helped along by a healthy economy, there is still work to be done from the ground up in growing Poland’s custom installation market. “It is really difficult to find staff with the right technical skills. Due to the unique nature of our business, there are simply not many professionals in the field,” admits Mania from SmartSpace. “Even when we do find the right person we usually have to provide our own training because it is rarely guaranteed by the manufacturers.” She concludes, “More useful and interesting training being offered here, as well as more support for a career pathway into our industry would be very helpful going forward.”