For over sixty years the TV has been at the heart of the home. From the inauguration of Queen Elizabeth II to the moon landings, from Live Aid to the World Cup - the TV has shown us the latest in news and entertainment direct in to our sofas.
But even in its latest iteration as the internet-enabled version (so-called “Smart TVs”), the television has primarily been for broadcast to us; it’s been a one-way channel for communication. The majority of innovations for connecting people have all centred on the smartphone, so we were told the TV was ‘a thing of the past’ and that we’d be using the smartphones to consume content.
Smartphones in decline
With global sales of smartphones seeing a steep decline (down 4.1% in 2018) sales of TVs continue to grow. This is an opportunity and there are now more and more people trying to work out ways to use the TV as the primary two-way communication; and the opportunities are endless.
The reasoning lies in two parts; firstly the increasing quality and decreasing cost of televisions, but secondly and perhaps more importantly, it is the major demographic shift of ageing populations. Because for all those millennials rushing to catch up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones on a packed train on their Monday morning commute - there’s an ever expanding number of middle-aged and senior citizens embracing the power of TV at home.
While millennials may want to consume content like Netflix or Amazon on demand, the over 55s continue to consume television in real-time through the TV. This group accounts for 59% of all live content - and they’re also partial to watching pay per view services on larger, much higher quality HD screens in the comfort of their own home.
Innovation in the home
The shift towards a two-way communication through the TV for older people is driving the next wave of innovation in the home. We are entering the era of AgeTech.
For every person struggling with the inferior experience of watching a movie on a smartphone screen, a more telling sign of the change ahead is seniors have have turned-off from video-calling via these devices. Only 13% of UK over 75s use Whatsapp and only 16% use Skype, compared to 52% of 25-34 year olds who use Skype video calling.
This explains why Facebook has recently attempted to launch its messaging services in to its first hardware product called Portal. Because for a large market segment, smartphones and even tablets are simply not an optimal experience.
The problem with Smartphones
Smartphone screens are sometimes too small, requiring manual dexterity that does not take Parkinson’s tremors and poor blood circulation to the fingertips into account - additionally many device controllers have not been designed with this user group in mind. With a TV you get the benefits of a high definition screen at a comfortable height - all without the distraction of in-screen displays that detract from traditional video calling.
Smartphones also lack the most critical aspect of human contact, personableness - who wants to speak to Granny’s nostrils or forehead? With a static TV and camera position elders can sit comfortably in their favourite seat, enjoy a cup of tea, not having to face the fatigue of holding a phone for an extended time or sitting in an unfamiliar position to handle a device and search out mobile signal.
In the era of AgeTech, smart must be simple. Technology for once will fit around our daily lives not just seek to change our behaviours.