Future of dating 2016

How smart tech will transform dating

A Report by eharmony.co.uk and Imperial College Business School

From counting your steps on your smart watch to turning the heating on before you get home through the app on your phone, smart tech is already beginning to transform the way we live our lives. But, as technology starts to take an even greater hold over us all, just how will it change our dating lives?

Just five years ago, it was virtually unthinkable that you’d be able to use your mobile phone to get a date but today, swiping culture is ubiquitous and you can meet potential partners in an instant, without even leaving the house. Imagine how much the digital dating landscape will change in the next ten or twenty tears as smart tech continues to evolve and become integral to everyday life.

To investigate exactly how the future of dating will be transformed at the touch of the button, we enlisted the help of experts from Imperial College London. Here’s what we discovered…

About the Report

Metholody: Compiled by MSc Management students at Imperial College Business School, the Future of Dating report postulates on what the impact of smart technology and the ‘smart home’ will have over the next few decades when an increased number of devices come to market. The report is based on extensive literature reviews, detailed analysis and extrapolation of historic data and interviews with industry experts. Input was received from:

About eharmony

eharmony launched in the UK in 2007 with a clear vision: to create more lasting love in the world. The science based relationship site is committed to helping singles find the best possible partner via its unique Compatibility Matching System®. Prior to launch, the brand invested in further extensive research into love and relationships, conducted in partnership with Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, to develop UK specific compatibility models. Today eharmony, fondly known as ‘the brains behind the butterflies’, proudly serves over 67.3 million members globally, with more than 4.5m UK members. Find out more at here.

About Imperial College London

Imperial College London is one of the world’s leading universities. The College’s 14,000 students and 7,500 staff are expanding the frontiers of knowledge in science, medicine, engineering and business, and translating their discoveries into benefits for society.

Founded in 1907, Imperial builds on a distinguished past – having pioneered penicillin, holography and fibre optics – to shape the future. Imperial researchers work across disciplines to improve global health, tackle climate change, develop sustainable energy technology and address security challenges. This blend of academic excellence and its real-world application feeds into Imperial’s exceptional learning environment, where students participate in research to push the limits of their degrees.

Imperial nurtures a dynamic enterprise culture, where collaborations with industrial, healthcare and international partners are the norm. In 2007, Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust formed the UK’s first Academic Health Science Centre. This unique partnership aims to improve the quality of life of patients and populations by taking new discoveries and translating them into new therapies as quickly as possible. www.imperial.ac.uk


In 2014 we released our first groundbreaking Future of Dating study in partnership with Imperial College Business School. This predicted that by 2040 up to 70% of couples would get together online, with technology revolutionising the way we find love and build our relationships.

Our second report (2015) examined a range of possibilities that the future may bring, from full-sensory immersive virtual dating to the role DNA might play in compatibility matching.

I hope you agree that combining the skills and knowledge of some of the world’s most talented students with our own experts in matching and compatibility makes compelling reading.

Just as the Internet revolutionised the way people meet and interact with each other decades ago, further advances in technology will bring ever-greater changes in how we meet potential partners.

For the 2016 report, we wanted to dive further into what ‘everyday’ smart technology is on the horizon, what data these new devices will provide, and how this will help singles in their pursuit of love. The data provided by smart technology will crucially help to remove the gap between who you think you are, and who you actually are, leading to far more rewarding romantic choices.

Specifically, we’ve tried to understand how such data could be used to provide accurate insight into people’s personality traits, helping us to understand even further what makes them truly compatible. It may sound strange at first, but it’s very likely that in a few years the settings on a smart toaster or the food in your smart fridge could tell you more about yourself than many other forms of self-assessment.

Interestingly, as the technology advances, we as human beings stay the same and who we’re best suited to remains the same. eharmony.co.uk connects members using several key dimensions of compatibility – factoring in their beliefs, core values and key personality traits. This creates better matches and as a result, meaningful relationships that will stand the test of time.

The challenge for us in the future will be to understand how all this new data provided by the ‘Internet of Things’ relates to what scientists now call Deeper Learning, helping us to better understand the behaviour of people and how this relates to attraction.

From wearable tech right through to ‘smart homes’, Imperial College students estimate that by 2036 more than 12 million UK adults will be matched to a compatible partner using the data that smart tech will record.

It’s encouraging for us to see that what started with online matching will continue to evolve and sharpen, making use of the array of possibilities that the ‘smart era’ has to offer.

Romain Bertrand UK Country Manager, eharmony.co.uk

October 2016


This report is a collaboration between relationship experts eharmony.co.uk and Imperial College Business School. It has been compiled by MSc Management students from extensive literature reviews, detailed analysis and extrapolation of more than 100 years of data. These finding are supported by interviews with experts in the fields of anthropology, sociology, technology and biomedicine. The aim is to answer the following question:

What role will the ‘Internet of Things’ have on our intimate relationships over the next 20 years?

The findings have focused on the potential for the smart tech industry, its advancement in the coming years and the data that such appliances will record and process. This study builds on last year’s report, which mapped the possibilities that the technology of tomorrow could bring in terms of connecting with others and leveraging the advancements in artificial intelligence.

Ultimately, the wealth of data delivered by the ‘Internet of Things’ will mean we have much more data on our daily behaviour, and this information will be far more objective than the common methods of personality self-assessment we have today, removing subconscious bias. Machines will essentially open doors to a better understanding of ourselves.

The report has been divided into the following three sections:

    An assessment of the current smart tech ecosystem. The world is already a smart place, with an array of technology creating and recording a wealth of valuable data. Here we look at what data is recorded and how it might reflect on the user’s personality.
    As our homes become more networked and include a greater number of smart devices, your home could ultimately know you better than you know yourself. We investigate the various devices within the smart home and what the data they collect can tell us.
    Just when will smart tech be as ubiquitous as the mobile phone is today and what will this mean for the rise in ‘smart dating’?

1. Wearable tech and today’s smart tech possibilities

Students at Imperial College estimate that by 2026, four million relationships will have been created in the UK by matching through smart technology and this will grow to 12 million by 2036. But how can smart tech help us make better and deeper connections?

Wearable technology has boomed over the last few years, with the emergence of smart watches, smart glasses and health wearables such as ‘Fitbits’, which monitor calories burned, heart rate and sleep patterns among other measurables. Products like stress monitors, smart footwear, smart lenses, and smart clothing are either already available on the market or are due to appear in the coming years. In fact, technology experts at Gartner estimate that there are 6.4 billion connected devices worldwide and this will grow to over 20 billion by 2020.

All of these technologies are also improving, with each new generation recording more data and offering a greater number of features.

The range of data that they record is near limitless. In terms of how this might tell us about ourselves, the below table is a summary compiled by Imperial using eharmony’s insight into the science of compatibility:

Table 1: Wearable tech and its relevance to smart dating and relationships eharmony is a science-based relationship site committed to helping singles find the best possible partner based on several key dimensions of compatibility. Here we look at how the data recorded by the next wave in wearable tech could help us mine even deeper analysis via our Compatibility Matching System (CMS).

Key smart technologyData collected (examples) Traits reflected in data Relevance to
attitude and behaviours
Dimensions of
compatibility (examples)
Smartwatches, Smart/Fitness Wristbands– Location
– App usage
– Media pref
– Photos
– Spending habits
– Hobbies & interests
– Spending habits & levels of materialism
– Extrovert/introvert Sociability/popularity
– Political, social, lifestyle views
– Life priorities
– Common interests
– Money and spending
– Temperament
– Sex and intimacy
– Self concept
– Intellect & curiosity
– Romantic and sexual
– Autonomy
– Emotion management
Smart fitness tech (incl. smart footwear)– Exercise patterns (duration and nature of exercise)
– Body image
– Hobbies
– Common interests
– Life priorities
– Self concept
– Physical energy
– Appearance
Sleep wearables– Sleep tracking
– Dreaming time
– Eye movement
– Sleeping/waking behaviour– Cohabitation expectations
– Anger/temper
– Life priorities and values
– Emotion management
– Vitality and security
– Adaptability
– Physical energy
Smart monitors– Mood and emotion
– Stress levels
– Breathing
– Heart rate
– Menstrual cycle
– Mood and emotions
– Typical stress/frustration
– Anger/temper
– Cohabitation expectations
– Obstreperousness
– Autonomy
– Conflict resolution
– Emotional status
Smart lenses– Facial recognition
– Photos
– Augmented reality experience choice
– How people feel about one another– Sex and intimacy (attraction)
– Life values
– Common interests
– Self concept
– Curiosity
– Industry
– Appearance
Smart clothing– Biomechanics
– Temperature
– Heart rate and breathing
– Hobbies and interests
– Body image
– Life priorities
– Common interests
– Temperament
– Self concept
– Appearance
– Artistic passion
– Vitality and security

Together, this data paints a fascinating picture of who people really are, in terms of their interests, behaviour and preferences. However, some extracts of this information are more valuable than others when it comes to finding people a compatible partner, and as such can be grouped into seven distinct categories as outlined in the chart below.

‘Primary’ data sources will provide significant insight, ‘secondary’ sources will be useful but limited, and ‘tertiary’ data sources will be more than likely used in conjunction with other data sources to provide insight.

PRIMARYMusic preferences

Not only do music preferences correlate with certain personality traits, they can also shed light on energy levels and emotional state, allowing for matching with others who are in a complementary mood or stage in their lives. The wide variety of music genres and styles make this data source rich and extremely useful when matching partners together.

Data on spending could be used to assess financial habits and frugality. Money is one of the most commonly argued about topics in relationships, so compatibility in this respect could increase relationship longevity. Furthermore, smart tech won’t just measure how you spend your money but also what you spend it on, which could be hugely insightful when it comes to building a personality profile. Specific novel genres, newspaper choice, casual spending and even charity donations say a lot about your opinions, views and interests.

Many key personality traits can be garnered from facial features and can then be paired with related characteristics to build complex personality profiles useful for matching. A picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case a thousand data points. Non-facial photos taken can also reflect the personality and outgoingness of the user, or reflect their interests from the activities they’re enjoying (for example walking, travelling or skiing). So images can essentially build a profile of how a person feels, what makes them happy and what interests they pursue – which are all crucial details when matching two personalities together.
SECONDARYFacial expression

Images captured outside of official photos taken by the user will give an objective indication of the person’s mood and how it fluctuates. High fluctuation could indicate higher levels of neuroticism. Such data on a person’s typical mood relates directly to attraction and likelihood of communication.

The places people go and when they go there reveals key insights into that person’s extraversion and adventurousness. The amount of time spent inside and outside the home is also a key indicator of introversion or extraversion – all crucial when it comes to initial attraction, likeliness to communicate and chemistry.
Excercise patterns

Measuring athleticism and health-oriented behaviour as well as physical appearance and attractiveness can certainly help in matching. Similar approaches to health and exercise increase compatibility, and psychological studies have also shown that individuals are most attracted to and pair with those of similar attractiveness.
TERTIARYSleep patterns

Sleep patterns, in terms of when you sleep and for how long, reveal a great deal about your personality and life preferences and priorities. In this case, you would look to match people who share similar approaches to their lifestyle, as well as having similar energy levels.

2. The potential of the ‘smart home’

While wearable tech and smart phones are on the increase, there’s the potential for even greater insight into our personalities and behaviours from the ‘smart home’ – the network of connected and smart appliances around our homes.

Table 2: Smart devices in the home and what they can measure

Once again working with Imperial, we mapped the range of existing and upcoming smart home appliances, studied the data they supply and outlined what this data could tell us. Vitally, this data would not be made public, and instead would inform an algorithm behind the scenes, helping find accurate romantic matches for people based on supplied factors they may not realise are important.

Table 3: List of smart devices, the personality traits and interests they will measure, and how this can be applied to relationship compatibility

Key smart technologyData collected (examples) Traits reflected in data Relevance to
attitude and behaviours
Dimensions of
compatibility (examples)
Smart body analyser
– Weight
– Body fat
– Muscle mass
– Body image
– Health and fitness
– Life priorities
– Common interests
– Sex and intimacy
– Appearance
– Vitality and security
Smart shower and smart toothbrush– Water consumption
– Time and frequency
– Environmental consciousness
– Personal hygiene
– Life priorities and values– Altruism
– Traditionalism
– Vitality and security
Smart toilet– Dietary balance
– General health
– Health– Life priorities and values– Vitality and security
Smart wardrobe– Types of clothing
– Style
– Facial expression
– Speech
– Dressing preference
– Users’ feelings
– Treatment of others
– Common interests
– Financial behaviour
– Life priorities and values
– Emotional status
– Emotional energy
– Obstreperousness
– Kindness
Smart mirror– General health– Health– Life priorities and values– Vitality and security
Smart entertainment (music, TV etc.)– Films/TV watched, rated and re-watched
– Music selection
– Time spent watching TV
– Movie/TV/Music preferences
– Users’ feelings
– Treatment of others
-Life priorities & values
– Common interest
– Sex and intimacy
– Dominance
– Communication style
– Mood management
– Emotional energy
– Romantic passion
– Intellect
Smart security
– Movement around the house
– Time spent in/out of home
– Time spent on various activities (sleep, TV etc.)
– Sleeping habits
– Personal interests
– Hobbies
– Homebody or outgoing
– Life priorities & values
– Common interest
– Industry
– Sociability
– Autonomy
– Vitality and security
– Physical energy
Smart meter
– Energy usage– Environmental consciousness
– Light preferences
– Life priorities & values
– Common interest
– Traditionalism
– Altruism
Air quality analyser, thermostat– Temperature
– Humidity
– Cleanliness
– Health
– Hygiene
– Habits
– Common interest– Vitality and security
Car charging station– Distance
– Speed
– Locations travelled
– Music played
– Driving style
– Type of destination visited
– Regularity
– Safety
– Common interest– Security
– Curiosity
– Communication style
– Altruism
Smart appliances: fridge, toaster, coffee maker etc.– Types of food
– Facial expressions
– Speech
– Emotion
– Diet
– Food & drink preferences
– Adventurousness
– Users’ feelings
– Common interest
– Security
– Curiosity
– Communication style
– Altruism

Just as our experts did with wearable tech, the data and its relation to love and relationships was condensed down into five key categories, displayed below in order of importance:

PRIMARYTV & Movie preferences

In a similar way to music preference, love of different movie genres or TV shows reflect the personality of the user. So what you like really does reflect what you’re like. Similar tastes in films – which we attach great emotional importance to – can be a strong tool in early attraction because of the feelings of mutual psychological validation of interests and choices.

Clothing style is an extremely precise and detailed reflection of a person’s personality. How they view themselves, how adventurous they are and how much they value their style in terms of money spent on clothes. This extremely bespoke data set will be useful in matching through common interest and opinion of self. It will be interesting to see how these data sets match. It could be that one partner prefers to be slightly ‘trendier’ or, like attractiveness, we’re likely to be attracted to someone with a similar level of style.

What we eat says a lot about how we feel in the long and short term and our respect for our own health (when combined with exercise data). A mismatch in dietary preferences and adventurousness could certainly lead to long term problems in a relationship. Fussiness over food, which may restrict a partner’s choice or enjoyment of meals can cause aggravation or argument. And it’s not just what’s in the fridge that matters, but how it’s organised and the time at which it’s consumed – which gives multiple personality insights in terms of approach to life (often whether people are spontaneous or planned).


Cleanliness correlates strongly with levels of conscientiousness but also organisation. One person’s view of acceptable or good hygiene could also differ wildly, which would make such data useful to avoid missmatching.
TERTIARYEnergy usage

Energy usage not only reflects a person’s frugality but also environmental concerns. Frugality is important in the initial stages of a relationship to ensure smooth early interactions such as choosing where to date, how much to spend and how the bill is split after a meal.

3. The arrival of the ‘smart era’ and ‘smart dating’

truly smart?
Current adaption
Estimated year of
mass uptake
smart body analyserRequires developmentMedium2019
Smart showerRequires development
Smart toothbrushYesLow2018
Smart toiletRequires developmentVery Low2026+
Smart mirrorRequires development
Smart wardrobeYesLow2023
Smart entertainmentRequires developmentHigh2021
Smart kitchen applianceRequires development
Smart securityYesHigh2017
Smart meterYesHigh2017

The rise of smart dating (in US and UK)

Based on existing field data, it’s estimated that:
40% of online dating services will have incorporated smart tech by 2026
90% of online dating services will have incorporated smart tech by 2036
30% of relationships will start by online dating by 2026
40% of relationships will start by online dating by 2036
Population growth rate of 1%

2026 in US2036 in US
353m Population 391m Population
293m Number of people in relationship325m Number of people in relationship
146m Number of relationship
2 (people per relationship)
163m Number of relationship
2 (people per relationship)
44m Relationships due to online dating 65m Relationships due to online dating
18m Relationships due to smart tech 59m Relationships due to smart tech
2026 in UK2036 in UK
72m Population 80m Population
60m Number of people in relationship66m Number of people in relationship
30m Number of relationship
2 (people per relationship)
33m Number of relationship
2 (people per relationship)
9m Relationships due to online dating 13m Relationships due to online dating
4m Relationships due to smart tech 12m Relationships due to smart tech

Therefore, we estimate 18m relationships and 4m relationships to be created by smart tech in 2026 in US and UK respectively, which will increase to 59m and 12m in 2036.


The massive range of data recorded by smart appliances will provide a real boon to the way that we understand ourselves and therefore are able to be romantically matched efectively with others. Today, we rely on self-assessment, which gets us so far but ultimately has limitations because of natural human bias or second-guessing what a survey question might say about them.

The use of smart data will alleviate this problem, providing objective and unadulterated information. We’ll be able to use this data to make the online dating process much easier in every stage; application and profile building could be instantaneous, matching far more accurate, and the data on the two people’s compatibility could even be used to suggest great locations for shared experiences or mutually-compelling topics of conversation.

Yet when it comes to matters of the heart, we have to be realistic. No matter how much data we have, ultimately it will be down to a face-to-face meeting to see if there are ‘butterflies’ or not. We’re not saying the data will make you instantly fall in love, but it will make the process easier. What’s more, by removing self-assessment, matching will be far more accurate and honest. The truth is that it’s hard to be truly objective about ourselves – smart data will bridge the gap.

Furthermore, as we seek to deepen the smart data being mined by eharmony’s compatibility matching algorithm (CMS) in the coming years, it will be fascinating to observe the extent to which it can deliver yet more accuracy. We already know that 80 per cent of eharmony relationships become long-term* and we are excited about the even greater potential on the horizon in the next decade and beyond.

While we believe the likes of music preferences or purchases will be key to reflecting a deeper knowledge of the user personality – more superficial measures, such as how you like your toast or how you brush your teeth, could actually carry more significance than previously anticipated.

The next twenty years will be enthralling and we look forward to revealing further insights in upcoming editions of the Future of Dating report.

*eharmony Marriage Claims Report (2015)