Tech-led home design used be the provision of the super rich and Bond villains. Now a whole wave of new products have hit the market set to transform your home into an intelligent environment that will predict your needs, smooth your days and make your money work harder.
So What is Home Automation? And What Will You Need to Be Part of it?
Home automation or ‘smart homes’ is simply a way of describing an environment where technology, through various solutions such as apps and sensors, automates your tasks at home. You then use a central controller or app (or interconnected systems such as a mix of voice commands, programs and timers) to run the system, making your home work more efficiently. It’s part of what’s known as the Internet of Things. Companies such as Nest, Hive, Samsung and Luxaflex® all make systems and products that mean you can control your home from an app, delivering huge advantages in safety, savings and comfort.
Er, what is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of things (or IOT) is part of a rapidly growing market of home automation (and of course, offices, workplaces and leisure environments) products, systems and devices that have the internet and learning intelligence built into them. Want to cut energy use in your home but don’t want to return to a sweltering hot box in summer? You can tell your home ‘going out’ as you leave and contact it from your phone to switch on the air conditioning an hour before you get back. Unlike old technology that relied on timers, modern versions can be operated from anywhere and also react to requirements such as heat and light in real time.
Peace of Mind – Smart Security
Security service companies have been quick to jump on the advantages smart home security can bring. Integrated systems with cameras that allow homeowners to view their home from their phone (alarm set off by the dog again?) can offer real reassurance.
Still worried? With the connected home, you also have the ability to then close or secure garage doors, alert the police or close blinds to avoid that ‘shuttered up’ look that alerts burglars that it’s holiday season. Plus if you do get a false alarm you can disarm it rapidly rather than have the neighbours turning against you after two weeks of noise. And some everyday advantages: rather than having to open driveway and garage gates on request, your camera recognises pre-approved number plates and faces. No more getting out of the shower to let in your partner who forgot the ‘clicker’.
Effortless Comfort: Intuitive Heating & Cooling
Using a remote heating control or a smart thermostat that does the calculations for you can mean big savings on heating and air conditioning bills. Most systems now come with (or can have added on) a wireless thermostat that works over WiFi meaning you can control your heating from your mobile (and even in individual rooms).
But really smart homes work with other technology too. Setting your blinds using PowerView®Motorisation can allow a winter home to capture sunlight for thermal gain when you are out, and then trap it in heat at night by closing them as the sun goes down. Your heating app can then boost the temperature just before you arrive home. For cooling, summer settings can be used with Duette® Shades which can block out the suns rays keeping your home cool when you need it, cutting down on energy needed for air conditioning.
Setting the Mood: Lighting & Switches
Home lighting automation used to consist of confusing panels with complex pre-programmed settings that made an old-fashioned light switch seem appealing. Remote controlled lighting is now a very different thing, as a smartphone light switch means you can smoothly dim or alter your lighting without leaving your chair or even being home. Even existing lamps and light fixtures can be converted to smart as the technology works within the bulbs that replace your old ones. (Try Philips or Hive for versions). Set pre-devised moods such as ‘Movie’ or ‘Evening meal’ to work in tandem with the light you allow in with your window coverings. Use the PowerView® app to position and tilt the shades to allow as little or as much in. Each room has a different motor and setting so you can automatically let your toddler sleep in whilst you get your teenager up for school.
Keeping You Entertained: Looping in Your Leisure Time
First stop in a smart house tends to be a smart TV. These can look more like home theatre systems in scale, but essentially they all have the connectivity to the web in the forms of streaming and gaming services built in (rather than having to connect to a DVD player for example). These TVs can also learn what you like to watch, how you like things to be set for films and music. The sound quality is often so good that they also replace music systems for many but the proper connected IOT home buff will probably also prefer a fully integrated music system that includes multi room audio. Film buffs can add in ‘Hue’ the new Philips lighting range of app controlled products which allow you to sync your room lighting to react with the films and music you play on your smart TV. So if you want to get that Rio carnival feeling when your team scores (with 16 million colours) these are the gadgets for you.
Keeping You Healthier: Always on
Apart from the convenience of home automation simplifying your day to day, it can aid your wellbeing. You can be reassured that your well-loved house plants can be monitored for moisture levels so they don’t falter on your weekend away.
You can enjoy more restful sleep with carbon monoxide alarms watching over your family, and enjoy a heating system that automatically creates cooler temperatures whilst you rest and warms up just before you hit the shower. Got a teenager or flatmate that can never remember if they have left the iron on? You can now buy smart plugs that you can switch off appliances from your commute. An app set to your location that opens the blinds quietly with sunrise so you can wake up naturally, rather than to a shrill alarm? Sounds like a very smart home.