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Home automation is a crucial stepping stone towards building smart cities

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According to Gartner, by 2022 a typical family home could contain more than 500 smart devices
Property Weekly

Imagine reaching home after a dreary drive back from work, to a hot cup of coffee brewing, the lights turned on to the exact ambient mood you prefer and your favorite Oud symphony playing softly in the background. Or imagine picking up kids from school on a hot summer afternoon, to find the home temperature cool and relaxing while lunch simmers slowly, ready to eat. From playing song tracks from the internet through voice commands, to previewing visitors through video intercom systems, to getting “out of milk” notifications from intelligent refrigerators, smart homes are the future of real estate.

Smart homes are a growing trend across the globe, with UAE leading the trend in the region. According to research firm MarketsandMarkets, the global smart home market could reach nearly $122 billion by 2022. The various benefits that smart homes offer — comfort, convenience, security, luxury, energy saving — have now started positively impacting property values in the GCC, which has further fuelled demand for these solutions.

The same was reflected at Intersec 2017 held recently in Dubai, where international players in the smart home automation market displayed products that can bring customized convenience to customers.

Security has been the core of smart home automation since its inception. Video intercom systems have changed the concept of “ringing the bell”, with the touch screen interactive panels allowing consumers to not only talk to but also see their visitors. Automatic door-unlocking systems, integrated with these intercom technologies, further increase convenience and eliminate the need to physically open doors.

Remote access and digital locks have also been constantly advancing trends in home automation. Remote-controlled car park doors, now with individual code locking mechanisms, keep access safe and comfortable for consumers. Similarly digital locking devices that require a code instead of a key can significantly reduce the risk of tampering and lock breaking, while also doing away with the hassle of a lost or missing key. CCTV monitoring and camera footage that can be accessed remotely on a phone has further heightened the convenience aspect of security for homeowners. Working moms who wish to monitor their homes and children and nannies can now do so through their phones. Remote monitoring also allows vacationing families to rest assured that their home is safe and secure while they are away.

Wireless systems

A new trend in the security arena has been wireless systems like the ProHome Series of Wireless Alarms exhibited at Intersec by Olympia Business Systems. The new solution connects nearly 100 sensors across the smart home alarm network, all without wires.

Another revolutionary but expensive luxury product in smart home automation market is the smart fridge, a normal fridge with a tablet interface on its front. With the features and apps embedded in the tablet, the fridge plays music, displays the weather, functions as a digital whiteboard, displays the contents inside the fridge on the tablet (these can also be viewed on your smartphones) and even helps you put together a shopping list. Additionally the tablet provides an app that one can use to manually track and order groceries.

Despite the growing trend, uptake for many of the newer and advanced smart home technologies remains slow, owing mainly to consumers’ uncertainty about pricing and quality of products and a lack of installation standards. Beate Rauls, Export Manager for Olympia cited pricing and fear as the key roadblocks. “Smart home systems in the private environment are still in the development phase because people cannot find enough products that are feasible to be implemented in smart home systems in a suitable price range for end users.”

The consumers concern over high pricing of smart home automation products has given birth to the Do-it-yourself (DIY) installation trend in smart home systems. DIY smart home products allow consumers the flexibility of installing and configuring systems as per their specific needs without incurring the massive costs of outsourced installation.

Another factor deterring faster uptake has been illusion of smart homes being only for the technologically savvy. For the common man, the ‘complicated’ impression of smart homes stems from aspects like too many high-tech gadgets, too much configuring, too many options, too many ports to manage (outdoor-indoor, videos, AC, lights etc.). While convenience is key, simplicity of everyday use remains equally important. However, the exponential growth in mobile usage and apps has meant consumers are used to accessing information and executing tasks via the phone.

Smart app

In the smart home automation domain this has translated into products and devices getting integrated onto a single smart app, allowing one to adjust their lighting, music, temperature, curtains and even make coffee before they arrive home, all through the smart home app stored on their mobile. Mobile apps, a concept even the tech-averse majority around the globe are very comfortable with, bust the illusion of smart homes being complicated, allowing for a unified interface for all smart home gadgets, at one place — the smartphone.

For example, using an IoS or android app, smart lighting allows 100s of LED’s in the network to be switched on or off from anywhere in the world via the smartphone. Smart door locks can be unlocked using a smartphone and sensors to automatically open or close doors within its tracking radius — making the fear of leaving a door unlocked a thing of the past.

Industry experts feel this kind of integration of all services onto a mobile app will eventually lead to a leveling of prices, resulting in a rise in the adoption of smart home technologies.

As per Gartner, by 2022, a typical family home could contain more than 500 smart devices. From raising the quality of life and enhancing the entertainment experience to playing a crucial role in sustainability and energy conservation, smart homes are sure to become the stepping-stones to the smart cities of the future.


Creating a smart home

1. Plan

• Evaluate and define your needs – security, house automation, etc.

• Assign a budget

• Research available products, pricing, features and installation, e.g. what level of safety is required according to the floor plan)

2. Look out for

• Do-it-yourself installation options

• Comfortable and easy to install or handle components

• Enquire about wireless installation, possible customization, upgrades or integration with other systems

• Look for professionals that have certificates from manufacturers

• Maybe you don’t have to buy a touch screen to control everything. Ask if there is an app you can install on your smartphozne or tablet

• Ask for feedback from existing users

• Contact directly the manufacturer and distributor to verify the quality of your solution and installer

3. Specific functions to bear in mind

• Choose smoke, movement or door sensors with a longer battery life

• Choose smart plugs for electrical appliances to monitor usage (accurate measurement of usage can help optimise electricity bills)

• Automate lighting. Users should be able to turn on/off lights in a room with the touch of a button.

Source: AVS Electronics, OLA Controls