Everything can be managed in real-time, either from an app on a smartphone or tablet or through a voice-controlled smart speaker. The plus factor is convenience and saving time on a regular basis.
‘This means connectivity with almost every device in the home,’ so says Nick Caripsis of BNC Technology. ‘Ultimately this makes life easier, providing effortless control, but most importantly making decisions. More intelligent software / hardware is becoming available to maximise functionality so that everything will work seamlessly in one application. Imagine leaving home and pressing one button, which activates the alarm, switches off all the lights, sound, TV’s, closes the blinds to keep the heat out, activates the air-con at a given temperature, locks / closes doors and then sends the user a notification.
‘We believe the core of the home will be technology-driven, so that this key investment will be the largest and most crucial decision for the homeowner who will live with the system and interact with it on a daily basis. Enjoying interaction / communication with the home as it lives and breathes – and the office and motor vehicle as an interlink – the transition from work to car and then home will be seamless.’
Then there’s information. Smart home gadgets provide easily accessible data on a variety of essentials.
Dean Joffe of Simpletech comments: ‘As we live our lives today, the big tech players are assembling data, ideally with our knowledge and permission, in order to do something meaningful with it. It’s collected via various personal devices such as: phones, tablets and smartwatches and importantly from all their different sensors and inputs. These include, but are not limited to, GPS receiver, microphone, video camera, keyboard and accelerometer (motion detection). This defines the concept of the value of Big Data.
‘Why is this significant? The answer is simple; this data can be used to understand an individual, his / her needs, and ultimately deliver exactly what is needed and when. For us, this means controlling the client’s environment, home or office in precise harmony: likes / dislikes, schedules, even moods and all other factors that can be derived from the relevant input and data.’
So, routines and rules can be programmed and certain actions can be triggered by entering or leaving the premises, through the activation of sensors. The rationale here is that the personal habitat becomes familiar with family, friends and their routines. And it operates automatically based on what’s occurring, without the need for regular input.
Dean Joffe: ‘The future of automation is based on clever synergies. It involves user behaviour captured by our personal smart devices fed into the cloud, plus machine learning. And AI (Artificial Intelligence), which evaluates what we like, when we would like it and almost anything else imaginable that can be derived through monitoring, analogising and computing individual behaviour.
‘When on arrival at home, you’re greeted with the perfect setting to receive, nurture, and relax you. All this is achieved by the controllable technology in the home being set precisely so that on detection, you receive confirmation that the home is secure and ready. The lighting transitions in brightness and colour, music starts playing, the temperature adjusts, and the blinds are opened to reveal the night vistas. No space can feel more individually welcoming and accommodating as at that moment.
‘This data is continually stored and processed using Machine Learning, combined with AI, to produce a model of you and your life, and it learns ongoing.’
In SA, consumer interactions with these technologies are still limited and to speed up their adoption we need to further evaluate the type of value they can offer. Technology is advancing virtually on a monthly basis and with it the smart home sector. Previously considered to be part of a luxurious lifestyle, such tech is becoming an important part of daily lives. Why?
Efficiency is key. Users are able to control numerous gadgets or systems with a single click from anywhere within the home. It’s also energy-saving; the potential to conserve energy with automated heating and air conditioning systems is a given. Smart thermostats rapidly and precisely automate heating and cooling and other products – such as connected lights, geysers and appliances – can use less energy by powering down when not in use.
Vital in SA, security can be monitored easily through a smartphone, as can fire and theft risk. While alarm systems do protect, property smart home versions can provide far more efficient solutions. Connected lights, cameras, and even doorbells help create safer residences.
So importantly, smart devices make life more secure. They can monitor fences, doors, windows, water leaks and fire hazards. And customisation provides myriad options: blinds, shades and even shutters can be closed automatically at a programmed time, the brightness of indoor and outdoor lighting can be adjusted as per choice and hour, as can numerous other pre-set electronic items, such as indoor temperature.
Where to start on a smart home depends on three factors: the budget, the time available and the level of enthusiasm. Initially, perhaps choose one connected home gadget and begin operations with the individual brand’s app and work any additions out later. This has been the modus operandi in the US for the past five years. Most initiators begin with one of the big three smart home ecosystems: Amazon Alexa / Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit.
Do smart homes tend to veer more towards sci-fi than cosiness; presented as homes of the future with clear glass walls and gadgets that anticipate our every need? A house where Alexa rules. However, could the future smart home be more than this? Rather a haven where technology is used to make the existing spaces around us more beautiful.
Consider interior walls that are able to change colour depending on mood or purpose. A tabletop that can alter shape to guest requirements. A home where items, from cushions to lampshades, interact with the owner. This might sound fanciful, but such magical interior decoration and design could become a fact of life in the future.
Nick Caripsis: ‘A key possibility aesthetically is that entire walls will become video receptors, which will need to be considered from the outset so that a mindset shift will be required involving architects, interior designers and tech professionals. And mobile technology will be necessary, so that doors, cabinetry, TVs and speakers appear and retract, creating a powerful experience that the home has come alive.
‘Prior to its revelation, technology can be concealed and the correct space in the correct area will house all necessary equipment. Training for architects and interior designers to effectively plan the spaces saves time and money allowing for a flexible upgrade path.’
Dean Joffe believes success here is largely based on experience in design and key is that any comprehensive design requires time, and coordination should begin when the first draft of the plans is being completed, i.e. before construction begins. This enables full electrical plan development, and the adjustment of architecture and interior design to help accommodate and factor in electrical reticulation, both horizontally in the ceiling and concrete slabs, as well as vertically through the building walls and risers.
He adds: ‘We make use of iPad Pros to sketch up ideas digitally, so avoiding printing lots of plans; these are then mirrored onto two 65” screens. After each design session, the work is shared via the cloud for reference, making the collaboration process more inclusive and simple. By not expecting specifiers to compromise their design vision, we’ve learnt to adapt our requirements, focusing more on hiding the technology and working within given frameworks, which can create unique challenges to solve.’
Could we see technology literally weaved into the fabric of everyday life, interiors designed to be interactive with decorative objects that don’t remain static? Thankfully, technology can be more than a tool that assists in productivity, it can also be used to enhance the spaces we live in, which makes living better and easier.