Home automation explained

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05 December 2016

By Paul Skelton.

You’ve probably heard about home automation, the smart home, the connected home, residential technology, custom integration and home control. You may even have ignored these concepts, thinking they were irrelevant to your build or, worse still, a passing fad. The truth is, they are all the same thing – and growing in popularity.

 The National Broadband Network (NBN), tablet computers, wireless internet at home, and subscription movie and music services such as Spotify and Netflix have created widespread awareness of residential technologies.

Although owner builders and renovators will never need to know how the technology works or how to install it, they do need to know where to turn when they decide: “I want to control my lights.”

The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) is the international organisation that works on behalf of systems integrators (the installers you need for a home automation system).

CEDIA-certified integrators will consult with you, at your request, to provide a customised solution that is user-friendly.

 “There's an increasing demand for home networking, home automation, lighting control, home theatre, multi-room audio, HVAC control, security and surveillance, and energy management,” says a CEDIA spokesperson.

"A CEDIA-certified member is your single point of contact for all the technology in your project."

 

A CEDIA-certified member will take the risk out of dealing with several different contractors by providing a single integrated solution.

“What does that mean for you? No buck-passing and fewer people to co-ordinate, thereby reducing the chance of variance and unnecessary delays. In a word: ‘accountability’.”

Ben Green is the general manager of Push by Schneider Electric, the developer of an affordable, scalable control system.

Ben says the Australian smart home market will be worth about $3.2 billion by 2019, so now is the ideal time for home owners to figure out how they will encompass the technology in their properties.

“Many people now believe that technology is a priority in home design – for example, lighting and mood setting, networking and connectivity, TVs and entertainment,” he says.

“Further, investors want renter-friendly technology that adds value to a home’s appeal, such as motorised blinds, lighting and climate control.

“And research has demonstrated increased value per square metre in a smart home’s resale price.”

Ben says the focus should be on increased revenue and maintaining relevance in a competitive industry.

“But it’s also about relevance. With so many infrastructure products becoming smart – meters, lights, security, etc – smart home technology is highly relevant. It’s also something that more consumers are asking for.”

Recently, New Zealand’s NZ Telecommunications Forum launched a consumer guide making it clear that a smart home needs to be wired for the best experience.

International Copper Association Australia (ICAA) chief executive John Fennell says the Australian cabling and home technology industry has been pushing this message for a long time.

"The Australian industry developed the Smart Wiring Standard for home technology almost a decade ago and upgraded it as a code of practice in tandem with a quick guide for consumers.”

The ICAA is a founding member of the SmartWired Association – a group that promotes the adoption of smart wiring around the nation.

“Although the smart home might have looked like a pipe dream a decade ago it’s now a fast-growing market expected to be worth nearly $2 billion in two years," John says.

"Underpinning it is the roll out of the NBN with its promise of 1Gbps speeds, the rapid embrace of all things digital like high-definition movie streaming and automation, and the fact that the average home will have 29 web-connected gadgets by 2020.

“Smart wiring is a lot more than ‘structured cabling’, a term popular in the US for home technology infrastructure. Here, structured cabling is relevant only to commercial premises. Smart wiring is a much broader platform that covers wiring requirements for all home technologies across the whole house.

“Smart wiring is now in roughly one-third of all new home construction and a quarter of renovations. It’s also got broad industry acceptance, with the Smart Wiring code of practice now backed by all the country’s cabler registrars, NBN, most carriers, Telstra and even the Victorian Government.

“The Smart Wiring code of practice is one of the most advanced Standards anywhere in the world for getting home technology right and working with fast broadband technologies like ADSL, VDSL, fibre and now G.fast.

"Home automation is only one element of the technologies being deployed in the home, so wiring has to cater for all the functional elements of the modern home – now and in the future.”

Ben says there is often some confusion about precisely what a ‘smart home’ is.

“A lot of people think that as long as they have a good wireless signal then everything will work seamlessly. That’s a real problem.

“Wireless is an option, but in our opinion it’s mainly for the renovation market. Hard-wired systems are so much quicker and more reliable.”

For that reason, planning around a home’s lighting requirements and data infrastructure should be done as early in the build process as possible.

“Because lighting is so important to mood setting inside a home, it’s crucial to think about design work up front. And if you don’t want to think about things like lighting control until after the house is built, then it’s even more important to get the data infrastructure right.”

 “A basic Push system can be about $1,000 delivered to the consumer, and from there we can offer solutions for all needs and price ranges.

“One of the most important conversations to have with an integrator is about matching the technology to the need, whether that need is now or later down the track.

“Remember, the more bespoke the home, the greater the value it holds.”

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