Industry Opinion: How can every home become an automated home?

diagram showing components of home automation

In 2017 awareness of home automation is at an all-time high, fuelled by business heavyweights entering the space and the steady growth of the AV industry. Yet the professional installation market is faced with carefully navigating the emergence of the DIY market off-shelf IoT devices, and channelling the appeal of familiar names such as Amazon and Apple into their own success.

With this in mind HiddenWires asked providers from every level of the home automation space, including a newcomer to the industry (Wondrwall, recently backed by £2m bank financing package and crowdfunding), what they are actively doing to push things forward.

Q. What is your company doing to help home automation become a more mainstream commodity (i.e. reach beyond the 5-10% - currently dominated by luxury home owners and technology enthusiasts)? What is key to driving adoption in the next 5 years?

Phillip Pini, head of residential development at crestron emea, headshot

Phil Pini, head of residential business development at Crestron EMEA: “The key to driving adoption of home automation is education. Consumers are becoming more and more tech-savvy because of the sheer volume of new technologies available through the IoT market. With the industry opening up it enables better understanding of the benefits and convenience of home automation and the capabilities of the various options available from single use technologies to whole home solutions like Crestron.

The fact that specifiers such as interior designers and architects are now also better informed than say 5 years ago is a positive indication that home automation is becoming a more mainstream commodity and opens up the conversation on many different levels.”

Brad Hintz, senior director of product marketing at Control4: “There are two sides to this, but foundationally it’s the platform that really matters. On one side, we’re making it more affordable to get started with home automation in one room and expand as desired. With systems starting as low as £480 (€560) plus installation, a homeowner can get started for a reasonable price and add to their smart home as their interest and budget changes.

The other side of it is support for a broad range of devices. We have integrations for almost 10,000 smart and connected devices. By supporting such a broad number of devices we give homeowners more choice in the technology they can bring into their home and they can choose the products with the features and functionality they’re interested in.”

Philipp Schuster, MD at Loxone UK, headshotPhilipp Schuster, managing director at Loxone UK: “We educate consumers first-and-foremost, on the benefits of living with technology that has been developed to improve the way we live in our homes. For us, it’s the concept of ‘Autopilot Living’ - where our smart home just does things for us without us having to reach for an app to adjust the heating or switch the lights on. This is possible with a professionally installed holistic system like Loxone.

By taking part in panel discussions and giving talks on the subject at various industry events, we can encourage debate, contribute to and comment on topics like driving mass market adoption, the importance of consumer education as well as the findings of white papers and consumer research. If consumers see value and understand the benefits it opens the gates to consumer demand.

Then of course there needs to be people that can deliver on the demand. To this end we train and support installers, and through CPDs we educate architects, developers, and specifiers. These are the very people that will be delivering smart homes that will lend to people living better lives, now and in the future. In addition, we work with industry bodies like the IET (The Institution of Engineering and Technology) and the NICEIC (National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting) to drive standardisation that can inform regulations which will also contribute to mainstream recognition of the smart home industry.” 

Daniel Burton, CEO at Wondrwall: “Homes need to become intelligent. To make a home genuinely intelligent, the industry needs to think differently. The whole notion of the ‘smart home’ needs to be turned on its head to make the home truly intelligent.

Consumers demand a home automation system that will ‘control everything for them’. Controlling the home from a smart phone does not do this. The home needs to think for itself and tailor the home’s operation to the occupant's living patterns. The home is no longer just a living space, dwellings need to be intelligent and flexible to the everyday needs and desires of those living within them.

Our system understands and powers the ecosystem behind the home – it automatically controls the heating, lighting and security and cleverly adapts it home supervision by understanding how people live and behave. Whether that’s gradually lighting your bedroom in the morning to wake you, or predicting your movements to heat and cool rooms throughout your home so they’re at the optimum temperature without excessive energy usage.

Accessibility and affordability of the solution is the other key factor. A key reason for current solutions being niche is the high cost to purchase and install these systems driven by high levels of complexity.”

Q: In light of recent statistics indicating millennials are the most willing to pay for a connected home (e.g. 85% - Icontrol Networks research), with a clear preference for a professionally installed system, what do you believe is important for targeting this market?

Phil Pini, head of residential business development at Crestron EMEA: “Millennials are early adopters. Having grown up with technology as an integral part of their lives they are much more aware of what technology can do and what they want from it. And what they want is smarter homes. In terms of home improvement they are more likely to aspire to a home automation system than a new kitchen or bathroom because technology is a ‘must-have’ not a ‘nice-to-have’.

Because of this outlook it’s important to be able to offer these millennials a solution which has a decent infrastructure that has the capability to manage new requirements quickly and easily. A millennial looking for a connected home is going to be expecting fast broadband because that is how the consume media. In addition they are looking for intelligent control through things like voice recognition and truly smart appliances like smart doorbells.” 

Brad Hintze, head of product marketing at Control4, headshotBrad Hintz, senior director of product marketing at Control4: “We have built our interfaces around the same types of experiences that millennials are used to interacting with every day. For instance, the Control4 mobile app is easy to use and has a consistent look and feel across other interfaces we offer. Our touch screens are sleek and beautiful to complement the décor in any home, and are always ready for immediate control. We know that the time for voice control is now and it will only continue to grow in demand and use so we built the Control4 automation system to seamlessly integrate with Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices.

By working with interfaces that millennials are already familiar with and using daily, we continue to make waves in that market. It’s also worth noting that millennials are beginning to see that DIY devices aren’t always convenient because they don’t work together. They want their homes to function how they live, without having to fire up separate apps to control separate devices.”

Philipp Schuster, managing director at Loxone UK: “Yes, millennials may be the ones that have been quicker to see the value and understand the benefits of a professionally installed holistic system. However, there is a disconnect when it comes to the number of millennials that actually own homes or have the buying power to be driving demand for smart homes at this early stage. Recent figures show us the average age of first time homebuyers specifically in the UK is 30, stretching to 34 in parts of London.

The key is to make smart home technology more of an accessible option to those that do have the buying power. From there, it becomes a matter of economy of scale as the inclusion of smart home systems in new developments becomes standard, if not at least an optional extra for buyers.”

Daniel Burton, CEO at Wondrwall: “A smart home system should be simple and inexpensive to install. Therefore Wondrwall has only four core components; switches, a siren, thermostat and key fob. Preferences are configured via an app and replacing products involves no re-wiring or complicated programming.”