Industry Opinion: What Will Drive the Home Control Market in 2014?

By Yasmin Hashmi, HiddenWires. Four years on from the launch of the iPad, and here we are, with iOS and Android devices, apps galore, the Connected Home, the Cloud, the Internet of Things/Everything, Google buying Nest, and ever more smart home initiatives and ecosystems being announced. Interest in home control has never been greater, but what does this all mean to the residential custom installer? We asked a selection of suppliers about home control trends and what is likely to drive the market in 2014. Here are their replies:
Robert Ridenou, ELAN Home Systems Brand Manager, Core Brands It seems that our industry is on the verge of a market upswing of historic proportions. The first generation of consumers raised on the Internet, iPods and smart phones are becoming homebuyers all over the world. They are demanding that the home they buy supports their media and technology passions, and they will not stand for running their mobile lives from an iPhone only to return home to the dark ages of individual appliance control. The analogy is clear - just as yesterday's homeowner looked for upgraded kitchens and baths when they purchased their home, today's new homebuyers are going to expect integrated control systems to be a part of the home they purchase. That's a fact that is going to drive market growth and opportunity for our entire industry - in new home construction, existing home retrofits, and multi-unit apartment and condominium developments. Consumers will benefit from a new generation of 'affordably innovative' system solutions that offer consumers specific levels of multi-room and multi-function systems that are clearly differentiated by retail price points. One day very soon, every new home, and indeed many existing homes, will offer system solutions that are price appropriate for the price of the home. The higher the price of the home, the greater its degree of integration and control.
Andy Moss, Managing Director, Moss Technical, Niko Partner We are constantly looking for ways to save energy and increase savings, comfort, security and flexibility within our homes. As a result, we've seen a boom in the demand for automation within our houses. Industry experts have been predicting its growth for a number of years, but now we're really seeing an increase in demand, and we can't see it slowing down. Many people however, still perceive the technology as being out of their budget. They find it too confusing and overcomplicated, and, most importantly, they can't see that it offers enough benefits for them to make the investment. That's why we don't describe our products as 'home automation'. Instead, we refer to the technology in terms of the 'modern electrical installation'. The modern electrical installation is a natural advancement from traditional, and in my opinion, out-dated wiring systems. With these systems, it is simple to wire everything back to one central point where a controller sits, simply waiting for commands from individual controls around the home, then doing whatever it has been programmed to do. This could be simply turning a light on or off, influencing the heating thermostats when you leave the home, or illuminating an escape route in the event of a fire. So, make the 'modern electrical installation' a no-brainer, as the benefits really do far outweigh the cost.
Richard Hayward, Lead Marketing Manager, Wiring Devices Business, Legrand Smart controls are no longer seen as a luxury item, and we're increasingly seeing technology being designed into residential developments. In addition, high-end developers are now installing lighting, AV media and temperature control systems as standard fit, rather than offering them as an optional extra. The main reason the home control market has seen, and will continue to see, such growth is the fact that consumers are now so comfortable with it. Touchscreens are a ubiquitous part of life for everything from communicating with friends to using the self-service checkout in the supermarket, and most of us now carry more processing power around in our pockets than we would have used in the office just a few years ago. As a result, we now expect technology in our homes and, increasingly, the market expects technology in the home to connect with the mobile devices we've become so accustomed to. It is anticipated that there will be double digit growth in the smart buildings sector in 2014, in both residential and commercial markets. Many of the specification considerations we currently see on the residential side are linked to entertainment and energy efficiency, and these will continue to be key drivers for the growth of home automation technology this year.
James Meredith, Enado Global Product Manager, WyreStorm The custom install market has witnessed the erosion of many profit-generating sales opportunities in recent years. What remains of value is the installation process, and the support of new consumer components. This has led to a focus on reducing visits to site through remote monitoring and management of installed systems. Meanwhile, the customer expects the same level of performance from their installation as they get from their smart devices, which update automatically, without programmers invading their home, and without expensive call-out charges. The most successful businesses of the next decade will be those that gain their profits from the opportunities that lie in recurring revenue and placing value in remote support. To do this they need to ensure the products they install are remotely accessible, quickly configurable and ultimately reliable.
Lu Yung Chiu, Director, Cytech Europe I do not know if we are really witnessing the advent of the 'Internet of Things' as many manufacturers such as Samsung, LG and Whirlpool launch smart washing machines, ovens and refrigerators which are meant to be more useful or practical than the previous generation. There are also smart locks, lightbulbs, thermostats, and sensors, all of which all can be controlled from smartphones. If the day does come when everything in the home is connected, how useful this will be to the consumer depends on the intelligence of not just the appliances themselves, but of the whole system. The system should be able to be programmed to do smart things for the user, by coordinating all of the connected appliances based on movement sensors, time of day, activity in the house, temperature etc. In my opinion, a truly smart home should do more than just be able to control things from your smart phone.
Stephen Payne, KNX Sales Manager, Theben UK I think more non-KNX integrators are looking at KNX than ever before as an all-encompassing solution to home automation. For example, last week in conjunction with a KNX distributor, Theben held an Introduction to KNX in a hotel in Edinburgh - the first time in Scotland. Eight guys attended, seven of whom were from the AV market looking to expand their skills. After the event, two guys said they would be looking to get KNX certification as soon as they could, and I'm sure more will follow. KNX is becoming specified more widely, and more engineers see it as the way to expand and improve their businesses. From a product point of view, the use of tablets for visualisation and control of systems seems to be growing in popularity rather than fixed touchscreens on the wall. Also, the control of LED lights is a big topic. Fortunately, there are KNX controllers established in the market that can switch and dim LED lights, but there are a number of control devices on the market that are outside KNX, which either struggle or just fail to control LED. So the integrator must be wary and ask questions before selecting with which system to work.
Tim McInerney, Director of Product Management, Savant Systems One clear trend that we anticipate will continue to drive innovation is the desire for personalised ambient intelligence. As technology continues to pervade the modern lifestyle, people are starting to expect more intelligent behaviour from devices and interfaces. New cars automatically pair with your smart phone and begin playing your music without intervention. Lighting systems that calculate the timing of dawn and dusk automatically adjust depending on the location and date. I expect this trend to accelerate in 2014 and beyond, as experiences with smart home devices become more widespread and consumers start to look for lifestyle enhancements such as energy savings, accessing a security camera or unlocking a door, all from an app.
Ian Claxton, Director at QMotion UK There is an increasing demand for smart, integrated solutions in the home that offer high levels of control and convenience. With busy lifestyles, homeowners are looking for a complete, powerful and easy-to-use package that requires minimal hassle during installation and little maintenance. With this in mind, there is a growing desire for innovative wire-free technology that comes with enhanced benefits compared to previous automated technologies. Quick, fingertip operation and advancements via iOS and Android devices will play an integral role in driving the market through 2014, as we're seeing these quickly becoming an essential element in all areas of home automation as well as everyday life. For motorised shading it doesn't stop there, as there is a constant demand for improvement in all design aspects, from reducing noise pollution when functioning, to creating the tools that provide the ability to control energy and temperature levels in a building through blinds.
Kevin Morrison, Managing Director and Vice President, AMX Europe It's clear from the level of activity in this space that there is an undiminished appetite for simple solutions. Many homeowners are struggling with multiple connected devices. Our dealers integrate across all these products, helping their customers take control of the technology around them. Of course, expectations are higher these days; our users love the fact that our panels now allow them to run apps and browse the web, all while simultaneously having access to traditional home automation functions. But, one thing hasn't changed - people still pay for reliable, simple, consistent controls.
Pete Baker, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, RTI There are several factors that are bringing home automation into the mainstream, including the proliferation of app-based control solutions, the increase in retrofittable devices with wireless control capabilities - such as IP cameras, thermostats, and lighting controls - and the increased popularity of multi-zone distributed audio systems. Most importantly, control solutions from companies such as ours are more affordable and efficient to program than ever before, allowing consumers to enjoy advanced control capabilities that were previously reserved for higher-priced systems.
Mike Everett, General Manager, Pro Control I've noticed that on prime-time television, serious money is being spent by large telecommunications and cable providers to advertise their control solutions for different environments. This increased attention to control is driving an increase in market size. In 2012, the global revenues for this category were US$3.6 billion, and they are projected to be $14.7 billion by 2017. The biggest players will be the telecommunications and cable providers, which are entering the low-end and DIY markets. In addition, technology giants will continue to roll out smart home products as part of the overall 'Internet of Things' trend. With 95% of iOS users downloading apps, these manufacturers will definitely continue to develop apps for energy management and control.
Robin van Meeuwen, VP, Crestron International There are several trends that will drive the home control market in 2014 and beyond. The first is 4K of course. 4K displays are quickly establishing a strong foothold in both professional and consumer markets, and until now, video distribution technology was not available to transmit 4K content throughout a home or business, to multiple rooms or over long distances. So manufacturers have had to create solutions to support 4K. Another big trend will be further integration with third-party devices. More and more devices are being placed on the network as the 'Internet of Things' moves from a vision to a reality that is being built today. In the past, integration with HVAC systems, security systems, door locks etc. was done on a simple IO level using relays/digital inputs/outputs, and so had a limited set of functions. Today more and more home systems and appliances are opening up to the network and sharing more information which can be used to interact on many levels. As this information becomes available on the network and is available from anywhere using a smartphone, our homes are becoming 'smart' homes and can drastically enhance our lifestyles. A trend we continue to see growing will be the retrofit market. Manufacturers will be forced to create wireless solutions for AV, HVAC and lighting control, including LEDs, that integrators must be able to retrofit using the existing cabling infrastructure. This is opening a whole new market and more opportunities for integrators. In the past, wireless technologies have not been viewed as reliable, but robust mesh networks can now be created using software tools to analyse and strengthen the mesh, removing all of the guesswork from setting up a wireless network.
Karen Calder, Director, USD Whether it concerns residential or commercial, the VPN server is becoming far more important in an installation. The fact that you can perform remote diagnostics, talk to your clients and do real time changes means that you can bring a greater level of service to your clients. You can see whether it is your equipment that is actually at fault or just a fuse, and you can problem solve in real time rather than put out a service call that could take days. We are an industry that promotes control at the touch of a button – if you can use a tablet or phone then you can use our products. A VPN server will not solve every problem, but it is high up there, and if you do find yourself having to go out to a customer, you are not going in 'blind' or relying on the customer's 'It is just not working' diagnosis. This of course saves the installer time and money. After all, how many times have you had to revisit a job, and how do you charge for what can sometimes be just ten minutes with your customer, but a two-hour round trip for you? The flip side of this is more control for you customer, as they too can control their property from anywhere. And what could be a better referral than a happy and confident customer telling their friends?
Yasmin Hashmi is the Editor of HiddenWires, EMEA's leading English-language publication for the home control trade. You are welcome to add to this discussion by commenting below or through the HiddenWires group on LinkedIn.

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