Recognising the need for connected living in new homes

Amy Wallington talks to Paul Newman, brand director at Future Home Interest about introducing smart homes into the new build industry with the launch of The Future Home Show.

At the beginning of 2020, HiddenWires reported that the London Homebuilding & Renovating Show will be launching The Future Home Show alongside it this year. The new show is designed to introduce people to the concept of smart homes with a view of smart home technology being integrated into new and existing homes in the future. 

The launch of The Future Home Show alongside Homebuilding & Renovating is an important step in home technology adoption and thus growing the smart home market. 

Newman says there are several reasons as to why this show is being launched. “Firstly, there has been an enormous convergence between our homes and technology in the last few years, but there is still plenty of confusion among consumers about what the scope of the connected living opportunity is,” he explains. “A recent survey conducted by our sister brand, Real Homes, revealed 39% of people don’t know what a connected home is.

“Secondly, Homebuilding & Renovating is a cutting-edge brand that helps people create cutting-edge homes that employ the latest developments in everything from building materials to sustainable energy. We’ve long had smart home exhibitors at our shows, so this feels like a logical extension of our brand.”

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Homebuilding & Renovating is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and the launch of The Future Home Show is a celebration of how the industry has developed over the past 30 years. Currently only confirmed for this September, Newman is hopeful that it might become a regular feature. “As already mentioned, we have long had a range of consumer technology-focused exhibitors at our homebuilding & Renovating Shows, from smart lighting providers to AV installers. We are using our London show as the platform for this launch and there’s clearly plenty of scope to build on our hopes for success in September.” 

Many consumers are unaware of the possibilities smart home technology can have on their homes. Aimed towards consumers, organisers are hoping to educate visitors at the show. “First and foremost, we want people to come away feeling inspired and excited about the potential for smarter living, whether that comes from enhancing their lighting systems, upgrading their security or installing a cutting-edge appliance that makes the household chores easier and more enjoyable,” comments Newman.

In order to keep up with market trends, homebuilders and renovators are having to introduce home automation into projects more and more. Similarly, homeowners carrying out their own building and renovation projects are wanting smart technology integrated into their homes. According to Newman: “The typical Homebuilding & Renovating visitor is the ‘professional consumer’ with big aspirations for their building project. They’re making a significant financial and emotional investment and want the end result to be thrilling. They will increasingly consider home automation and connected living options during the design and build stage for several reasons.”

As Newman said, there are many reasons why this market is more interested in home automation than the ordinary consumer, and it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Generally, if someone is building or renovating their home, they are probably planning to stay there for a long time. Therefore, they usually invest more money into it to create exactly what they want and future proof the home with the latest technology. 

Additionally, as Newman points out: “Significant building work means taking plaster off walls. This group of people is used to disrupted rooms and when you’re going to that degree of work, you’re happy to look into structural technology, for example CAT5, in a way that regular homeowners would be put off by.”

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But smart technology isn’t a new concept; Newman believes self-builders have been using technology in their homes for years: “They are early adopters of home technology, whether that be underfloor heating, renewables or bi-folding doors, the types of products we now see in the more desirable developer homes is the type of product we have been seeing in self build homes for 20-30 years.”

Another reason they are looking more towards connected home solutions is because they like the idea of their home working for them. “Self-builders and renovators by definition are control freaks,” claims Newman. “They want to manage the look and design of their home and the materials that go into it. They also want their home to work for them, full Le Corbusier. As a result, home automation has been an embedded part of the palette of the self-builder for over 20 years and now the range of products is growing and prices are becoming more mainstream. Home automation is a fast-growing part of the self-build and renovate sector.”

As Homebuilding & Renovating celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, we look back at how home technology has developed over that time and discover that actually, it hasn’t changed that much at all. Newman recalls: “Twenty-one years ago, I was working as a technology journalist on an internet magazine and visited BT’s ‘Home of the Future’ in Hertfordshire, UK. It was equipped with broadband at a time when most people were still using dial-up connections and had an iPad-like controller that could adjust the heating and lights. So from a technological perspective, things haven’t moved forward that much, but what has changed is the way this connected lifestyle has been democratised by the impact of brands like Apple and their ‘ecosystems’ of connected devices and apps, the meteoric rise of personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and the existence of a host of relatively cheap gadgets enabling you to do everything from streaming music around your home to automating lighting.”

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With that in mind, will we see more in the way of development over the next 30 years? Newman answers: “The convergence will continue to accelerate – it’s as simple as that. People’s expectations for what they want from a home will continue to increase and we’ll see a lot more mainstream new build projects that must include technology simply to keep up with their competitors, a bit like the way car manufacturers now compete very intensively on their tech and in-car entertainment offerings.

“Expect to see more consultation on connected living options at the design stage and a gradual move towards much more technologically advanced homes, in everything from energy to entertainment and the electric car in the garage,” he concludes. “Homebuilding & Renovating can see the trajectory we’re on and that’s why we’re looking forward to our 30th anniversary and launching The Future Home Show.”