Get Smart1st Jan 2019
Smart homes are becoming increasingly mainstream, helping millennials and other home owners keep a finger on the pulse of innovation and convenience.
Home automation was, until recently, the stuff of fantasy and sci-fi movies. The ability to monitor the goings-on inside and outside your home while on holiday, warm up the oven while stuck in traffic, even the ability to heat up a toilet seat in winter, was a case of ‘if only!’ The idea of drawing the lounge curtains or switching on lights when you’re late leaving the office, too, was a flight of fancy.
Today, smart or automated homes are on our doorstep and an integral part of something called the IoT – the Internet of Things: the concept of connecting everyday devices to the internet and to each other without human intervention.
Increasingly accessible, affordable and user-friendly, home automation or smart homes are ‘becoming positively mainstream’, says Veronica Motloutsi, founder and Chief Executive of SmartDigital Solutions.
While the most popular smart home features at the moment include security systems, automated sprinklers, entertainment, and heating and cooling systems, this is evolving into other more playful applications, including LED and projection technology to maximise decor options. Using these advancements, you’ll soon be able to alter the look of your house by changing paint techniques on a whim, while mobile projectors will allow you to stream your favourite Netflix shows on any wall you choose.
So much is possible, Motloutsi says. ‘Using your phone, switch on your music and TV before you walk into your home, check your security cameras from anywhere in the world, or switch on your lights before you get home,’ she says. ‘You can even manage your water and electricity usage by checking which component of your house is using up the bulk of these.
‘Technology also makes it easy to monitor and analyse any insurgent behaviour,’ she says.
Certain products can also reduce power consumption by automatically turning off lights and appliances when they aren’t being used.
Motloutsi says the demand in South Africa has no specific class or segment. ‘It’s coming from mainly tech-savvy people in new developments and estates who can incorporate the technology into their architecture, and want to monitor their home remotely, integrate all their entertainment (like movies and music) onto one device, and take advantage of the peace of mind, convenience and time saving this brings.’
Extra security features increasingly gaining popularity overseas include answering the doorbell from another location, so that it looks as if you’re home even while you’re lying on a beach in the Bahamas. Other conveniences include adjusting the inside temperature of your home by switching on the under-floor heating or the air conditioning before you enter.
‘Within the next year, you should be able to close and open your curtains remotely,’ she says.
All that is necessary for smart home activation is broadband connectivity.
Sandy Geffen, Executive Director of Lew Geffen International Realty in South Africa, says South African consumers are ‘increasingly sitting up and taking notice of technology available to them.
‘The trend has taken root overseas, with recent polls showing that up to 45% of Americans have, or are planning on investing in, smart home technologies.’
Globally, studies show that the smart security systems market grew 95% between the second quarter of 2016 and the second quarter of 2017, with some projections estimating that, by 2023, the global market will hover around the US$75 billion mark.
At home, Geffen says the biggest adopters of this technology also happen to cross over with the largest home-buying market – millennials.
‘It’s very likely that in the near future, smart systems will be at the top of the wish list for these buyers who have never known life without the internet. It’s a generation for whom technology is an intrinsic part of their daily lives. Managing all their appliances from an app, switching on lights by voice activation and enjoying the speedsaving convenience of having a preheated oven by the time they get home after a day in the office is not a stretch for this generation.
‘Besides appealing to a new generation of buyers, automation can increase your level of security,’ she says.
‘Experts agree that the most effective way to prevent criminals from gaining access to your property is through a layered security system, and by incorporating security and surveillance features in your smart home network you can tighten your security exponentially.’
Obviously, technology can be inserted in stages, says Motloutsi. You can choose your level of automation starting with basic lighting and security, and increase applications over time as your budget and needs change. ‘But certainly, managing your home from your smartphone or tablet with one touch will become the norm.’
Cool products are increasing the demand. If you ever envied those who had access to the all-knowing computer in Star Trek, or Hal 9000 in A Space Odyssey, Alexa – Amazon Echo’s smart home assistant – is now on hand to help you control most of the gadgets in your house using the sound of your voice. Let Alexa open your curtains, update your shopping list and even read you the news. Just make sure you use her name, as in, ‘Alexa, switch on the bathroom light.’ She may even answer countless silly questions, call you an Uber or sing you a lullaby if you have trouble sleeping.
Eventually, smart toilets, for which users can choose the seat temperature or the slow-closing lid option, will be mainstream. Your entertainment system will automatically pause your movie and brighten lights when, say, your phone rings or it senses someone at the door. Thermostats with room sensors will offer a preferred temperature for each room based on previous preferred temperature settings.
Be ready for virtual styling assistants who will store your wardrobe as a virtual closet and suggest outfits. And compulsive checkers will be delighted that they can ascertain via their phones whether they have turned off all their appliances, and whether the door is locked. (Is this a good thing, or will it just encourage people to compulsively check their phones 73 times a day?)
Perhaps the best invention of all will be a smart bed that will not only warm your feet on command but will raise your side of the bed if it detects that you’re snoring – before you wake your partner.
Now that’s smart.