It’s easy to fall into one of three camps, firstly to think that everyone is buying up smart devices, and finding new uses for them. They’re creating skills, naming every electronic device in the house and telling their Smart Speaker or Home Hub to turn thing off and on, or up and down, all without moving from the comfort of the sofa. But then it’s also just as easy to write it off as a fad that is only of interest to a select few who are engaged with the technology. A third assumption would be that automated home technology is like the microwave oven, it’s going to take time for the price to come down far enough for the useful, efficient, practical technology to become an everyday feature in every home up and down the country.
Because Smart technology doesn’t seek to ultimately solve a particular problem once and for all, uptake will initially be slow, but incessant. Connected devices may save time, energy and effort, and it may make the living environment more responsive, but because it only does what you can already do yourself it can be seen as a luxury development which is nice, but ultimately unnecessary.
So what should architects, renovators, installers and specifiers be aware of when encouraging clients to prepare for the advance of the Automated Home?
1, Living With The Technology
Experience is a key influencer. People may think it’s all a very nice idea, but it’s only once they’ve engaged with the technology and seen exactly what it is, what it can do and how it can simplify their lives that they are going to convert from an ambivalent onlooker to a loyal purchaser.
2, The Customer’s Needs Are Key
The buyer calls the shots. They find their own uses for technology and make up their own minds what is useful, desirable or indispensable, and what is not. Trying to upsell or point out the whistles and bells of a new technology might disguise or detract from the key advantage the consumer has for the product. And baffling people with FABs may in fact turn them off from a product they would be inclined to want if it all starts to appear to be too complicated.
3, Show People A Process
People want to see a flow. Everyone loves a narrative so why not generate integrated solutions which showcase the adaptability and simplicity of the technology? The opposite of this is to demonstrate a piece of technology completing a single task effortlessly, but not showing how that one function can be integrated with others to create an entire workflow with an input and output which will appreciably improve their quality of life.
4, Sell The Function, Not The Thing
The technology can have a high impact on the function and use of a space, but that doesn’t mean that the device itself has impact. As old technology is superannuated it is simply replaced with connected and smart devices. When the technology becomes ubiquitous then it follows that the price will fall, meaning that barrier to entry, cost, is eliminated. Products being everyday means that there is no special skill or discreet knowledge required to install them either.
5, Ease Of Use Is A Key Feature
Because we’re already familiar with the basic ‘dumb’ versions of the technology in question, it’s incredibly easy and fast to learn how to operate and master the process required to swap over to smart technology. From simply opening the box, powering up, downloading an app and clicking ‘connect’ to saying aloud what you want to achieve, there is no additional learning involved. You just have to remember the names you gave individual devices such as a bedside light or window blind.
6, Advantages Outweigh Disadvantages, And There Are No Disadvantages
Once people see the immediate advantages the secondary benefits reinforce the desire to adopt. From additional functions of everyday objects to the energy efficiency resulting in savings on utilities when you have Smart environmental controls consumers start to see that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, even to the point of negating negatives altogether. (For eg: a smart thermostat currently costs in the region of £300 but savings on heating bills predict that they will pay for themselves within 2 years and continue to make savings each subsequent year.)
7, Increasing Quality Of Life
For the able bodied, as noted above, many of the functions are desirable, but not wholly necessary. However, for people with a physical impairment, the elderly or new parents, the benefits of home automation move from being advantageous to important in maintaining quality of life. If it’s difficult to reach to shoulder height or to grip firmly enough to press a switch then having devices which can be operated easily with a voice command become vital.
8, Safety And Security Make A House A Home
Home is a place where people want to feel safe. In many ways a place which doesn’t feel secure can hardly be called a home at all. Therefore sensors and detectors which can be relied upon in all eventualities, alerting the resident to all dangers, from smoke, fire and carbon monoxide to the sound of a window breaking or even being left open are invaluable.
9, Smart Home Technology Is Becoming Ubiquitous
The rate of change is exponential. Adoption impact equals growth as people become used to the technology they see how beneficial it is and start looking for other items which are as easy and convenient to use. Increased demand also affects cost, function and supply.
10, Fun, Functional, And Increasingly Invisible
The style and function of the products influences the design of the spaces where they are going to be used. From concealed and discrete recessed power points and built-in wireless charging stations and wall sockets with built in retracting extension leads to flush design and installation, technology is dictating how we use our living / working spaces. We want to abandon cables as much as possible to be free to walk from room to room and switch from task to task carrying a device without worrying about finding a cable to keep it powered up. Add strong, reliable, fast wifi without blind spots, and unlimited broadband, and the seamless functionality along with ease of use, along with the other features and benefits of an automated home make it indispensable.