Matt Nimmons of CEDIA EMEA brings together advice from the industry body’s membership to explain the elements that should be considered when designing a wider home integration project
The integration of smart technology is fast becoming the norm for households up and down the country. It is now more important than ever for design and build professionals to understand smart home technology, and the latest audio-visual developments to provide the service that is now fully expected by the client.
The main reasons you would want clever lighting are aesthetics and convenience. Today’s houses have many more lighting circuits than we used to have – LED strip accents, wall lights, feature pendants, and chandeliers. Without dimming, the whole thing would look bright, and could look harsh, and with one button per light circuit, you would end up with a mass of switches and no-one knowing what they do. Lighting control is about using the space between lights on and lights off. When you start to play around with the infinite variations in lighting levels of any circuit and combine those circuits to work together, you can create ambience to complement a mood or functionality to perform a task. A good lighting designer will be able to highlight existing features and create stunning effects through their choice of lamps and fittings. The lighting control system gives you simple access to these ‘scenes’ so that they can be recalled at the touch of a button or vocal command. An emerging area is in ‘bio-adaptive’ lighting, where colour temperature varies with time of day. Cooler white light in the daytime and a warmer yellow glow in the evenings, which studies have shown help people sleep more easily.
Being able to ‘zone’ heating so that you can independently set the temperature in each room is one of the main benefits of a modern heating system. Many heating control systems have smart phone apps to allow them to be controlled when out of the house. But, more often than not, we don’t tend to adjust our heating very much. So, having a thermostat on the wall in every room of your house is a bit over the top, which is why we prefer to use invisible temperature sensors and hidden thermostats – it looks better and it’s far more intuitive to operate.
Door entry systems can eliminate the need for a key and can now be entered via a code or with fingerprint entry. This can offer lock status updates as well as notifications on specific users. For example, these may be children, service teams, and dog walkers who have entered the property with their own unique code. An intruder and fire alarm can be installed and further integrated into a whole home control solution so that arming and disarming can be performed from the touchscreen. This means that the original alarm module can be hidden away to keep the wall clutter to a minimum.
We are seeing an increasing desire for more complex smart home technologies in mid-market homes. In these properties, people just expect things to be easy to use and the interfaces to be intuitive to operate. We have definitely seen a shift in client attitudes towards a preference for using their existing mobile phones and tablets as the primary interface to the control system. Currently, most control systems have an interface with a single configuration for the home, but we have started to see control systems introduce personalisation so that all the users of the system within the home can have their own unique interface. With the proliferation of virtual voice assistants, homeowners are increasingly looking to utilise this as a method to interface with their smart home systems.
Working with an integrator
Lighting and shading, heating control, security, and audio-visual systems can all be integrated seamlessly in terms of operation and aesthetics with the right planning. By involving a CEDIA member in a project at the architectural planning stage, you’ll end up with a more elegant living space. In order to understand what’s possible, try and visit one of the many amazing home technology showrooms and ‘experience centres’ around the UK. We’ve now passed the point of being impressed about being able to turn on your bathroom lights from the beach, we need to ask ourselves how useful the technology we’re installing actually is and help clients avoid technology for technology’s sake, focusing on what will genuinely make their lives better.
Matt Nimmons is managing director at CEDIA EMEA
CEDIA would also like to thank the following members for their help in this feature ConnectedWorks, Seven Integration, Homeplay, IndigoZest and Automated Spaces