Homebuyers want connected devices, and homebuilders can expect connectivity and automation to change the business significantly in the next five, even 20, years.
High-tech “bling” might attract homebuyers’ eyes, but it’s the advanced devices and their connectivity that will make operating a home more affordable and efficient—and change the way homebuilders build their homes.
2020: Connectivity, Standardization, and Automation
What’s coming are homes and devices that talk “past” us mere humans to produce actions: ordering propane for the grill from the supermarket, tracking surges and energy use for the utility, and notifying a building inspector of any structural problems.
The problem, says Chad Davis, senior director of online services and digital media for the NAHB, is that there’s currently no standard platform for all of these devices to use. “Until we have standardization we’re not going to have the cohesion needed to drive this forward.”
There are dozens of platforms available, wireless and hardwired, WiFi and RF, closed platforms like Apple’s new HomeKit, open platforms like Thread, platforms run by major communications companies and security companies like Comcast, AT&T’s Digital Life, Samsung’s SmartThings, and platforms that run on radio frequencies such as ZigBee.
But the thermostats that work on one platform, don’t always work with the WiFi enabled HVAC system that the builder wants to install. Manufacturers are including the hardware in their devices and appliances to work with smart platforms, but they won’t work with every platform.
Many device makers are developing closed platforms that will only work with their own devices, Davis says. It’s like Android versus Apple’s iOS or PC versus Mac on an even larger scale.
The closed-platform market may work in the short term, but Davis says in the long term, open platforms will enable homeowners to have the devices they want, without worrying about whether they’re compatible with their smart home system.
Nest, and its platform Thread, is the poster child for a standardized platform, “Nest is basically using the App Store model that Apple created and creating a place that everybody can profit from and take a little cut of the cash that comes through as people continue profiting,” Davis said.
What’s more, the way homes are built will change as we become increasingly dependent on automation. Lumber will be cut to the exact dimensions needed in the sawmill, cutting time and expense to cut each piece at the jobsite. Alternately, homes could be simply printed using raw materials and a 3D printer on site.
Monitoring and Security: Actionable Connectivity
Currently, homeowners can control their thermostat from their phone and allow the thermostat to learn what temperatures they like and when to set them, but with Thread other devices can also talk to the thermostat, such as the ceiling fan, security cameras and motion sensors, saving energy and creating a new idea of home security.
The future smart home will be able not only to tell you that your roof is leaking or the window is open. It will also be able to do something about it, closing the window or notifying the homebuilder or the municipality, says Davis. That could lead to all sorts of new issues and opportunities: More data for potential home buyers and real estate agents on the quality of your homes, and data that can lead to better-built homes for builders.