Many homebuyers today envision checking in on their homes, controlling the lights and temperature, seeing the kids come home and saving energy automatically. And savvy homebuilders are jockeying to provide that.
We’ll see smart homes, connected homes and high-performance ‘Net Zero’ energy-efficient homes. But both homebuilders and homebuyers should know that new digital homes will do far more. And with the speed of innovation in this accelerating digital age, homebuilders should be careful to employ systems that can keep up with the new revolution in data.
“Connected devices and the omnipresence of the Internet compel people to stay connected, and this is really driving the connected home space,” says Jim Carroll, founder of home automation company Savant Systems.
That means instant contact with smart systems and devices in a connected home. Many experts predict these technologies will be standard fixtures in nearly all homes, new and old. This is just what’s happening at the surface.
Behind the scenes a tremendous confluence of data, collected inside the house and in the cloud (Internet), can drive home automation actions from turning down the thermostat automatically to arming the security, even closing shades and drapes to keep the house cool.
CrackBerry of Home Control
Some of this is already happening. Thermostats from Nest and Comcast’s Xfinity Home system can adjust temps automatically to save energy. Other systems using Alarm.com intelligence and others using geo-sensing via GPS can preheat or precool a home when you’re so far from home, even learn your habits to arm the security system when you forget.
Jay Kenney of Alarm.com relates this kind of technology to the earlier days of the BlackBerry smartphone. People didn’t know what to think of a phone with a tiny keyboard, but “you don't realize how addictive it is until you have one for a week and then lose it,”—hence the “CrackBerry” moniker.
Home automation is the same way. Soon homeowners will enter their homes and a system will read their smartphones to adjust temps, lights and music to preset levels and send you only the notifications you need to see.
The Responsive Home
We are quickly moving into “ambient intelligence,” where a home becomes sensitive and responsive to the presence of people, says Savant’s Carroll. “A home control system receives stimulus from a sensor or system and adjusts itself accordingly.”
Companies like Savant with its energy-reading SmartEnergy meter could take such home intelligence to unprecedented levels of personalized energy automation, adjusting home systems and energy usage to meet demands, alert homeowners to appliances like water heaters using too much energy and requiring repair or replacement. As more and more sensors are used, more intelligence is gained about the house and its occupants—and more automation becomes possible.
Home automation really goes from a system of making a command to a system working on your behalf, Kenney says.
One Simple Commandment
The key to it all, though, will be keeping it simple, both for the homeowner and for those selling these systems. “We deal with the technology so that our builder partners can offer our home automation solution with ease and confidence, keeping their focus on taking care of their customers,” says Brett Price, CEO of Clare Controls, whose ClareHome system provides in-home automation and cloud-based connectivity and diagnostics. Providing a simple interface and simple user experience “frees homeowners to enjoy the product’s many benefits, like security, entertainment and convenience.”