With the evolving world of technology, our homes need to be connected more than ever. Homeowners and residents are faced with many choices and decisions, and numerous technology products and systems. For many, it can be a minefield of electronic complexity and technological confusion, that somehow needs to be embraced – but how? Well, that’s what this podcast is all about… making homes AMAZING!
Your alarm clock peacefully wakes you up at 5am. As you remove the bed covers, and your feet touch the floor, a suptle glow of light illuminates your path to the bathroom and robe, allowing you to change into your gym clothes in an unobtrusive, dimmed light.
While you’re getting changed, the automated pet feeder releases fifty grams of dry food for your cat’s breakfast. As you leave for the gym, your front door automatically unlocks, and securely locks silently closes behind you.
After a high-intensity work out, you arrive back home, just after sunrise. The front door automatically unlocks, and you are greeted by your satisfied cats. A soft glow of sunlight bathes the room through the sheer drapes, as the heavier, block-out curtains magically part.
As you enter the bathroom, the shower knowingly turns on to a refreshing thirty degrees, at just the right pressure to sooth your body. The radio softly plays, updating you with the seven o’clock news. Steam is queitly extracted by the overhead fan keeping the mirror condensation free.
As you turn off the shower, and dry off, robe space and shelves illuminate, helping you select your outfit for the day. Over the sounds of the radio, you hear the grinding of coffee beans, as your coffee machine prepares the ideal latte to kick start your day.
Walking into the kitchen and living room, the sheer window drapes automatically open to reveal a glorious morning. The radio is seamlessly transferred from the bathroom to the kitchen, and your home maintains a comfortable 22 degrees as you enjoy your morning coffee.
After breakfast, you gather your work belongings to leave home, saying goodbye to the cats, with the door quietly closing and locking behind you.
Everything just happens, integrating seamless with your lifestyle to start your day.
The words ‘Smart Home’ (sometimes known as home automation, intelligent home etc.), gets mentioned a lot, and can be confusing for many.
I avoid using ‘smart home’ (or variations of), as it often implies the addition of unnecessary, complicated, cumbersome electronic technology solutions, that might require a rocket science degree to operate, and an unlimited financial budget to implement.
All homes have the ability to be smart, on different levels. Keeping in mind that technology doesn’t neccessarily have to be electronic, houses have evolved to incorporate various technologies, and have become more electronic as our awareness to have them better connected to ourselves and the outside world is realised.
All homes have multiple services and utilities; electricity, gas, water, security, television, internet, etc. that can be integarted and connected to be provide better comfort, convenience, security, and energy efficiency.
Imagine your home being customised based on what you are doing at particular times of the day: Lighting automatically dims to provide a relaxing ambience at night, or becomes brighter for dedicated tasks. Heating and cooling automatically turns on and adjusts to the optimal temperature. Your home can automatically adapt to make your living environment more comfortable.
We are very predictable in our daily lives – from when we wake up, exercise, go to work, return home, eat, relax, and sleep. Many systems in and around the home can be automated, based on our daily routines: Blinds and curtains can open at sunrise, and close at night, or close when it’s too bright or too hot. Lights can turn on when you arrive home at night, or turn off when a room is vacant or nobody is home, providing new levels of convenience.
The security and safety of your home, family, and property can be greatly enhanced. Outdoor lighting can automatically illuminate your property to deter unwanted activity, and turn on at night when there is movement. Keyless entry frees you from fumbling for keys when you come home, with automated lighting illuminating your home. Video cameras can not only record, but provide personal alerts to notify you in real time when there is irregular activity, even when you are not at home.
A home can know exactly when it is day and night, summer and winter, or when it is occupied. Power and lights can automatically turn on and off, and adjust to the optimal brightness, only when needed. Heating and cooling self-adjusts to maintain ideal comfort levels. Your home’s energy usage can be optimised to incorporate alternate energy such as solar, battery storage, and electric vehicle charging. Controlling power improves energy efficiency – saving money, and reducing carbon footprints.
By definition, a home that is smart or intelligent, can change it’s state in response to various situations. With many homes already having various technology products and systems, the benefits of having the right technologies integrated can be easily realised, to seamlessly connect our homes and lifestyle.
With developments in artifical intelligence and machine learning, we are getting closer to having technologies learn and respond, based on our habits, routines, and past experiences. For our homes, this will be the next exciting step to improve our lifestyle.
In the same way that cars evolved to incorporate electronic technologies, similarly, houses will follow. Electric windows, automated heating and cooling, handsfree communication, and improved vehicle safety are examples that are so common that they are now standard in modern cars.
Features and benefits of home and lifestyle technologies are endless, as they can be customised for your lifestyle. With the right advice, technology can greatly benefit our lifestyle, with improvements in comfort, convenience, security, energy efficiency.
After more than twent-six years in the consumer electronics and relating industries, I have joined CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association), and can now call myself a CEDIA Member.
“CEDIA is the leading global authority in the $14 billion home technology industry. CEDIA represents 3,700 member companies worldwide and serves more than 30,000 industry professionals that manufacture, design, and integrate goods and services for the connected home.” – CEDIA.org
I have previously been involved with CEDIA Asia Pacific for many years. I am a CEDIA Certified Instructor (CCI) Presenter, a certified CEDIA Outreach Instructor (COI), and have attended and instructed at local CEDIA exhibitions. In the past, I was a CEDIA member by affiliation with larger companies, representing them in sales, design, and consultancy roles.
I am in a fortunate position to have experienced the consumer electronic industry from multiple perspectives; supply, integration, design, project management, consultation, and as an end-user. From my experiences, I recognise and understand the challenges of building smart homes, and have developed an approach to make the process more simple, and more rewarding for homeowners and consumers.
I believe there is a better way to implement technology into a home than some current and past processes. A way that cuts through misinformation and empty promises, and protects the inexperienced technology consumer from making costly mistakes. A way that avoids the experiences of complex, over-burdened and underwhelming electronic systems that do little to enhance a homeowner’s lifestyle.
As an independent advisor, I help architects, designers and homeowners to navigate their way through every step of the smart home and technology integration process, and make sure everything is done to achieve the best possible outcome.
CEDIA represents like-minded companies and businesses, who I partner with, to supply and implement fantastic products and systems to homeowners. CEDIA also has a world renowned education program that not only educates its own industry, but also to partnering industries such as design and construction.
In joining CEDIA, my objectives are to provide my experience, knowledge, ideas, thoughts and opinions to anyone who is willing to listen, and to give back to the industry that I learned so much from.
I am pleased and proud to be a CEDIA member – I am CEDIA.
In this series of articles, I discuss and review how rooms and areas of a home can benefit from currently available technologies that are key elements of a smart home.
It is well known that bathrooms and ensuites are one of the most renovated rooms of a home. These spaces are the heart of the home and greatly enhance lifestyles. Realtors will often advise that a quality bathroom will provide one of the best returns on investment when selling.
With busy lives, homeowners and residents value opportunities for relaxation and recreation. Time spent in the bathroom should be pleasurable rather than stressful. It’s great to start day with positive experiences.
Of all the rooms and spaces within a home, the bathroom is possibly one of the most functionally demanding, and is mostly underrated and overlooked for technology.
Lighting and lighting control systems can be very functional allowing us to have the best light, whenever, wherever, and however we want. With bathroom applications being so personal, so too can the lighting.
The right type of light needs to illuminate the space for the required application. For detailed tasks of applying make-up, hair, and shaving in front of a mirror, light needs to be even and indirect, without glare or casting shadows. Similarly, for the application of dressing, lighting can be adjusted to provide the most flattering light for the right time of the day or night.
With the lighting application in mind, careful consideration needs to be provided to ensure the appropriate light fixture, with the best type of lumenaire, producing the best quality of light is specified and installed in the right location.
Human centric lighting systems use special light fittings that can change colour – from warm to cool white, optimising light to maximise the intended task for specific times of the day and night. Based on personal preferences and requirements, makeup can be applied to suit a specific environment. Lighting can be automatically or manually changed to suit the intended application.
For general use, ambient lighting should be mostly automatic by using motion and light level sensors to automatically switch lights on and off, and dim when required – automated lighting in a bathroom is extremely useful when implemented correctly. Personalised task lighting will manually override automated functionality when and how it is required.
Functionality can be provided for specific applications – a midnight bathroom visit can be more effectively illuminated, providing just the right type and amount of light without disturbing your night vision, and partner.
Photos sourced from the internet
A benefit of a smart home is the ability to automate regular routines. Water taps can be electronically controlled to personalise water temperature and water pressure with a press of a button to provide the perfect shower every time.
Exhaust and extraction fans can be integrated with the toilet, to extract odours directly from the toilet bowl rather than filling the room. Similar extraction fans can automatically remove steam when bath and shower hot water taps are run.
Motorised shades and blinds can raise and lower for privacy at the press of a button, or be automated to counter exterior glare from direct sunlight. Electronic switchable glass can magically change from clear to opaque to provide the ultimate level of privacy for shower screens, partition walls and windows.
Heating, including floor heating, can be automated to warm up the bathroom to a cozy temperature during the winter before you step foot into the room, and switch off when you exit the room. Heated towel rails and towel warming drawers can be automated to provide the perfect towel.
Devices such as hair curlers and hair straighteners that plug into power outlets can be automatically switched off after being used, to provide peace of mind that they are actually turned off when you leave home.
Splashproof televisions provide functional entertainment. There are even special television displays that are mirrors – when switched off are indistinguishable from a normal mirror, but when switched on, an image magically appears from behind the mirror. Displays can also provide notification and alerts of news, weather, stocks etc.
Music and radio keeps you up-to-date with the latest news and tunes, switching to your favourite program when you enter the room to shower, and fades out when you leave.
A smarter bathroom
The bathroom should not only look beautiful but also needs to be functional for each person that uses it. Bathroom technologies don’t need to be extravagant, and should meet the needs and requirements of the user. Technology can help to seamlessly transform your sanctuary to provide a lifestyle changing user experience.
For the ultimate bathroom experience, let me show you how.
Other articles in this series:
Smarter front door
The terms Connected Home and Smart Home are often confused as being the same thing to describe a home with electronics and technology. However, they are very different – the connected home vs the smart home.
Connect (verb): (with object) Join together so as to provide access and communication. – Oxford Dictionary
A connected home integrates multiple electronic and technology systems (e.g. lighting control, security, access control, distributed audio, distributed video, heating and cooling etc.) that are connected by a wired and wireless infrastructure, to themselves, and to the internet.
Connected home systems consist of a range of products relevant to that particular system (e.g. Lighting control system – dimmers, relays, switches, sensors etc. Security system – alarm panel, keypads, motion detectors, siren etc.).
Products and systems are connected to each other by way of a hub or gateway to provide a level of automation – Home automation.
Automation (noun): The use or introduction of automatic equipment in a manufacturing or other process or facility. – Oxford Dictionary
Automatic (adjective) 1: (of a device or process) working by itself with little or no direct human control. 2: done or occurring spontaneously, without conscious thought or attention. – Oxford Dictionary
The automation component of a connected home manages all of the electronic systems and consolidates individual functionality with unified user interfaces such as touch screens, remote controls, voice control and mobile device applications.
Connected systems are programmed to automate functions as defined scenes to provide better convenience of everyday routines. Home automation scenes might include Welcome, Goodbye, Goodnight, Good morning, and Away scenes. Typical functionality of a Welcome scene might be: When I arrive home after work, turn on the porch, entry, hall and kitchen lights, and turn on the ducted heating.
A connected home can provide fantastic convenience and automation, but by definition is not necessarily smart.
Smart or Intelligent (adjective): (of a device or building) Able to vary its state or action in response to varying situations and past experience. – Oxford Dictionary
A smart home builds upon foundation systems and technologies of a connected home to provide a more functional, more intuitive, and more simple solution. User experience is the most considered element of a smart home.
As a progression from a connected home with manual electronic control, a smart home can also respond to various inputs such as time, occupancy, presence, ambient light, temperature, weather etc.
In a smart home, technology systems are fully integrated with the architectural form and function of the home, rather than as an add-on. Foundation technology systems (e.g. power, solar, battery storage, lighting) that are integral for a smart home are considered very early in the architectural design process to allow other systems to build upon.
Many smart home concepts and strategies may not even be regarded as typical electronic systems: Ambient, task and feature lighting are designed to blend seamlessly into the architectural form of the home to provide the right type of illumination where, when and how it is needed. A heating and cooling system is designed to compliment passive solar building design to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter and reject solar heat in the summer. They are many other passive concepts and strategies that make a home smart.
Although similar in some ways, a connected home and smart home are very different – A connected home provides an improved level of convenience, whereas a smart home provides the ultimate user experience.
For the homeowner, it is important to understand what a home of today and the future is capable of.
For the ultimate smart home experience, let me show you how.
Natural light changes colour throughout the day – from a morning sunrise glow, to a bright midday sun, to a rich warm sunset. We have the technology to change the colour of artificial light in our homes – Human centric lighting*.
The human biological clock is closely tied to the day/night cycle of the Earth – circadian rhythm, and is pivotable for our body’s release of various hormones including melatonin that regulates sleep, and cortisol for healing. We know that light has a significant influence on the human biological clock and our health.
As much as technology can benefit us, it can disrupt our natural biological clock. We have too little of the right type of light during the day, and too much of the wrong type of light at night. Exposure to televisions, LED lights, computer screens, and mobile devices that emit blue (cool) light at night can disrupt our biological clock, delaying the natural sleep pattern.
Currently, lights are specified to be a particular colour temperature – typically warm white, or cool white. As a general rule, warm light is more suitable for a home because it is best for the worst case scenario. Up until now we have had limited control of light – we switch on/off, and dim.
LED lights are now available that can reproduce a range of colour temperatures (tuneable white light), and even the whole colour spectrum. Together with a compatible lighting control system we can automatically regulate light to achieve specific objectives.
With a human centric lighting system, artificial light can automatically mimic natural light. As natural light changes throughout the day and night, so too can the colour and intensity of artificial light – re-aligning our circadian rhythm to our biological clock.
A human centric lighting system can also manipulate artificial light. When we require higher levels of concentration and alertness, we can adjust the colour temperature to provide a cool light. When we want to relax or provide a more calm environment, we can adjust the colour temperature to provide a more warm light.
A better light
Lighting and control technologies have evolved to provide better user experiences. With careful consideration and expert consultation, light can be more organic and integrate better in our smart homes to provide greater levels of comfort.
For the ultimate lighting experience, let me show you how.
*Human centric lighting is also known by other names such as circadian lighting, bio-rhythmic lighting, tuneable lighting etc.
“While every person is unique, human behaviour is predictable” ~ Anon
Our daily lives are mostly predictable, or at least very regular; from the moment we wake, to when we sleep.
A well designed smart home can take advantage of regularity, to automate everyday tasks and routines, and mostly eliminate the need for manual control, and ditching the switch.
Connected power and lighting
“Power and lighting control are the foundation of any smart home or smart building” – Simon Lakey
A smart home must have a connected power and lighting system, that will include at least: intelligent sensors, a scheduler, and a task engine.
Intelligent sensors detect motion and light levels in a room or area, to automatically control power and lighting. Sensors allow lights to operate only when required, monitoring motion, presence and absence, and the level of natural light.
A scheduler assists in the automation of regular routines and tasks. Systems know the geographic location of the house; knowing time, day, month and year, sunrise and sunset, seasons, daylight savings, and holidays. In-built timers automatically control power and lighting at predetermined times, and lengths of time.
Powerful microprocessor task engines are distributed within the system to bring everything together, to work automatically. Using conditional logic, information from sensors and other inputs are compared and evaluated with the scheduler to make the magic of the smart home happen.
Old habits, new ways
For almost 140 years, since the invention of the electric light, we have been conditioned to manually switch power and lights, to initiate a cause and effect.
A new building utilises more lighting options than ever before, to provide architectural, feature and task lighting. Lights should be grouped into logical channels, areas and presets, to create usable scenes.
A well designed smart home needs to consider the use of each room or area, and provide adequate presets and scenes to enable required functionality.
Presets and scenes can be triggered by a combination of sensor activity, schedules and conditional logic.
Ditch the switch?
For a smart home to be truly ‘smart’, there needs to be a focus on intuitiveness, simplicity and usability.
The modern smart home already uses less switches than a traditional home, as there is less need to use switches as we traditionally have. We no longer need switches in every room, when sensors can detect presence and absense, and task engines can automate regular routines and tasks.
With careful consideration of the home owner and resident’s lifestyle, we may not need an abundance of manual switches. If there is a specific need, there are intuitive control panels, mobile applications and other solutions, such as voice control, that can compliment an intelligent connected power and lighting system.
If you’re still unsure about cutting ties to switches, you can easily allow for networked switches by pre-wiring an appropriate data cable, that can be readily accessed if required.
The time has come to ditch the switch.
The evolution of LED lighting together with modern lighting design philosophies, and local design and building regulations, sees more complex lighting designs today than those of the past.
With more lights and different types of lights in a building, effective control cannot be achieved with traditional switching and dimming inputs. Multiple switching and dimming interfaces becomes overly complex, and counter-intuitive.
Even with the progression electronic lighting control systems, most systems merely replicate traditional switching and dimming control, albeit electronically. The pitch and promise of simplicity and intelligent control is rarely delivered to the project and end-user.
Ironically, by way of the ‘technology functionality paradox’, typical electronic lighting control systems can become even more complex, more counter-intuitive, and more confusing for the end-user.
I see many projects, and hear our many more, where the lighting control system has been ‘designed’ to control lights in a space with the user experience only considered as a means to switch or dim, resulting in an inadequate system that has little value.
A simple solution may not be the easiest
A paradigm shift is needed to think about how a building, room or space is actually going to be used – smart building systems should be designed for the user.
A smart building needs to be controlled by a quality networked lighting control and automation system that considers what the application is, who the user is, and how the spaces are to be used.
For close to thirty years the Australian designed and manufactured Dynalite lighting control system by Philips has been built on concepts of areas and presets, in a similar way that professional lighting engineers have efficiently controlled complex lighting consoles for decades.
A single button preset adjusts all lights to predetermined levels. The complexity of the lighting control system is expertly handled in the background, while the end-user enjoys a simple user interface.
The lighting control system becomes even more simple for the user by introducing intelligent sensors, timers and scheduling, and integration of other electronic systems.
Why are systems not simple?
So, why are many (perhaps most) electronic lighting control systems not simple and intuitive? Well, it’s because making things simple can be actually harder than just leaving then as being complex. The project needs to invest professional and expert time and thought to make a system simple, however, the return on investment may not be immediate.
Unfortunately some project stakeholders and other project influencers who don’t understand the vision of smart buildings, may have a greater focus on reducing costs and/or increasing profit margins. The ‘simpleness’ of a system becomes ‘valued engineered’ out of the project, perhaps for a lesser system.
The client is often left (sometimes unknowingly) with an inept and underwhelming control system for the next thirty to forty years that will never achieve the functionality requirements of a smart building of the future.
As a consequence, many electronic lighting control systems receive a bad rap for being overpriced, cumbersome and dysfunctional, and are never considered for the next project.
“Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it work.” – Steve Jobs
Most home owners give considerable thought to what their new home will look like – the floor plan, bench top materials, shower head type, curtain fabrics etc., but perhaps don’t give as much thought into how things will really work.
As a key foundation for a smart home, an electronic lighting system is one of the first electronic systems that should be considered for any building. Electronic lighting systems have been around for the best part of a quarter of a century, but in many homes, systems have been poorly designed, incorrectly installed, inadequately delivered, and under-utilised.
Without proper design consideration, a lighting control system can be nothing more than an over complicated, expensive electronic dimming system, that promises the world. There are many installed lighting control systems where electronic light switches merely replicate traditional light switches, and underwhelms the purchaser.
From experience, confusing and over complex lighting control systems never provide ideal room control, and therefore never presents the intended lighting to its best potential. The supposedly simple act of switching and adjusting lights becomes a counter-intuitive, cumbersome task – hardly the feature of a smart home.
A well designed lighting control system will consider how a room or area will be used. Lights are logically grouped together, and presets are created using these groupings, to customise the room to your requirements. The lighting control panel elegantly consolidates multiple buttons to control your lights and other systems. Buttons can be custom labeled with multi-language text or icons to suit the application.
In an example of a residential kitchen, a button labeled Cooking, could switch on the kitchen downlights, pendant lights, overhead cupboard lights, pantry lights, the kitchen exhaust fan, and perhaps play your favourite music album – everything you may need to prepare the family dinner. Individual light levels are automatically set to your exact requirements. The user can quickly and easily control all required lights at the touch of a single button, rather than having to manually adjust each and every light.
Today, progressive lighting control manufacturers provide beautiful, elegant switch panels that can be custom labeled for the application and project, allowing the user to quickly and easily identify the functionality of the room. Functionality can also extend to the practical, with intelligent panels that magically illuminate when your hand waves over fascia, and temperature sensors that can integrate with a heating and cooling system.
Other home systems such as motorised blinds, security and audio visual, can be easily controlled from a single room control panel. When integrated with intelligent motion sensors, ambient light sensors, and timers, functionality can be further extended. Lights can automatically be controlled, seemingly knowing your routines and intentions, without you even having to touch a button – now, that’s a smart home!