The smart homes of the future
From a thermostat that can learn your desired temperature to a doorbell that acts as a camera – smart home automation is the first step towards the real estate of the future.
Technology is advancing at light speed, impacting significantly on how we interact with each other, while increasingly also altering the relationship we have with our homes.
Making homes ‘smart’ is a growing trend across the globe. Today, a thermostat can learn your desired temperature, you can boil a kettle just by using an app and your refrigerator can tell you when you’ve run out of milk. It’s all part of intelligent homes.
Smart home automation technology focuses on effective communication between the devices at home and the benefits of conduct, convenience, energy savings, entertainment and security.
As the UAE works towards its vision of a ‘smart city’ by 2021, smart homes will play a vital role in reaching this goal.
According to Norm Gilsdorf, President for Honeywell Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, a global leader in building automation and smart building technology, there is an advancing appetite for continuously evolving technology in the region. “Smart or connected homes are steadily finding their ground, as consumers become increasingly aware of the technology systems available,” he says.
Gilsdorf says that there are various interconnecting home subsystems that are currently present in the regional market such as lights, locks, thermostats, garage doors and security systems. “The connected home concept relies heavily on the security industry in the region and therefore we’ve noted that security technology and services have become integral to the design of a smart home,” he says.
Earlier this year, Honeywell assessed the technology currently present across a number of sectors including residential, through its Honeywell Smart Building Score™ Middle East survey. “Dubai and Doha achieved top scores in the survey, demonstrating that they are leading the way in adaption of smart building technologies across the Middle East.”
Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future, a UK-based research company that identifies and analyses future trends, and one of this year’s speakers at the Cityscape Global Conference, says that developers around the world are starting to build smarter technologies into homes.
“These technologies are allowing people control of heating ventilation, building security, atmospheric management. It’s all about enabling you to run your home remotely from your mobile phone so you are able to switch services on or off using your device,” he says.
For him, whilst the Middle East was initially slower than the rest of the world in its adoption of smart home technology, it has since changed. “Now, developers are starting to see that by including the latest technologies into properties it makes for a very strong selling proposition in a market that has a desire for futuristic property,” he says.
GREEN & SAFE THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
According to Gilsdorf, extensive research has revealed that people spend 80% to 90% of their time inside buildings – whether they’re at home, work, shopping or out to dinner.
“Given that this large proportion of time is spent inside buildings, there certainly is a growing need for buildings to be smarter and to install the necessary technology required to be greener in terms of energy efficiency as well as safety,” he says.
“In addition, we believe that buildings whether residential or commercial should contain a productive environment for occupants through technologies such as lighting systems, data and communications infrastructure and backup electricity systems.
“Smart technologies increase the usage of web-based tools enabling utilities and industries to turn greener, safer and more productive by adopting the technology, all which feed into the IoT [Internet of Things] drive, present in the region,” he explains.
For Talwar, futuristic properties are a good selling point because they help people to differentiate their property and build a lifestyle image.
Other factors are cost and security; “there are cost-savings to be had when it comes to cooling and heating. In terms of security, we are now seeing instances where the doorbell acts as a camera so homeowners are in control of their own security. It all enables the homeowner to have more control over their property and appliances in order to manage the home in a more intelligent and cost-saving way,” Talwar says.
SMART REAL ESTATE
Until recently, home automation was powered during the construction phase of a house through procedures such as internal wiring for switches, lighting, and entertainment systems. Now, it’s being replaced by wireless equipment across all sectors adopting smart technologies.
“We believe that by introducing wireless and communication technologies there has been viral growth in awareness amongst consumers who would potentially want to install the technology in their homes. Each new technology installation takes us closer to customers receiving multiple services to their homes through the same channel,” explains Gilsdorf.
Following the market crash of 2008, property developers have been looking at differentiating their products in order to appeal to investors, including through smart home automation, explains Gilsdorf. “Many have pushed their efforts to offering smart homes equipped with smart technology and that’s where we can evaluate the integration of smart homes into the real estate sector.”
Though such initiatives come with their own set of challenges, he says. Although there is visible recognition amongst developers to switch to constructing smart homes, “it is imperative that we educate the likes of developers, architects and consumers combined on the clear benefits of smart homes, convince architects and developers in particular on how to make appropriate changes in an existing structure and architecture of a building and in the end, make sure that the developer decides and sells on a price which is inclusive of all the installation of the home automated solution,” says Gilsdorf.
Over the next five to ten years, homes will start to see a rapid shift into an even smarter sphere.
Talwar, known as a futurist, says that everything will be connected from all appliances and furniture to even the floorboards and bricks used to build the home.
“There will be more sensors built into the home and we will start to have a more monitory environment. It’s quite possible that even the bricks that we use and individual elements within the home could be intelligent. It will allow for complete efficiency,” he says.
Technology will eventually power everything, including the real estate sector, says Talwar. “By 2021 we will see homes that are completely futuristic, we’ll be shocked and then we’ll take it for granted.”
For Talwar, intelligent homes are a step towards artificial intelligence.
“The next stage will include devices in our homes which we can talk to and we’ll start to see more robots coming into the home. Everything will move up a level in intelligence and we’ll be able to interact with it. Systems in the home will know when we’re coming home and will be able to put on the stove, make our beds, clean our homes, book our trips, essentially manage our home and become the smartest personal assistant – while monitoring, tracking and learning everything we do,” he says.
While it may sound like science-fiction, we’re not that far away from it; Talwar predicts that we’ll start to see these changes in the next five years. While the technology is developing at a rapid rate, it’s still only the tip of the iceberg.
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