Monday, 09 November 2020 15:01

The Rise of Smart Home Technology

    When lockdown began in March 2020, the impact on our day-to-day lives was immediate and profound. Liberties that we had previously taken for granted were curtailed, and the way we use our homes and the technologies within were brought quickly into focus. In this article, Chris Knight, Managing Director at CEDIA Member of Excellence, Perfect Integration, looks at a few key smart home technologies and explains what changes the pandemic has made to their relevance.

    Reliable internet connection

    Firstly, and something I have no doubt that all readers can relate to, is the need for a fast and reliable internet connection. Over recent years, the continued move towards streaming media services has already made Wi-Fi the number one priority for many of our clients, but the sudden need for so many of us to work from home and conduct meetings via Zoom or Teams video calls, means that this is no longer on the ‘nice-to-have’ list, but an absolute must. Whilst the Government’s plan for us all to have high-speed fibre internet is admirable, unless that is distributed reliably and securely throughout the property, it won’t help prevent the stuttery work calls and family quiz nights we have all endured recently.

    It isn’t unusual for a family household to have dozens of wireless devices connected to their Wi-Fi network and the latest Wi-Fi 6 hardware will allow for all of these to connect simultaneously and reliably. That said, a hard-wired connection will always be faster and more reliable than even the best Wi-Fi connection, so we would always recommend running Cat6 cabling to TVs, games consoles and desktop PCs wherever possible. External wireless access points can also ensure that you remain connected to your Wi-Fi when in the garden.

    Wellness in design

    The forced switch for many to work from home has also brought about increased demand for ‘wellness’-focused environments, as spending eight hours in a dark and dingy home office can be mentally very fatiguing. It is well-documented that humans have a circadian rhythm, and that our bodies naturally respond to changes in daylight. Even pre-pandemic, there was a lot of interest in circadian-rhythm/human-centric lighting systems, in which not only does the brightness of the light change, but also the colour ‘temperature’. By recreating this artificially, you can boost productivity and focus in your home office (or gym) with high-output and cool white light, and then wind down in the evening with softer ‘warmer’ light at bedtime.

    I have been experimenting with this over recent months and can absolutely vouch for its effectiveness. If you don’t have a window or nice view from your home office, research has shown that having a ‘view’ displayed on a TV screen can boost wellness, in the same way that artificial plants help improve the feel of an indoor space. This is a huge topic – there’s no doubt that a healthy home is going to be every bit as important as a smart home in the future.

    Dedicated home cinemas

    Like many, I am saddened to hear the seemingly endless news stories about the closure of cinema chains, where falling attendances and the film studio’s change to premiering more and more titles via their streaming services, has made them no longer viable. However, the demand for private home cinemas has never been higher, and we hear from many clients that their home cinemas have never had more use, with family movie nights now a regular part of their weekly routine.

    In homes that don’t have the space for a dedicated home cinema, we are designing ‘media rooms’, where your living room turns into a ‘cinema’ at the touch of a button – and the projector screen drops down in front of your TV, and the discreet, or even invisible speaker systems, deliver stunning surround sound.

    Exercising at home

    The closing of gyms and subsequent surge in home exercise (thank you Joe Wicks!) has also brought about a change in the way we use our homes. Many gyms and personal trainers switched to online Zoom classes in order to remain connected with their clients, and there has been a huge uptake in ‘virtual’ sports such as cycling, running and rowing.

    Whilst it is perfectly acceptable to use a phone or an iPad as the screen, the whole experience is far more immersive if you have a large screen in front (and even to the sides) of you. This makes what can be a pretty boring experience become a much more engaging one, with the ability to ride or run ‘in’ the Alps with your smart trainer or treadmill automatically adjusting to suit the incline as you take in the views. Having a life-sized one-on-one Zoom session with your personal trainer means you can work with a PT who may be in a different country. The comfort and convenience of having this in your home can be further enhanced with additional cameras, so the PT can check your form and reduce the chance of injury.

    Enhancing the outdoor space

    We were fortunate to have a lovely summer, which undoubtedly eased the pain of the initial lockdown. It also meant that we’d see an increased demand for enhancing outdoor space with Wi-Fi and high-performance, discreet speaker systems, which can be hidden in the undergrowth, transforming a patio or terrace into an al-fresco exercise venue or party zone.

    In summary, the pandemic hasn’t really changed what we, as integrators, offer our clients, but it has changed their priorities and has made the need for a smart home even more valuable.

    ABOUT CEDIA:

    CEDIA is the global trade association for companies that design, manufacture and integrate technology in the home. CEDIA works with design and build professionals, and their associations, to further collaboration and deliver technology solutions that allow people to have their best moments in life from the comfort of their own home.

    If your clients are not asking about technology already, they will, and you have the opportunity to be the hero. You don’t have to be the expert; you just need to know where to find one. As experts in their field, CEDIA members offer professional advice and guidance in the design of a personalised system for the connected home. They provide information on the latest technology and how to use it as it becomes available. Working with a CEDIA member is the best insurance you have that the final system will meet yours and your client’s expectations.

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