Tag Archive for: Home Automation
The concept of circadian lighting follows that of the human circadian rhythm, a 24-hour internal clock. The area of the brain called the hypothalamus controls each person’s circadian rhythm by receiving signals from the eyes that report when it’s daytime and night time. The hypothalamus, in turn, controls the amount of melatonin released to correlate sleepiness with darkness and alertness with lightness.
Research has indicated that light affects both our visual and non-visual systems and that electric light can impact circadian rhythm. Circadian lighting is the concept that electric light can be used to support human health by minimizing the effect of electric light on the human circadian rhythm. Scientists have discovered that long-term exposure to certain wavelengths of blue light at a specific intensity can have a negative impact on melatonin production.
Read more from Lillian Knoerzer on The Lighting Practice’s website – https://www.thelightingpractice.com/what-is-circadian-lighting/
Our Vantage lighting control system accommodates real-world living by allowing users to shift or extend the “sun’s natural path.” A workout scene, for example, might have the virtual sunrise begin at 5:00 a.m. instead of 6:48 a.m, prematurely ramping up the lights’ intensity and colour temperature to suit the early-morning workout.
If you are interested in learning more about circadian lighting, human-centric lighting or tuneable white then contact our friendly experts on 09 377 3778 or by emailing email@example.com
We live in a fast-paced world and it’s becoming increasingly challenging to remain in control of everything. Home automation systems give you the opportunity to stay in control. You can be in two places at the same time or even make coffee from your bed. Sounds strange? Let us explain.
What is Home Automation?
Home automation uses wireless technology to control appliances, home theatre systems, lights, and security alarms in your home. You could also use an automated system to regulate the temperature in your home or control your solar systems. The possibilities are endless. Although people think it’s quite expensive to install a home automation system, the truth is that the systems reduce energy bills. For example, you can program your dishwasher to run a cycle when energy consumption rates are the lowest. You could also control your thermostat for lower energy consumption.
Benefits of Home Automation
- It Secures Your Home
The latest burglar alarm systems come with video recording, built-in speakers and unique motion detectors. They know to tell the difference between a person and a thing. You could be out of town and still know who’s standing outside your front door. You could even use the microphone and speaker system to ward off burglars.
- It Protects the Home from Accidental Fires
If you use a home automation system to control small appliances, you’ll be able to turn off ovens, curling irons and other electronics with the tap of a button. You’ll also be able to control the lights and HVAC units in your home. You could set up the system to automatically turn on/off lights at set times in the day/night. You can also program the system to leave the lights on when you’re not at home to keep thieves off your property.
- It Gives You Peace of Mind
When you have a home automation system in place, you know your home is secure at all times. You can travel in peace knowing you have access to all controls on your phone or tablet. You have one less thing to worry about in life.
- It Increases the Value of Your Home
If you’ve installed automated home theatre and lighting systems together with home security systems, your house will sell for much higher than the current market rate. Buyers will love the convenience and safety that the system offers.
- It Saves Time
You don’t have to wait for parcels to arrive at your doorstep. You don’t have to get up to greet the delivery person. You don’t even have to rush home to open the door for your children. With automation, you will have remote access to your home’s security system and you can also see who’s standing at your doorstep without opening the door.
Installing Automated Systems
If you want to reduce your energy consumption or secure your home with the latest technology, get in touch with Automation Associates.
We are the leading home automation installation company in the nation. Whatever your goals, we can help you achieve them through our smart wiring technology. Our expert technicians have licenses issued by the New Zealand Department of Justice.
We perform a wide variety of home installations like home theatre calibration, multi-room audio integration, burglar alarm installation and automated lighting.
Call us on 09 377 3778 if you want a smart home or visit us online to look up our projects.
Home automation suppliers come out with new products that feature advanced technologies all the time. These products are simple to use, they’re convenient, and they increase the value of your property.
Whether you want to wirelessly control appliances in your home or install a home security device, there are numerous systems to choose from. Let’s take a look at some of the latest gadgets that have hit the market.
- Nest Cam Outdoor
Nest is a reputable brand in home automation systems and their latest outdoor camera protects your home from burglars. You can hook it up to your phone or any other electronic device to receive alerts. The camera records activity and listens for sounds in your home. When it detects motion or loud sounds it sends you an email along with an image.
The system has software that allows it to differentiate between humans and things. It will alert you when it sees someone on your property or when it hears a crash from a window breaking.
The Nest Cam Outdoor also helps the authorities to identify criminals. It comes with a built-in speaker, too. The moment you receive an alert you can talk to your device and ward off criminals or other suspicious people. You can also integrate the Nest Cam Outdoor with other Nest systems in your home.
- Ring Video Doorbell
You don’t have to stay home to receive that important delivery anymore. With the Ring Video Doorbell, you get to answer the door no matter where you are. This ingenious device combines motion detection technology and video recording to instantly notify you when there’s someone outside your door.
Residents also have the option of integrating the Ring Chime with the video doorbell system. The chime alerts you when someone’s ringing your doorbell. You don’t necessarily have to connect it to your current doorbell wiring. It also tells you who is at the door by sending you images of the person standing outside. This device is perfect for those who live alone at home.
- Aprilaire Wi-Fi Touchscreen IAQ Thermostat
The Aprilaire allows you to control the temperature in your home through an app or an account online. It’s an internet connected thermostat that measures and balances humidity, temperature and ventilation. It also comes with a Heat Blast function that quickly warms up the room if the temperature falls below a certain temperature. The Aprilaire thermostat integrates with most HVAC units.
Installing the Latest Home Automation Systems
Whether you want to integrate your home security and your home theatre system or install automated lighting systems in your home, get in touch with Automation Associates. We use the latest technologies to improve your lifestyle. We can automate various systems in your home through the use of smart wiring.
From Multi-room audio and burglar alarm systems to automated lighting, we do it all. Our have a team of expert technicians are fully licensed by the NZ Ministry of Justice.
If you want to know more about our smart house systems, call us on 09 377 3778 or read more about our latest projects.
Why you should choose a CEDIA certified installer for your home technology solutions.
Avoid a Technology Fail. 7 key Fails & How to Avoid Them
Technology Fail 1. Reliance on WiFi
Most of our clients devices will connect via WiFi, however we advise against relying on WiFi to feed such systems as the alarm system, streaming audio and Apple TV for reliability reasons. We make sufficient allowance for hard-wire to ensure the reliability of your systems.
Technology Fail 2. App Roulette
Relying on the apps that come with the TV, home theatre receiver and Apple TV to provide control is an exercise in frustration for you. We strongly suggest either a single handheld remote, such as RTI or single app to control everything from one place.
Technology Fail 3. Supplier Resources
Small AV companies or electricians often don’t have the resources to provide samples for you to select from or time to attend site coordination meetings. Choose a company who has the capacity to ensure your job runs smoothly. Ask to be introduced to your project manager and the head technician.
Technology Fail 4. Wall Acne
A music keypad next to the thermostat next to the light switch beside the alarm keypad – not a good look! Specify a control system that cleans up the wall and provides an easy to use solution, such as Vantage Equinox.
Technology Fail 5. Beta Testers
Make sure you are not inadvertently a test site for unproven technology! Beware of the phrase “this is the latest…” Ask for references from other clients who have the same combination of technologies up and running.
Technology Fail 6. Cost Overruns
A thorough needs analysis with you and your family at the beginning of the project will ensure everyone is happy at the end of the project . The words “I thought” from either you or your AV Integrator are red flags the job was not scoped correctly.
Technology Fail 7. Cowboy Installs
AV equipment should be in racks, wall mounted equipment should be in cans, the AV Integrator Company should be a member of a professional trade association such as CEDIA or BICSI. If there are cables dangling anywhere you are dealing with someone from the “get in get out” camp. You should be looking to engage the “do it right the first time camp”. It may appear to cost a little more, but it will save you a headache, and further costs in the end.
Home automation, integrated building technology and smart homes
Home automation, integrated building technology or smart homes are umbrella terms for residential or commercial premises that mean different things depending on your budget, but loosely describe a combination of multi-room audio and visual, lighting control via a touch screen (or mobile device), structured cabling for phone and computer network flexibility, security (including alarms and cameras) and access control for remote vehicle and pedestrian gate release or proximity readers, and whole building control in commercial premises.
In a non-automated home you might use your remote to open the garage door, another remote to unset the alarm then find yourself feeling around for the light switches in the garage then hall, then again in the kitchen and lounge. Now, because the lights are on you must close the blinds. Turn the heating on, drop your bags and settle down on the couch to watch the News. Realise you don’t have the remote for the TV so find that, and then adjust the lighting level for watching TV.
An automated, or smart home does all this for you. Home automation allows one button press to simply unset the alarm, illuminate a path of light to the kitchen and turn the TV onto your favourite channel. The beauty being that these scenarios are customisable to your family’s lifestyle.
And similar scenarios exist within commercial premises. Where you might have had a building administrator booking rooms, setting up AV equipment and allocating resources this can now all be managed by a central automated building control system. These clever systems not only go into presentation mode in preparation for room occupancy, but for any reason the meeting doesn’t go ahead, they will sense that no one is in the room and shut off the systems again conserving power. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making your commercial space work for you.
Brendon Reid, Director of Automation Associates comments “It’s said that 70 per cent of the energy used in the US goes into buildings and 50 per cent of that is wasted. Good automation systems should not only be reliable and simple to use, but should also give you good control over your energy management thereby creating savings.”
For the technically wary these systems can seem daunting, however industry association CEDIA (the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) can be a good place to start. This international trade association was set up to promote high standards within the custom electronics industry by providing training, accreditation and recognition for members. By engaging a CEDIA Certified professional you will have peace of mind and the finest in custom home automation electronic design and installation.
Home automation systems can be stand alone or fully integrated whereby you can control lighting, audio, heating, access, theatre and more in one tidy, simple user interface. The beauty is that a good custom design and installation company is able to fully customise your system to your budget, needs and lifestyle.
Crestron Pyng ™ now enables set up and control of whole home audio distribution systems and touch screen integration right from the iPad®. Plus, the app makes smart homes even smarter by learning how the home is actually used. The data is collected in the cloud and graphically displayed on the iPad app.
Pyng all of your tunes in every room
The new version of the Crestron Pyng app makes it easy to set up audio distribution to every room of the house. Homeowners can enjoy popular streaming services, including Spotify®, PANDORA®, and Rhapsody® wirelessly via AirPlay®. In addition, they can play all of their iTunes® music and personal digital music libraries wirelessly or through USB.
Crestron gives you unparalleled flexibility to offer whole home audio systems and the Crestron Pyng app now pairs instantly with the Autonomic Mirage MMS 5a and 2a streaming media servers. An integral part of your home automation.
The ultimate learning system
Crestron Pyng now makes your smart home even smarter by learning how the home is actually used. By identifying trends and understanding how different rooms are used, when they are used, and how long each day, adjustments can be made to save energy and money. The cloud-based service collects data and then graphically displays the information on the iPad. Spikes in usage, can easily be seen. For example, lights may be left on in the basement during the day when no one is home, or after the housekeeper leaves. Inexpensive occupancy sensor could be added to significantly reduce waste. Now, that’s smart home automation!
Once the initial set up is complete, anyone can easily modify settings or create new scenes right from the app. Homeowners can make changes themselves with the confidence that all their original settings are backed up in the cloud. Clients can modify lighting scenes, change daily scheduled events, or change button names whenever they are so-inclined.
Entertaining accentuated with automation
You’ve no doubt have heard of slow food, the concept of entertaining mates, spending the afternoon cooking together, the actual meal just a part of the fun of the whole process.
We recently had a few friends around with their shiny new pasta machine, you know the ones, looking like a stainless steel office shredder on legs, crank handle sticking out one side…
There is basically no point in my setting foot in the kitchen, I actually have burnt water, thank god for Alex, but I make myself at least look useful by keeping the glasses filled and seeing to “the mood”, lights at the right level, good songs playing in the background, hooking out recipes or funny videos of drunk squirrels on the iPad, now we are back in familiar territory…
The music arrives courtesy of iTunes which I control from my iPhone or iPad whichever is closer. One of the things apple has always done really badly and have thankfully just corrected in IOS5 is the ability to create playlists on the iPhone, passing your phone around and having your friends call up that long forgotten anthem from 7th form is a treat in itself and now you can save the playlist to use next time they are around. Making playlists has stopped being a chore you “must get around to one day” (and never do) and started being the fun it always should have been.
Moving on, we have an RGB led strip behind the splash-back, we can set the colour to anything we like – our friends fight good naturedly at the touchscreen on the wall over pony pink or lurid green, 56 million colours and this is what it has come to…
As the households’ resident anal retentive – I keep our family photos organised by year then event, so I throw folders up on the TV of things we have done with the friends present, a constant source of hilarity and enough of a reason in itself to invest in a media PC (or apple TV if you are that way inclined).
Several hours in, it’s time to move from the kitchen to the table, I dim the kitchen lights down and switch from 90’s retro revival to the jazz channel on sky – I’m not a huge jazz fan by any means but there is something magical about entertaining good friends, warm close lighting and sky channel 404.
I have to point out that all these little atmosphere adjustments are subtle and done without getting up and breaking the conversation, home automation today is at the point where you can control it from just about anything, If I really want I can pop the vehicle gate from my kindle.
So, dessert is done and we are onto the obscure liqueurs from Purangi Estate that have been haunting the back of the booze cupboard since last summer and it’s time for a toast, iPhone surreptitiously under the table I drop the music a little and haul out my new favourite toast, “to nights we’ll never remember with friends we’ll never forget”
Words by Brendon Reid
Automation Associates – specialists in entertaining, home automation, home theatre, lighting control, security and safety, multi-room audio, access control systems, TV displays and projectors, phone, data and electrical.
What is Home Automation?
Home automation is the residential extension of building automation. It is automation of the home, housework or household activity. Home automation may include centralized control of lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), appliances, security locks of gates and doors and other systems, to provide improved convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security. Home automation for the elderly and disabled can provide increased quality of life for persons who might otherwise require caregivers or institutional care.
The popularity of home automation has been increasing greatly in recent years due to much higher affordability and simplicity through smartphone and tablet connectivity. The concept of the “Internet of Things” has tied in closely with the popularization of home automation.
A home automation system integrates electrical devices in a house with each other. The techniques employed in home automation include those in building automation as well as the control of domestic activities, such as home entertainment systems, houseplant and yard watering, pet feeding, changing the ambiance “scenes” for different events (such as dinners or parties),lighting control system, and the use of domestic robots. Devices may be connected through a home network to allow control by a personal computer, and may allow remote access from the internet. Through the integration of information technologies with the home environment, systems and appliances can communicate in an integrated manner which results in convenience, energy efficiency, and safety benefits.
Automated “homes of the future” have been staple exhibits for World’s Fairs and popular backgrounds in science fiction. Possibly the first “home computer” was an experimental home automation system in 1966.
Overview and benefits
Home automation refers to the use of computer and information technology to control home appliances and features (such as windows or lighting). Systems can range from simple remote control of lighting through to complex computer/micro-controller based networks with varying degrees of intelligence and automation. Home automation is adopted for reasons of ease, security and energy efficiency.
In modern construction in industrialized nations, most homes have been wired for electrical power, telephones, TV outlets (cable or antenna), and a doorbell. Many household tasks were automated by the development of specialized automated appliances. For instance, automatic washing machines were developed to reduce the manual labour of cleaning clothes, and water heaters reduced the labour necessary for bathing.
The use of gaseous or liquid fuels, and later the use of electricity enabled increased automation in heating, reducing the labour necessary to manually refuel heaters and stoves. Development of thermostats allowed more automated control of heating, and later cooling.
As the number of controllable devices in the home rises, interconnection and communication becomes a useful and desirable feature. For example, a furnace can send an alert message when it needs cleaning, or a refrigerator when it needs service. If no one is supposed to be home and the alarm system is set, the home automation system could call the owner, or the neighbours, or an emergency number if an intruder is detected.
In simple installations, automation may be as straightforward as turning on the lights when a person enters the room. In advanced installations, rooms can sense not only the presence of a person inside but know who that person is and perhaps set appropriate lighting, temperature, music levels or television channels, taking into account the day of the week, the time of day, and other factors.
Other automated tasks may include reduced setting of the heating or air conditioning when the house is unoccupied, and restoring the normal setting when an occupant is about to return. More sophisticated systems can maintain an inventory of products, recording their usage through bar codes, or an RFID tag, and prepare a shopping list or even automatically order replacements.
Home automation can also provide a remote interface to home appliances or the automation system itself, to provide control and monitoring on a smartphone or web browser.
An example of remote monitoring in home automation could be triggered when a smoke detector detects a fire or smoke condition, causing all lights in the house to blink to alert any occupants of the house to the possible emergency. If the house is equipped with a home theatre, a home automation system can shut down all audio and video components to avoid distractions, or make an audible announcement. The system could also call the home owner on their mobile phone to alert them, or call the fire department or alarm monitoring company.
Home automation has been a feature of science fiction writing for many years, but has only become practical since the early 20th Century following the widespread introduction of electricity into the home, and the rapid advancement of information technology. Early remote control devices began to emerge in the late 1800s. For example, Nikola Tesla patented an idea for the remote control of vessels and vehicles in 1898.
The emergence of electrical home appliances began between 1915 and 1920; the decline in domestic servants meant that households needed cheap, mechanical replacements. Domestic electricity supply, however, was still in its infancy — meaning this luxury was afforded only the more affluent households.
Ideas similar to modern home automation systems originated during the World’s Fairs of the 1930s. Fairs in Chicago (1934) and New York (1939 and 1964–65) depicted electrified and automated homes. In 1966 Jim Sutherland, an engineer working for Westinghouse Electric, developed a home automation system called “ECHO IV”; this was a private project and never commercialized. The first “wired homes” were built by American hobbyists during the 1960s, but were limited by the technology of the times. The term “smart house” was first coined by the American Association of Housebuilders in 1984.
With the invention of the microcontroller, the cost of electronic control fell rapidly. Remote and intelligent control technologies were adopted by the building services industry and appliance manufacturers.
By the end of the 1990s, “domotics” was commonly used to describe any system in which informatics and telematics were combined to support activities in the home.2] The phrase is a neologism formed from domus (Latin, meaning house) and informatics, and refers to the application of computer and robot technologies to domestic appliances.The concept “Domotique” was initially introduced in France in the 1980s and was during the 1990s introduced in Spain and Italy as “Domótica”, and refers to home automation.
Constructed in 1998, the INTEGER Millennium House is a demonstration house built partially to showcase a variety of intelligent home automation technologies, including a building management system that could optimize the performance of the heating system, an automatic garden irrigation system that could sense soil humidity conditions and water accordingly, an intelligent security system, lighting that could be set to one of four predefined moods, and microchip-embedded programmable door keys. The house also featured advanced communication technologies such as a telephone service distributed via a local building exchange, digital satellite and terrestrial television available in every room, WebTV, and a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system.
While there is still much room for growth, according to ABI Research, 1.5 million home automation systems were installed in the US in 2012, and a sharp uptake could see shipments topping over 8 million in 2017.
Home automation systems include the following types of devices.
- Sensors to measure or detect things like temperature, humidity, daylight or motion.
- Controllers such as a PC or a dedicated home automation controller.
- Actuators such as motorized valves, light switches and motors.
- Buses for communication that can be wired or wireless.
- Interfaces for human-machine and/or machine-to-machine interaction.
One or more human-machine and/or machine-to-machine interface devices are required, so that the residents of the home can interact with the system for monitoring and control; this may be a specialized terminal or, increasingly, may be an application running on a smart phone or tablet computer. Devices may communicate over dedicated wiring, or over a wired network, or wirelessly using one or more protocols. Building automation networks developed for institutional or commercial buildings may be adapted to control in individual residences. A centralized controller can be used, or multiple intelligent devices can be distributed around the home.
There have been many attempts to standardise the forms of hardware, electronic and communication interfaces needed to construct a home automation system. Some standards use additional communication and control wiring, some embed signals in the existing power circuit of the house, some use radio frequency (RF) signals, some can be installed wirelessly and some use a combination of several methods. Control wiring is hardest to retrofit into an existing house. Some appliances include a USB port that is used for control and connection to a domotics network. Protocol bridges translate information from one standard to another, for example, from X10 to European Installation Bus (EIB now KNX).
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can include temperature and humidity control, including fresh air heating and natural cooling. An Internet-controlled thermostat allows the homeowner to control the building’s heating and air conditioning systems remotely. The system may automatically open and close windows to cool the house. Today – there are also dedicated gateways that connect advanced VRV / VRF and Split HVAC Systems with Home Automation and BMS (Building Management Systems) controllers for centralized control and monitoring. In addition, such gateway solutions is capable of providing remote control operation of all HVAC indoor units over the internet incorporating a simple and friendly user interface.
Home automation products can be used for something as simple as adding Multiway switching to existing electric lighting circuits, or can include very complex interactions with other systems.
A Lighting control system can be used to switch lights based on a time cycle, or arranged to automatically go out when a room is unoccupied. Some electronically controlled lamps can be controlled for brightness or color to provide different light levels for different tasks. Lighting can be controlled remotely by a wireless control or over the Internet. Natural lighting (daylighting) can be used to automatically control window shades and draperies to make best use of natural light.
This category includes audio and video switching and distribution. Multiple audio or video sources can be selected and distributed to one or more rooms and can be linked with lighting and blinds to provide mood settings.
Automatic control of blinds and curtains can be used for:
- Presence simulation
- Temperature control
- Brightness control
- Glare control
- Security (in case of shutters)
A household security system integrated with a home automation system can provide additional services such as remote surveillance of security cameras over the Internet, or central locking of all perimeter doors and windows.
With home automation, the user can select and watch cameras live from an Internet source to their home or business. Security systems can include motion sensors that will detect any kind of unauthorized movement and notify the user through the security system or via cell phone.
The automation system can simulate the appearance of an occupied home by automatically adjusting lighting or window coverings. Detection systems such as fire alarm, gas leak, carbon monoxide, or water leaks can be integrated. Personal medical alarm systems allow an injured home occupant to summon help.
An intercom system allows communication via a microphone and loud speaker between multiple rooms. Integration of the intercom to the telephone, or of the video door entry system to the television set, allowing the residents to view the door camera automatically.
Using special hardware, almost any household appliance can be monitored and controlled automatically or remotely, including cooking appliances, swimming pool systems, and others.
Costs mainly include equipment, components, furniture, and custom installation.
Ongoing costs include electricity to run the control systems, maintenance costs for the control and networking systems, including troubleshooting, and eventual cost of upgrading as standards change. Increased complexity may also increase maintenance costs for networked devices. Cloud-based services supporting an installation may also entail fees for setup, usage, or both.
Home automation technologies are viewed as integral additions to the smart grid. Communication between a home automation system and the grid would allow applications like load shedding during system peaks, or would allow the homeowner to automatically defer energy use to periods of low grid cost. Green automation or “demand response” are terms that refer to energy management strategies in home automation when data from smart grids is combined with home automation systems to use resources at either their lowest prices or highest availability, taking advantage, for instance, of high solar panel output in the middle of the day to automatically run washing machines.
Taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Are your smoke detectors in working order?
Walking around a clients house yesterday, we were updating their home to a Vantage Equinox System. We were done and dusted when I noticed a tiny little smoke detector outside the kitchen, it was very pretty, and miles up on a 3 meter high ceiling so you barely noticed it – an interior designers dream. The problem was the client hadn’t noticed it either and nobody had any idea whether it was working or if it even had a battery in it. Off we went for another lap of the house and discovered a total of 5 smoke detectors, all in various states, some with covers off and batteries missing, all impossible to reach without a good sized ladder.
We were running cabling nearby so the client asked us to put the whole lot onto the alarm system where they are centrally powered and battery backed up, if there is any issue with them, the panel will alert monitoring.
The primary reason for smoke detectors is life safety, and this is the reason we are required to install smoke detectors within three meters of any “sleeping space”, most commonly bedrooms, but if you have a pullout couch for the odd hanger-on, then this needs covering as well.
The secondary reason for smoke detectors is property protection. Given that many of our clients spend a good part of the year elsewhere, usually somewhere warmer, the house or bach is often empty for days or weeks at a time. I have to ask the question – what good is a battery powered smoke detector beeping it’s heart out while the house burns to the ground around it?
The law says you need hardwired smoke detectors if the people sleeping in the bedrooms are paying to be there (i.e. hotels and lodges). Why are they better protected than your own family?
If your current smoke detectors are from the bin by the tills at Bunnings or you can’t remember if you changed the batteries last year or not, please get them connected to your alarm system so we can all stop worrying about them! Click here if you want yours checked out.
Rant Over – Brendon
P.S. We use and recommend heat (rather than smoke) detectors in kitchens to avoid the wet tea-towel dance when you burn the toast – nuisance tripping is a thing of the past now, so no excuses!
The inside word on home automation
CEDIA is the worldwide (not for profit) industry organisation which exists for the benefit of home automation, custom installation and manufacturing companies in almost every developed country in the world. The CEDIA trade show was on earlier this week and saw three NZ companies take out five of the thirteen Asia Pacific awards, Urbis Designday participants Automation Associates took out two awards for Best Integrated Homes, Asia Pacific.
Also as part of the show, Rich Green came over from Silicon Valley. He is recognised as one of the foremost A/V system designers, having worked with many prominent clients including Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, Rush Limbaugh, Larry Ellison, and Steve Jobs. We ask him what this home automation stuff is all about.
Urbis: What is home automation?
Rich Green: Let’s make a distinction between control and automation. With home controls, you have devices that switch and adjust things. These may include simple light switches, motorized window shades and thermostats. Making something happen requires human intervention. People walk up to a thermostat and adjust the temperature. Simple enough. Now add home automation. Automation can remove the need for a person to make a decision and act on a control – it happens in the background and can simplify the laborious and repetitive use of simple controls.
With clever home automation, as opposed to simple controls, complex tasks can be initiated by various triggers and executed with transparency in the background. This is a much more elegant approach to modern living in homes that often have complex technology. A common scenario in homes with technology designed by CEDIA professionals uses automation to improve energy efficiency and comfort at the same time. Occupancy sensors will know if someone is home and using a certain room. If the room is not in use, the home automation system can be programmed to turn off the lights, lower the window shades and set back the thermostat in an effort to save on energy costs. The moment someone comes home, or walks into the room, the automation system will reverse the process and prepare the room for elegance and comfort, with no need for the family member to fiddle with switches or controls. Home automation is often the most useful application of technology in the home, yet when done right by sensitive designers, it never calls attention to itself. Automated homes have a certain grace about them.
That could sound a bit complicated. What does home automation add to a house? Why bother?
RG: Automation makes mundane and time consuming tasks disappear. When expertly designed and installed, a home automation system can transform a technical nightmare into an experience of ease and joy. For my more social clients, I often recommend the “one-button party” function. Let’s say you’ve planned a dinner party with several of your best friends but you were stuck all day at work. Upon your arrival, all you need to do is press one button on a programmed touch panel or your iPad, and the house will wake up and set the stage for your guests. Lights dim into beautiful scenes, music plays from your favorite collections, the front gate opens and the fountain starts bubbling. All you would need to worry about is getting the meat on the BBQ and pop open a few bottles of wine. Automation can be a real time saver and makes the best use of your home’s resources.
Why bother? There are so many reasons to automate a home. Turn the lights off after the kids leave them on, have a few lights come on and off at night while you are traveling to make the home seem lived in, create the simplest button push to set your home theater for optimal performance without any fiddling of that basket full of remote controls. It’s fun, it saves time and it makes the home run much more efficiently.
What are the most common ways of incorporating automation into a house?
RG: There are two large categories of home automation: taming media and environmental comfort with efficiency. When taming media, the mission is to bring the myriad sources of music, movies, TV and games into one simple, easy to understand control interface. The iPad, for example, has become outrageously popular for home controls and automation just this past year. It’s affordable, and can be used to integrate various applications for finding and enjoying digital media. The iPad still needs to communicate with a wide variety of electronics, and they don’t always behave nicely. That is when you should work with a professional electronic systems contractor. CEDIA trained and certified technicians know exactly how to tame electronics and integrate them with simple interfaces like the iPad. It can be a bit maddening when attempting it yourself.
The other category of automation is environmental comfort. We already talked about the smart integration of lights, thermostats and window shades. Tying these systems into occupancy sensors or time-of-day preset scenes can make a complex home a real joy to live in. We can automate for safety as well. I love automating garage doors so they close at night when accidentally left open.
Where is all this technology heading? What are some cool things we can expect to do in a few years that use automation?
RG: The future of home automation technology is about to get really exciting, and very practical too. We have three major developments unfolding this year: Energy Monitoring and Management, Digital Home Health and Home Office technologies. Together, I like to think of these technologies as supporting “Sustainable Lifestyles.” We can encourage much more responsible behaviors while improving the well-being of families. The basic ideas are to make it very easy for families to turn things off, stay out of cars and stay out of airplanes. A lot of good can come from those lifestyle adjustments.
Energy Monitoring and Management is becoming popular because of Smart Grid initiatives. This is happening all over the world. CEDIA professionals have been on top of this development from the start. We start by measuring the electricity, water and gas that a family uses over time. That data is then massaged into a graphical dashboard that is displayed on web browsers, touch panels, iPhones and iPads. Once you show a family how much energy they are consuming they will always use less. On average, 10 to 15% less. This is significant. Now add some clever automation based on this data and real savings can happen. This is the new trend in home automation; maximize well-being and consume less at the same time.
Digital Home Health is one of my personal favorites. This is an automation environment that helps older people age at home, with dignity, comfort and safety. Huge corporations are supporting this technology simply because there aren’t enough health care facilities to support the aging population. Costs are much, much lower when people can take care of themselves from home. Digital Home Health technologies include motion sensors and cameras (to keep an eye on grandma), toilet sensors, medicine dispensers, equipment for reading and reporting blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, etc. The absolute coolest technology behind Digital Home Health is Home Telepresence. This is a new breed of video conferencing equipment that works on the Family Room TV. Cisco makes one called Umi, and Logitech has it built into their new Google TV box. With Home Telepresence, grandma can have an open window to her grandchildren all day long. It keeps old people connected and social. Putting a Home Telepresence system in a loved ones house will add years to their life. Being social is a fundamental human need.
The third new development is a resurgence of Home Office technologies. Yes, we can use Home Telepresence in the office too. Various other collaborative technologies can be added to help people stay home, close to their families while greatly reducing the need for travel.
Do you have a favourite gadget?
RG: Yes, it’s my iPhone 4. I’ve never had a piece of gear that is so sexy, emotionally connected and elegant. Apple totally gets it. When you touch someone emotionally, you win their loyalty. The future of technology is emotional. Technology will serve humanity instead of enslaving humanity. There are so may sensibly designed, human-scaled technologies in development right now. We have a lot to look forward to.
Winning home automation project with automation designed by Automation Associates.