Technology – Helping us to Live Life Better, Every day

21/04/2017

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As our yearning for new technology grows, our understanding of its potential also continues to rise. But, what does that mean for our future homes and what is its relevance each and every day? Richard Hayward lead marketing manager for Legrand’s wiring devices business unit, explains.

First and foremost it is important to identify the core attributes of a smart or connected home. With so much chatter in the media about smart devices, understanding what one is, can be hard to decipher. Just because you can control your heating, lighting or fridge from your smart phone or tablet, doesn’t actually make it smart – it is simply connected.

Where the crucial difference between smart devices and connected ones lies, is that to be smart there needs to be a level of intelligence built-in and more importantly, the technology needs to be interoperable with other technologies. If you consider the commercial built environment, there are many systems and solutions that we use every time we visit a hotel, such as the door entry, lighting and heating – all of which are controlled by a single system and then connected to a Building Management System (BMS).

These connected devices, ensure that when we enter our hotel rooms the lighting, temperature, curtains and even the music are in perfect harmony with one other and the wider hotel.

If we transfer the same example into a smart home; the lighting, temperature, curtains and music can all be controlled via a single panel or an app, but it’s not simply a case of switching things on or off. Where the key difference is, is the fact that the smart home is also intelligent, and connected via a robust electrical backbone. In reality, this could mean that your home opens the curtains at a certain time of day and dims the lights, that when you close the door, it automatically locks and the security system is enabled. A smart home should really help to look after the people that live in it.

Put simply, much of the technology that we have been using over the last few decades is relatively dumb. From turning on the heating to switching on the lights – we are required to perform an action, whether that’s flicking a switch or remotely accessing the system via a mobile phone. Each socket and system work in isolation i.e. each has a single purpose, but is connected to a bigger electrical network. Internet-enabled devices offer a fairly simplistic level of control, enabling people to turn things on and off remotely, but still require an individual to perform an act.

Truly smart technology is functional and robust, built upon an electrical backbone that enables technology to be interoperable, or in other words talk to one another, and then adjust or adapt to a requirement. Built around a solid foundation, an electrical backbone can not only deliver power, but is also a conduit for data and information and can help to revolutionise our homes. The simple addition of internet enabled devices, doesn’t make a home smart, but it is fun and a step in the right direction toward a smart existence.

This can take the form of any number of technology solutions, from smart products to whole house automation. Placed into the wider context of our changing demographic, it’s easy to see how and where demand is rising but equally how it has the potential to improve lives every day. Whatever the driver for customers to invest in home automation might be, there are options available to enable increased control and peace of mind for the homeowner.

Security is a prime example here with potential options including access control, security lighting and cameras, or perhaps occupancy sensors within the home. Its role is to provide comfort, wellbeing and convenience to the customer and can be controlled via a smart app or control panel, and whether the consumer is home or away.

Take, for example, the new Classe 300X connected video internal unit which thanks to integrated Wi-Fi connectivity and a simple 2-wire installation, offers a secure door entry unit that can be up and running quickly and easily. The customer can answer the door via the unit’s 7 inch touch screen or via a dedicated app on their smart phone or tablet – enabling home owners to keep in constant contact with their home and give them reassurance whilst they are away.

Door entry systems and the wider security functions available, can be of benefit across a broad spectrum of ages and situations. In a family home, the system can be used to check that everyone is home or that the house is secure while on holiday for example. For assisted living properties, or for those perhaps with mobility issues, the advantage of being able to open the door at the swipe of a finger can be life-changing. Technology also enables people to control door-entry remotely, whether that’s to let the postmen drop off a parcel into the porch, to enable a neighbour to water your plants while away, or perhaps even to provide remote access to a nurse or carer.

Right now, there’s a lot of talk about connected devices, but when this technology is deployed correctly and in the right application, it has the potential to help improve people’s lives. Whether that improvement is the ability to check that your children have got home safely, while you’re away, or to turn the heating on and ensure your entertainment system is running through your favourite playlist as you get home. Just as life is individual, so too can your home learn and adapt to your needs whatever they might be and wherever you may be in the world. We must view home automation and smart technology as an enabler, helping people to live their lives better in the way they wish to live them. That’s the end goal.