We discuss what constitutes a smart home and what elements a smart home can consist of.
A “Smart Home System” or previously known as a “Home Automation” system is a platform which brings all the homes systems together and makes them easy to control. If we take a home cinema for example there are numerous things that need to happen to get a picture to the projector from a Sky Box.
In basic terms:
The projector needs to turn on, the surround sound amplifier needs to turn on, the Sky Box needs to turn on, then the surround sound amplifier needs to be set to the correct HDMI input to select the sky box as a source.
At this point you can pick up your Sky remote and watch TV as normal. Thats a lot of steps and a lot of remotes at play considering you’re trying to do something as simple as watch TV.
Enter the home automation system. Press the “Sky” button in the room and all of those things that need to happen above are pre-programmed and executed for you when you press the button.
TV systems are usually the tipping point when clients start considering a home automation system, usually when the system involves a TV distribution system (centrally locating all source equipment such as sky boxes and distributing them out to every TV)
A TV distribution system cuts down on clutter at the TV but then involves having yet another remote in the room – to change the HDMI switcher over to the correct input.
This layer of complexity is rarely seen as acceptable and it’s quite rare for us to install a HD distribution system without a smart home automation system as the front end to make it simple for the end user.
Some examples of a Savant iPhone app for TV control are shown below.
Distributed audio systems such as Savant Music and Sonos are great as standalone systems, but by adding them into a home automation system, you can have control of your music system tied into lighting keypads, and with schedules that can be set up by the end user as part of their smart home automation app on their smartphones.
Being part of a larger smart home ecosystem means that events such as the doorbell ringing, a telephone calling or a fire alarm going off can lower the music volume thought the house or even be utilised to play the doorbell sound over the speaker system to ensure you always know when someone’s at the door.
Moreover, a home automation system allows both TV and audio systems to be “tied” together, so audio streams from the TV can be “piped” into the ceiling speakers, meaning you can have the sound from the football match on the lounge TV playing as audio in the kitchen.
Audio sources, such as music streams from Spotify, Apple Music etc are centrally located in the comms room and sent out to architectural speakers in each room, allowing any member of the family to listen to their favourite songs in any of the rooms directly from their smartphone or a wall mounted touch screen.
Sky boxes and source equipment are centrally located and distributed out to each room using structured cabling, allowing any HDMI source to be viewed on any TV in the house.
Combing the audio and visual systems allows the visual sources such as Sky boxes, Apple TVs, and the TVs themselves available as an audio source, and as such can be routed into the audio system in any room of the house, a great feature if you don't want to pause the TV and continue listening to the action in another room.
A well-designed smart lighting system as part of a larger home automation system is a must in our option, it adds occupancy simulation when the homeowners are on holiday, it allows the end user to manipulate the space and alter what each button on their keypads do.
It even allows lights to dim down when you start watching a movie and automatically raise when you pause the movie to get up for a drink.
Along with all the other benefits of a smart lighting system has to offer as a standalone system.
As the thing we use most in the home as far as technology is concerned – lighting keypads offer much more when a home automation system is utilised. Keypads can include controls for audio and visual elements of the space along with control of blinds and any other systems that are part of the greater automation system.
Too often, we see electric blinds “bolted on” to a project at the last minute with little thought towards how the homeowner will interact with them on a daily basis, controlling light coming into a room, whether it be artificial or natural, should be handled by one system – the home automation system.
By adding the window treatments to the automation system it allows the blinds to close automatically if it’s a sunny day and the room goes over a preset temperature, it allows the blinds to be controlled from the homeowners smartphone, and equally importantly it allows lighting keypads to control the shading too.
Example user interfaces of a lighting and blinds system are shown below.