Smart Homes – Functionality & Benefits

Smart home functionality has been around a long time, but has only recently become more mainstream in the residential housing market. Now that we’re used to, and utterly addicted to smart phone functionality, we’re looking for the same convenience in our homes. And it’s not a generational thing, I’m seeing home buyers of all ages interested in Smart Home technology.

I caught up with Jeremy from Beacon Installations who specialises in installing Smart Home functionality to answer the burning questions.

A smart home is one with technology that can be used to optimise functionality of services and systems within our homes such as lighting, heating, broadband, property access, security and audio visual equipment. These systems can be controlled and monitored locally within a house via dedicated touch panels, keypads and tablets and remotely via our smart phones.

This is critical to stable smart home functionality, and increasingly important now that so many of us are working from home while the kids are streaming TV and gaming etc.

Many homes rely on a single wireless router located close to the main phone line socket. Although, the broadband speed from a provider can’t easily be improved, the coverage within a home can almost certainly be optimised with the addition of hardwiring to fixed devices and wireless access points to boost the WiFi in other areas.

Top Tip Any fixed device should ideally be hard wired to maximise network speed, leaving WiFi available only for mobile devices

While there is an upfront investment in smart home technology, the long term benefits include reduced bills from, for example, automated lighting: You can set each room to turn lights off automatically if there’s no movement or dim lights to reduce power consumption with little effect to the light levels; Power management: switching devices off completely, not just putting them into standby mode.

Sequences can be programmed so that a single button press can carry out a number of actions, e.g. turn on a TV, start a movie and dim the lights. One switch by the front door can turn off all lights when you leave the house or holiday modes can be programmed to make the house look lived in when you are away. Likewise, heating can be controlled to respond to weather changes or vacant periods and blinds and curtains can be controlled autonomously based on external light levels.

Access levels can be defined to ensure that settings can’t be erroneously changed, our children are protected online and guests have limited access to networks. You can also control which devices have access to WiFi, useful if you have slower broadband and want to prioritise work use.

As we adapted to lockdown, high tech home entertainment systems became more popular. Home cinemas and games rooms are great for at-home entertainment for the whole family, providing a cinema, theatre or gig experience in your own home. Strong broadband is crucial here as you will likely be streaming content, and will want to avoid buffering.

This is a nice little add-on. Geofencing means your home will know, via GPS, when you are within a defined geographic distance from your house. So you can set your home to prepare for your arrival, e.g. lights on, fire on. Lovely!

First and foremost, the level of work within a house depends on what the homeowner needs. There are so many possibilities so I identify what outcome they need and design the right installation for them.

WiFi works to a degree but cabling is required for high speed, robust functionality. Most of my work is retrofitting and I can work on pretty much any type of house, including period properties. Large houses tend to have plenty of accessible cable routes and new build/renovation properties are great as the flooring and walls may already be opened up allowing for an uncompromised installation.

In my view, smart homes should be designed and installed for those who aren’t tech-savvy, a good system should be intuitive to use by anyone. It’s down to the designer and installer to hide the ‘geeky’ stuff behind a simple user interface.

Most smart home products have their open apps available for both android and apple devices, however there are systems available, (Savant, Control4, Crestron to name just a few) that combine the control of individual products onto a single control platform. This is my preferred approach.

Most people who use technology at home! The majority of my customers are 40+ Executives used to robust technology in the office. They appreciate efficiency, and often need reliable network connectivity for remote working and entertainment, such as a home cinema.

This year demand for smart home functionality has increased as homeowners look for solutions to cope with more time spent at home; heavy internet usage from home working, home schooling, home entertaining, home everything! Smart home technology allows us to enhance our homes and is rapidly becoming the standard.

Based in West Berkshire Beacon Installations Ltd brings decades of IT and AV experience together to provide a quality service with the very best products, design, installation and support to clients. We specialise in the residential market, anything from large period properties to modern new builds. Our focus is to install robust, intuitive systems for ease of use and longevity.

Jeremy Gravenstede

Beacon Installations Limited

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