There are a few different levels of ‘smart’ home, with the term meaning different things to different people. For example, it can be used to describe anything from a thermostat that can be controlled remotely, to a fully connected home that is completely wired and designed to offer a heightened level of comfort and efficiency.
Navigating this world can be a daunting prospect, so we spoke with smart buildings specialist, Ivory Egg, and solutions provider, Gira, to find out how to bring a new home into the 21st century.
Mark Warburton, Technical Director, Ivory Egg began: “As energy costs continue to rise, so has society’s agenda to be more careful in terms of tangible energy use and wastage. Consequently, the construction industry has shown a growing desire and need for new ‘smart’ solutions that optimize building convenience, security and energy management.”
“Promoted as the next breakthrough technology for building convenience, by applying the KNX standard, system integrators are now able to integrate all intelligent build applications into one single KNX installation: whatever the space. This allows for easy yet comprehensive monitoring via an independent intuitive control system. Technology like KNX, means we can achieve a truly connected building where all building services operate as a single control technology.”
So what is KNX? Mark continued: “Put simply, KNX is a control system that was developed to allow products from various manufacturers to work seamlessly together. The system operates on a standardised bus cable with a common language, allowing different products to all work seamlessly together.”
KNX technology allows control of all aspects of home and building control such as: lighting, heating, cooling and ventilation, blinds/shutters, security and door communication systems, audio and video, and metering.
It can be installed in to new or existing developments. With wired, wireless, IP and powerline communication mediums, it is possible to use the system within any building type.
Mark continued: “Interestingly, due to KNX having the ability to talk to other systems, it is commonly used as a backbone in linking together proprietary control systems, standardised controls. This brings a host of benefits such as simple operation, flexibility, along with daisy chain topology so multi-manufacturer products can work together and talk to other control systems. All in all, this type of intelligent build solution enables full building control which in turn, results in low operating costs and time saving execution.”
KNX was developed in 1990 after noting the issue of control systems not being able communicate to one another, creating timely and costly issues for integrators. Since then, it has become a worldwide standard for intelligent building control with over 400 manufacturers, nearly 50,000 partners and almost 400 training centres, all across the globe.
Mark noted: “Ivory Egg specialise in this field, adding extra connectivity within a buildings environment which can include access control, alarm systems and multi-room audio entertainment which can be controlled, operated and managed in-residence or remotely.”
“We have been partners with Gira UK since we began in 2005, with 13 years of sharing business acumen, leads and customer feedback and supporting system integrators to deliver Gira projects.’’
Efficiency and convenience
Gira has established itself as an award-winning innovator in the field of perceptive ‘Intelligent Building Technology’ and specification.
Mark Booth, Managing Director, Gira UK said: “We have a notable aptitude for perfecting both form and function, but above all else, making buildings safer, work more efficiently, convenient and function with 21st century intelligence.”
“Autonomous technology is definitely a sign of the future, with the ability to anticipate individual behaviours and scenarios without instruction and ultimately, user control. If we consider Renault’s latest car/house concept then it only proves how technology is more than just functionality, it has become a lifestyle choice and one many end users are exploring as solutions become more advanced.”
“Smart technologies really have no limits and if a need is identified or even created, then it is the job of leading manufacturers to drive the end user to these intuitive products and solutions, to encourage greater market acceptance and presence.”
Mark concluded: “For anyone with a genuine interest in the specification of or training on intelligent build solutions, simply contact our leading KNX experts, Ivory Egg, to be advised on how to bring a ‘smart home’ to life.”
Specialists in the supply of intelligent build technology and complementary solutions, Ivory Egg has been working with independent system integrators since 2005, establishing a core network of dedicated smart home innovators. Technical Director Mark Warburton outlines their dos and don’ts of smart home design and creation:
‘‘Do consider the capabilities of the system and your client’s expectations on what it is able to do. If music is a core requirement, then a simple solution that enables multiple rooms to be playing the same music is probably the perfect solution. This can be achieved with a selection of network connected speakers, however if the sound quality of the music is what interests your customer, then Ivory Egg recommend a higher end, single room solution. Whether it is functionality or performance, there is a host of smart audio systems that will deliver on what is important to each of your customers.’’
‘‘Don’t forget the network. Most routers supplied by internet providers will struggle to provide a consistent performance: especially when there is more than 20 devices connected. That may sound like a lot, but this can very quickly be achieved in a home where smart technology is installed. Wireless coverage can also be an issue if you have the luxury of working with a large property. Remember, relying on a mobile phone connection is fine when streaming content via YouTube, but to control and interface to products will require a home network: a group of devices – such as computers, game systems, printers, and mobile devices – that connect to the Internet and each other. There are various off-the-shelf solutions to choose from that will extend the Wi-Fi capabilities throughout a home, but again, the router will still become an inevitable point of weakness. Ivory Egg therefore recommend you enlist the advice and expertise of a professional home tech installer. By doing so, it will ensure connectivity throughout the home that is able to cope with a typical family with high usage, along with the ability to include critical systems like lighting and heating, so they can watch their latest boxset whilst maintaining full illumination.’’
‘‘Don’t confuse smart devices with smart systems. If you are looking to build a new home, or improve an existing one, installing a wired infrastructure will provide far greater long term flexibility and breadth of possibilities. Adding smart devices over the top of existing wiring is a great solution when you can’t rewire, but it can limit what can be achieved: particularly at a house wide level. That being said, a professional smart home installer will be able to help get the most from whichever system is being installed.’’
‘‘Don’t allow your customers to give up using a product after only a few times. Most smart home devices, particularly those based around voice interfaces, improve the more they are used. Checking the weather is certainly useful, but being able to dim the lights, shut the blinds and play music with one simple command is far more helpful. A lot of systems now have a degree of computer learning so the technology becomes tuned in to specific lifestyles and habits: and the more they are used, the better they get.’’
‘‘Don’t get caught up with scaremongering around security and data protection. The majority of systems from well-known brands are inherently secure, and the manufacturers do everything possible to protect data. Voice devices may always be listening, but they are not always recording. This feature only comes in to effect when a key word is said, at this point the voice application will make a secure connection to the cloud and process the command.’’
‘‘That being said, Do change the default passwords. Security is a two-way street, so make sure your customers do their part by using strong passwords on devices and changing them regularly. Also, make sure you don’t alter the settings in the router that opens said home to the outside world, if you are not sure simply seek expert advice.’’
‘‘Do consider smart home technology as an investment. When approached the right way, technology can be used to not only make lives easier, but also make the home a more comfortable, secure, efficient and healthier environment to enjoy and experience. This leads to a better and more enjoyable home which is the type of investment that over time, will raise the level of smart home innovations set to embrace the housebuild market long in to the future.’’