Seamless autopilot living

With smart home technologies offering seamless control and improved efficiencies, architects need to look at integrating them into buildings, argues Loxone’s Omid Nikroo.

With every passing year, the number – and complexity of – systems available which are designed to run a modern home increases. Whether it’s heating, lighting, automatic blinds or solar photovoltaic systems, they all require a degree of understanding from the homeowner, who will need to control and manage them.

This is where home automation, and its ability to maximise the advantages of technology with the least amount of manual interaction, has a vital role to play. Although smart home technology is a relatively new concept, the market is expanding rapidly and there is great scope for architects to integrate this technology into building design and infrastructure.

Convenient control

The concept of smart homes may conjure up thoughts about smart thermostats, voice-controlled speakers, or fridges that can compile your shopping list. However, while these solutions can provide greater control over the systems within a home, their advantages can be marred somewhat by issues with compatibility, integration and convenience. After all, the novelty of being able to control the lighting with an app soon wears off, as it doesn’t bring any tangible benefits without some manual effort being applied.

Convenient control is a significant factor when it comes to smart home technology: according to the 2014 report ‘Connected Homes’ by Honeywell, almost half (47 per cent) of homeowners surveyed would rather control everything from a single app than use multiple apps. Therefore, for the idea of smart homes to thrive, architects need to consider how the building operates as a whole rather than taking a piecemeal approach to automation.

An alternative to Internet of Things products is an ‘ecosystem’ solution: a whole-home automation system designed to run a home automatically and efficiently. Typically centrally managed, these integrated solutions have a central logic controller (or ‘brain’) that runs all elements and ensures that systems such as heating and cooling work in tandem rather than against each other.

Benefits of whole-home automation

The resounding advantage of an automation system is that it enables the home to ‘run on autopilot’ by adjusting to the environment around the occupant.

The result isn’t just harsh mechanical changes, but gentle shifts in the ambiance within the home to ensure comfort and efficiency. For example, if
the occupant were to open a window while the heating was on, the system would automatically turn the heating down in order to save energy. Similarly, if the occupant were to leave a room without turning the lights off, the system would automatically switch them off.

This level of automation offers increased energy efficiency and subsequently, reduced utility bills. In addition, complete home automation can save time and provide peace of mind to the occupants, removing the little annoyances from their lives and leaving them more time for actually living.

While technology has the power to boost a building’s operational efficiencies, it can also enhance its design. Smart lighting, for example, can be used to highlight furniture or certain internal structures within the home, or to create lighting ‘scenes’ for different moods.

Furthermore, smart technology can offer more practical benefits, such as the option to switch off lighting, lower the heating, or arm the burglar alarm – all at the touch of a button.

In addition, smart technology is useful for homes that integrate renewable energy sources, such as PV systems. It can channel any excess self-produced energy to power running appliances or to charge electric vehicles. Likewise, devices and appliances left on standby can be switched off automatically, further reducing a home’s carbon footprint.

Those looking to enhance their knowledge of smart home technology may wish to attend the RIBA Core Curriculum CPD ‘Creating Truly Smart Homes’ – and visit the Loxone website.

Omid Nikroo is key accounts director at Loxone UK