Today’s smart homes contain many connected products that have the potential to make our lives easier, more convenient, and infinitely more comfortable.
Ross Hickey, CEO of Trinity Telecomms, says applications that offer fast, secure, and reliable GPRS communications with homes or businesses, and allow users to monitor devices via a mobile app, are changing the game.
This would include the ability to receive remote event notifications, or disarm and rearm an alarm panel remotely. Also, users can immediately be notified when their alarm is activated, and told who is arming, disarming or bypassing zones on their alarm panel.
The proliferation of apps is helping users to create ‘smart’ living spaces by enabling them to control their security systems, lighting, entertainment units, appliances, and much more through their smart devices.
Home automation usually runs via a mobile app on a device that allows the user to arm or disarm a system, analyse events or notifications, as well as react to them online and in real time.
However, an issue that hampers the adoption of home automation, is the question of safety and security. According to Hickey, there are two home automation routes customers can take. There are unmanaged products, where a customer will buy an off-the-shelf device over the internet or by visiting a retail store. These products are often self-installed or installed via an independent third party, but there are few or no managed services attached.
The managed service route sees consumers purchasing equipment through a manufacturers channel, and installation is controlled, security managed, and the customer pays a monthly fee. Initial costs are low, or none at all, as the monthly subscription covers any hardware, as well as the full management of the service.
Another stumbling block to home automation adoption is that the systems are perceived to be difficult to understand and manage. Hickey says today’s apps allow manufacturers to provide consumers with apps that they are familiar with, and can navigate easily. “It’s as simple as downloading the app via PlayStore or iTunes and swiping right or left.”
Costs vary considerably. “Pricing usually covers the upfront costs of the hardware, which can range from R500 to R50 000. Subscriptions start anywhere from R35 to hundreds of rands per month.”
When choosing a home automation provider, do a little homework, he suggests. “Think about the standard issues. How long have they been in business? What warranties do they offer, and can they stand by them. In addition, it is useful to know how many devices they have sold, and where, and to clarify the kind of operation they have, whether it is a managed service, or whether they just supply the hardware and expect the customer to get on with it.”
So what does home automation look like in the future? “It’s exciting, but there should be clear and real benefits in order for it to be adopted. There are many devices in which the IoT makes sense – security, lighting, even refrigeration. But an IoT toaster, I can’t think of any real purpose.”