Smart homes for smarter living

Smart homes for smarter living

This is the age of hi-tech gadgets and modern devices. Get them up and running in your home for the ultimate luxury experience, says Bindu Gopal Rao.

As homes change and become smaller due to space constraints, they are also turning smarter. Simply stated, a smart home is one that incorporates the most advanced technology to facilitate easy monitoring as well as complete control to the house owner. 
The specifics

Smart home technology becomes imperative at the present age where we depend on modern amenities to make our lives hassle-free. “It provides one-point centralised control over the house whereby the home owner can modulate the lighting, thermostat, security locks and the like. With one click, you can draw your curtains, increase and decrease the brightness of your television, while sitting on your couch watching TV.

Smart home lock (one-touch door-opener and virtual keys), smartphone-controlled slow cooker, video monitor (to assess what is happening at home while you are away), thermostat (setting the temperature at home a week in advance), water monitor (to detect leaking pipes), humidity monitor are all part of the solution,” explains Bijay Agarwal, MD and Chairman, Salarpuria Sattva. 

Naturally, these solutions also ensure security is maintained using security sensors on your window or doors as an anti-theft mechanism. “Gas leak, smoke and fire detection are also possible, thus enabling the safety of your family. In terms of integration of the lighting and entertainment devices, once the home theatre comes on, the curtains draw immediately and lights dim to create the ideal ambience. Lighting control can be changed easily without any cabling changes if you have gone for a wireless home automation,” says Umesh Rao, Founder and  CEO, Vector Projects (I) Pvt. Ltd. Ramesh Nambiar, Co-Founder and  Managing Director, Nambiar Builders adds, “Monitoring devices, such as sensors, are small and can be installed anywhere. The key goal for home automation is to give the occupant total control over the house from anywhere.”

Home networking and monitoring systems are a must in a smart home. The systems manage the link between systems and devices such as lighting, air conditioners, phones, security cameras, audio-video systems, computers and refrigerators.Connecting the dots“Apart from safety, smart homes also reduce energy footprint by installing technologies that conserve power used by lighting, elevators and other amenities. Rainwater harvesting systems, sewage treatment systems and organic waste convertors ensure the smart homes to be eco-friendly as well,” says A Harikesh, Sr. Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Tata Housing Development Company. 

A smart home system also integrates electrical devices in the house with each other. Says Dinesh Dubey, GM, Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate, “The integration of home automation is now extending across controlling various aspects of the external and internal environment of the homes and includes security and well-being which includes door-locks, cameras, fire-fighting equipment, to name a few. 

Necessities, which includes power, HVAC, car-parks, telephone, lighting, and luxury, which includes AC, fridge, audio-visual equipment and so on.” Adds Koshy Varghese, Managing Director, Value Designbuild Pvt. Ltd., “Energy-saving window blinds are being designed now so that they can shut out light or allow light in, depending on whether heating or cooling is required.”

Now trending 

A smart home helps in making life easier and convenient. “The new trend, which has further enhanced this category, is technology that has changed the way to connect and communicate. Smart homes can sense the mood and customise the lighting, fans and AC to one’s liking; the bathrooms can light up sensing one’s arrival; boom barrier at the apartment entrance can open automatically sensing the car parking,” says RK Arora, Chairman & MD, Supertech Limited. 

The new trends of 2014 will definitely be the evolution of the existing smart TVs and smart phones. Smart home technology has evolved so much that it allows interconnectivity with all the household gadgets and appliances. 

Says Pawan Jasuja, Director, Finlace Consulting, “Home automation now allows users to create their own theme. The system becomes the controlling point of home and acts as its brain, allowing the user to create various living scenarios by controlling the television, air conditioning, by a simple touch. All this can even be controlled remotely through a mobile device or your laptop.” 

Remote door unlock with VDP facility allows you to remotely unlock the front door using the iHomePad – after you have viewed and spoken to the visitor on the iHomePad screen. “Digital keypad is installed at the front door, where the family members can use a digital code to open the door from outside without a need for duplicate keys for each family member. Fire or gas alarms automatically raise an alarm and send pre-programmed SMS alerts to your phone as well as to the building’s command centre,” says an Ireo spokesperson. 

Gitesh Agarwal, Chief Marketing Officer, D&M says, “The new trends are flexible furniture, lightweight or glass partitioning systems with sound insulation, and decor-friendly devices. Programmable or zone-based thermostats and wireless power controls are some of the other trends that are catching up in the market. Automated door locks are another innovation that help do away with keys by automating your front door to unlock or open as you approach.”

Tech talk

The technology available in India for homes is still in early stages. Cloud-based smart home automation software is the latest in this series, which enables its users to control home appliances and devices, as well as supervise everything that is happening at home.Anil Srivastava, GM, Exotica Housing says, “We are using nanotechnology to improve as well as enhance customer experience. Our video intercom facility has improved security. In housing societies, we also keep lifts under surveillance, apart from entrance, exit, doors, lobby and the like. Optical-fibre-based system offers swift communication and control.” 

For bacteria-free bathrooms, Johnson Bathrooms have introduced the silver nano technology. “Our sanitary ware range is coated with special nano ceramic of silver nano particles that inhibit multiplication and growth of bacteria thus keeping the bathrooms bacteria-free,” says a H&R Johnson spokesperson. 

Rahul Jagtiani, Founder and Managing Partner, Plush Plaza adds, “A home can be considered modern and smart, only if various gadgets can talk to each other. For example, a door that tells you when your teenage son or daughter is safely home at night. The system becomes the home’s brain.”

Working @ Home

The emergence of technology in smart homes has brought to the consumers technologies like Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and GPON, to name a few. 

“FTTH is widely recognised as the optimal solution for providing broadband to new and existing communities, which involves the installation of optical fibre from a central location to homes. Whereas, the GPON technology which involves multiple aspects like IP phones to make video calling, Wi-Fi enabled campus, multi-DTH with a set-top box ready to just plug-and-play, CCTV footage on the TV, SCADA system for monitoring major services like lifts, transformers, DG sets, water supply pumps, and others,” says Kruti Jain, Director, Kumar Urban Development Ltd. (KUL). 

With the increasing demand for data in various forms, the fibre optic technology is becoming a necessity. 

“It provides a comprehensive solution for the IP leased line, Internet, Closed User Group (CUG), VoIP, video conferencing and video calls. Whatever the services available on the Internet platform, bandwidth on demand can be delivered by this connectivity, without changing the access fibre and home device,” says Maaz Dawood, Executive Partner, Monarch Group.

New vistas

The new-age technologies are currently being deployed in almost all electro mechanical equipment that we can think of - be it an air conditioner or washing machine, a home theatre or modern kitchen. 

“The new technologies can be used in an effective manner when we employ them for someone who really needs them; be it switching on lights automatically as you walk in and out of rooms including bathrooms; be it an emergency button that can immediately reach out to a hospital or a fire station or security in case of necessity,” says C Subramaniam, Co-Chairman, ACREX 2015. 

Sometimes newer technologies can be used to explore crafts and techniques of the past, which have long been forgotten. “Today there are lots of cutting-edge techniques, for example, in stone, metal, where more elementary tools would restrict output. Enhanced technology allows for the rediscovery of that craft by using different formats of production,” says Sonali Rastogi, Co-Founder, Morphogenesis.

A new-age smart home is an integration of automation services with the digital and electrical infrastructure of the building. “Multimedia 10-inch touch screen is a unique command centre for all home control functions, video door entry, video surveillance functions via a control screen linked to indoor and outdoor cameras, and broadcasting of multimedia contents. This enables integration of lighting control, HVAC, AV, safety and security and energy management functions,” says Sameer Saxena, VP, Marketing, Legrand India. 

Adds Ashok Goyal, CEO, Nitco Ltd., “Taking cue from universal elements, HD digital tiles like NITCO’s Trulife create lively surfaces. With the use of modern techniques like six colour prism printing technology, every surface carved, every texture imprinted, exudes nature in its detailed form.” 

Smart home concept is highly interlinked to smart metering. “With escalating power crisis and spiraling energy costs in India, installation of smart meters will control the flow of energy, signal consumers on energy consumption pattern, raise alert on devices consuming more energy and even suggest energy efficient improvements,” says Prabhu Ramachandran, Director-WebNMS. 

Gartner predicts that by 2020, the number of connected devices across the globe will increase to a hefty 26 billion. “That’s a huge opportunity for developers and a big add-on for new home owners. According to a report by Frost & Sullivan, home automation technology represents the next level of automation, focusing mainly on residential sector,” concludes Ravi Neb, VP, Business Development and Product Management, iYogi.

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