Home automation opens doors to disruptive future

Home automation opens doors to disruptive future

Home automation opens doors to disruptive future
A few years ago, home automation was unheard of in India, at a time when smart solutions became the order of the day in many developed countries. But with increasing smartphone penetration and larger broadband connectivity, the home automation industry is now witnessing never-before-seen growth.

According to research firm RedSeer Consulting, the home automation market in India is expected to reach Rs 8,800 crore by 2017. The firm’s report says that the key growth drivers for this demand are increasing consumer awareness and purchasing power, increased travel, desire for uniform experience product innovations (like smartphone apps), and builders’ requirement for market.

“Of the Rs 8,800 crore, the residential segment will account for nearly 60% of the industry. Home automation in India currently trends on four functional segments — Lighting, Security, Audio/Video and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). Lighting is the largest component of the residential market, while security is the largest component of the commercial market,” says Shrinivas Chebbi, vice president, EcoBuildings and Partner Business, Schneider Electric India.

He adds that home automation technology in India is always improving, moving and promising to provide ease and convenience to lives. “Lighting control, small systems, aesthetics networking, bigger touch panels, indoor air quality monitoring, motorised shades, DIY solutions, outdoor entertainment, versatile viewing and maximum integration are some of the important preferences which are currently trending,” says Chebbi.

Exploring online space
Silvan Innovation Labs recently tied up with Capricoast, an ecommerce website for home interiors solutions, to offer its products to customers online. The company, which was in the B2B segment, entered the B2C space last year, and has been selling products through retail stores.

“Through this partnership with Capricoast, we are exploring the online space. In the case of regular retail stores, customers may not be able to understand more about home automation products, and they need to be educated about the same. The reach would be wider through online, and also easy to understand,” says Silvan CEO Avinash K Gautam.

One of its products Silvan SECURE, priced at Rs 18,000 online, is a new-age wireless security system, and registered users would be able to quickly respond to any threat to one’s home through a host of sensors. Talking about affordability, he informs that for a fully automated house, the cost would be between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 5 lakh, and the cost of individual products starts from Rs 15,000.

Amazon Echo gains traction
‘Alexa, please switch on the lights’, says Gautam, and automatically lights turn on. Question Alexa about the weather, and pat comes the reply. Echo is a hands-free speaker that one can control with voice. It connects to the Alexa Voice Service on anything — be it news or sports scores — instantly.

“Use the word ‘Alexa’, and Echo responds immediately. We recently installed it in a house in Gurugram, and the senior citizen there was very happy, as for him it’s a way to lead a more dignified life without requesting anyone for help. Many people are loving it,” adds Gautam.

Focus on middle-income group
Though the country is a cost-sensitive market, when it comes to home automation, the acceptance level is increasing. “Few years ago, home automation was largely an exclusive domain and limited largely to Ultra HNIs. Today, with increased purchasing power, aspirations and neighbours’ envy, home automation has forayed into high middle-income groups too. But having said that, the industry has grown tremendously in the course of the last five years,” says Sameer Saxena, Director of Marketing, Legrand (Group) India.

Legrand is a global specialist in electrical and digital building infrastructure. The group has manufacturing facilities in 60 countries and its products are sold in over 180 countries. Saxena says that awareness about the possibilities that home automation opens up has increased. “As the aspiring user-base increases, better purchasing power, growth of the middle class, and a lot of developers offering home automation as a basic feature, have given the required push to the market,” he adds. Legrand’s home automation basket is designed and developed at multiple expert centres across the world. “Noteworthy among them are Erba (Italy), Varese (Italy), Orem (USA) and Shidean (China),” says Saxena.

Future looks bright
Experts say that home automation in the consumer space is evolving and it would witness the maximum disruption. “It is estimated that the smart home solutions market in India is growing at a rate of 30% year-on-year. At this rate, the market will double in revenues every three years. The market is therefore, likely to explode over the next few years. With focus on user-friendly security systems, it is expected that the coming years will be a prologue of new technologies for use in home security systems,” says Chebbi.

In the future, home automation solutions will be heavily used as energy-saving tools. Another important aspect is family safety, specifically related to fire protection, and carbon monoxide monitoring is expected to grow, he adds. “Automation, such as improvement in wireless automation solutions as well as lowering of price, will be the next phase for home automation. Solutions will become friendlier in user interface so that customers can use them without help of any technical expert,” Chebbi explains.

Security, the biggest threat
Though home automation may sound very interesting and convenient, it is not devoid of challenges. The biggest challenge is security, which is the key motivator driving the acceptance of smart homes. Global leader in cyber security, Symantec Corporation, in its recent annual Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, points out that when installing a new network-connected device, such as a router or smart thermostat, remember to change the default password.

“If you don’t plan on using the Internet feature(s), such as with smart appliances, disable or protect remote access when not needed. Also, protect your wireless connections with strong Wi-Fi encryption so no one can easily view the data travelling between your devices,” adds the report.

In another report, Symantec says that cyber security must be at the core for the adoption of this new breed of IoT technology to succeed. “As more homes become connected, it will be difficult for consumers to ignore the benefits that this new technology will promise. It is always important to weigh the convenience of remote control, automation, ease of use, and the benefits they can bring, against the potential risks introduced that could lead to hackers opening IoT locks, disabling IoT burglar alarms, or generally wreaking havoc with IoT devices,” the report adds.

Chebbi opines that different homes have different security issues, for which different level of devices are helping identify security needs. “Home automation security is one of the biggest threat customers are facing today. To overcome them, advanced technology with home automation security products are used to monitor and secure homes. Alarms, cameras and sensors are used in the most reliable applications to control this threat. These systems are user-friendly and easy to install,” he concludes.

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