Smart technology isn’t always at the forefront of people’s minds during the design stage of a property build or renovation, but it should be.
Although we might not notice it, we spend our lives surrounded by technology. It is an ever more crucial part in the modern home, not only in terms of how we entertain ourselves, but also in making our lives more comfortable and ensuring that our properties are secured against a variety of external threats.
Considering this, making technology integration a priority when designing and building properties is clearly a smart move (no pun intended). Yet it is frequently an overlooked aspect of a building project that is disregarded as a needless expense at the time – one that can be sorted out later on.
The net result is that the homeowner initially saves some money, but at the expense of significant inconvenience over time, as well as the potential for increased costs in the long term when technology is eventually put in place, as mistakes made during the initial build will need to be rectified.
A stitch in time saves nine
There’s nothing worse than moving into a newly finished home and finding it illogical and cumbersome to control. In some properties, lighting and heating control is an afterthought to the architectural design, leaving you struggling to remember which switches turn on which areas or constantly having to fiddle with the thermostat to get the house to the ideal temperature. Unintuitive interfaces can make interacting with your home a jarring, infuriating experience – something that no one wants when they get home after a long, exhausting day at work.
Another common frustration is discovering that your expensive fibre broadband will only work in some rooms of the house, meaning you end up having to trek downstairs to stream a programme on Netflix or look something up on your phone or laptop. While older, thick-walled properties are notorious for their poor connectivity, many modern houses (clad in steel and concrete and often featuring thick fire doors) are equally bad at preventing Wi-Fi signals from reaching the far corners of a property.
Where a home has been designed without much consideration for the technology that will sit within it, loose cables become an undesirable – and highly visible – feature. Poorly planned wiring can force you into reconfiguring your ideal room layout just so you can accommodate a TV or gaming unit, while it might also restrict which services can be accessed in certain rooms.
While each of these are annoying in their own right, perhaps the biggest downside to failing to plan ahead is having a home where each requires its own means of control. From needing a different remote for every AV source to dodgy doorbells that can only be heard in certain parts of the house, a home full of dumb technology can actually be less of a benefit and more just a hassle for those who live in it.
Turning a house into a smart home
The first step towards creating a future-ready, tech-friendly home is to put in a reliable network that will underpin everything else. As smart home technology becomes less reliant on cables as a whole, your wireless network becomes an increasingly significant framework through which everything communicates. It also goes without saying that a robust, secure Wi-Fi network is vital to keep hackers and cyber attacks from accessing your data.
This robust wireless network can be combined with necessary cabling for graded smart security systems and satellite TV distribution into a hybrid system that gives you the ability to manage the entire home through a single touchpoint (i.e. from an all-in-one app on your mobile phone), regardless of how each individual element connects back to the central user interface.
This puts the control of your residence at your fingertips 24/7 so that, should anything untoward happen – even when you’re not at home – then you can take steps to rectify issues without having your day entirely disrupted. It also means you can adjust your property’s settings while you’re on the way home, so it’s nice and toasty when you get in the front door.
Phone-based control might be the most popular means of managing the entire home, but it’s by no means the only way of simplifying the way you interact with your home. Universal remotes mean that, rather than having one controller for each system, you can control your screens, speakers, blinds and lights from a single device. As well as this, personalised keypads, dedicated touchscreens and even voice recognition can be used to manage multiple types of technology within the same property.
Finally, automation is a decisive benefit of having a smarter home. If planned out correctly beforehand, areas of the house can be programmed so that the hallway lights turn on automatically when someone enters (and switch off again once they’ve entered another room). Blinds can be configured to lower automatically when the sun goes down, removing the need to do this yourself, while intelligent heating can learn how you like the home to be heated and react accordingly, greatly reducing the need for you to interact regularly with it. This frees you from constantly thinking about the technology around you, creating time for you to spend on more important tasks.
A well-designed modern smart home will normally feature two or more of these interaction points, ensuring that you’ll always have the right means of control exactly where and when you want it to hand.
Making the most out of your home
We are constantly surrounded by computers and phones in our daily lives and in our working environments; it follows that we should take advantage of all the benefits that technology can bring during the time we spend at home.
A simple way to think of it is as follows: choosing between a traditional build and a smart home can be the difference between needing to manually turn on the TV, close the curtains, turn off the lights and then switch the source across to HDMI to turn on the Bluray player, or pressing one button and have your home do it all for you.
However, for this to happen technology integration needs to become a more prominent area of focus when we design and build our homes. While there are many smart home specialists working in the UK, they are often not consulted or approached early enough in the process, which means that compromises have to be made and homes end up with a partway solution that isn’t always equipped to deal with the onward march of technology.
The modern home should combine great design, quality construction and seamless technology. This is perfectly achievable – so long as it’s thought out properly in advance.