The ‘smart home’ is a concept we’ve been dreaming about for years – being able to turn all our lights on or off with a simple voice command, or turning music down by waving a hand. However, as technology has advanced and our priorities change, the smart home means something very different these days.
New technology is altering how we look at our homes, offices and entire buildings. With the rise of connected devices and smartphones, we can incorporate a number of different smart technologies into our existing living spaces or integrate them into new buildings and centralise how we control them.
We’ve been able to turn our kettle on and change or adjust the volume of our music through our mobiles for a while now. But new innovative solutions that aim to improve our daily lives, such as heating thermostats, smart locks and moisture meters are now entering the market. Smart technology to make us more efficient, make life easier and save us money.
A recent survey by Better Homes and Gardens magazine showed that 64% of people surveyed were interested in having smart technology installed in their homes. With the main benefits being to make their home more energy efficient, and to save time. And the majority of which, see smart devices as the natural device to operate their settings.
A mobile app is a device we’ve become accustomed to using, using it to control multiple parts of our day, and already control some smart devices through them. In short, we’re used to using our phones to control things and expect to be able to control even more things from them in the future. And as people become more accustomed to smart technology in the home, there becomes an element of expectation, that all devices should be controlled via a smartphone.
We spoke to Jennifer Hardi, Course Director for Architectural Technology and Engineering at South Bank University on how the industry is developing and what steps need to be taken to make smart homes a success. She explains that for the smart home to truly work, it needs to be as user friendly and as easy to control as possible.
‘Smart technology will need to be ‘clever’ in that it is flexible enough to take into account the variety of activities and building users’ needs. But also as user friendly and inclusive as possible, for disabled and elderly people too. There is no use installing state of the art technology into homes when the user doesn’t know how to use it appropriately.’
A mobile app can simplify how a smart device is used, providing the user with clear, simple instructions on how to change the settings. Whether it be a simple sliding bar to increase temperature, or a ‘check humidity’ button to check humidity. It also means that as users, both residential and commercial, move in and out of buildings, there is a clear system for controlling the smart space. And with built in accessibility settings, if the user needs larger text or audio descriptions, the settings are already in place.
Jennifer then goes onto explain that ‘Developers of smart technologies need to make sure that the ‘security’ is watertight, as it can be vulnerable to hackers.’ A key talking point in the world of mobile and smart devices right now. As many custom smart devices rely on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to communicate with each other, the gateways are quite often open to hackers. Utilizing a mobile app to control the smart devices means that developers can manage the way data is transferred via the app and ensure the correct security measures are in place.
A smart home app can also centralise the control of multiple smart devices from different manufacturers, presenting the user with one simple app. In a large property development or office block, a bespoke app removes the need for multiple companion apps. It gives property developers the flexibility to choose different smart devices based on the product and technology itself, not just the platform they work on. It allows you to combine the very best IoT solutions for your development into one simple portal. Multiple devices can communicate with each other, instead of relying on the user to adjust the settings relevantly.
This becomes particularly useful for existing buildings. With less available space for new developments and cheaper smart technology, transforming historic buildings becomes much more cost effective and sustainable. The opportunity to utilise innovative new technology in an existing building gives property developers huge opportunities for transforming spaces.
Bouygues UK are a construction company with a big focus on the regeneration of properties and finding new ways to measure and reduce the environmental impact of new builds. Their Head of Sustainability R&D and Innovation, Aleksandra Njagulj, explains about the importance of using the latest technology to transform existing buildings to smart buildings instead of building new ones.
‘Historic buildings make up a significant proportion of the UK’s building stock, in many cases protected by stringent conservation measures preventing major physical interventions. So how are they to become sustainable? Some among us pin their hopes on technological solutions, on “smart” everything. The oncoming sixth innovation wave promises advancements such as artificial intelligence, autonomous robots, virtual/augmented reality, green tech and biomimicry. The hope is that this wave will bring true sustainability.’
The IoT will not only improve our efficiency and save us time, but also help us address the ongoing housing restrictions. Combining the latest smart devices with an application is cost effective, sustainable, easy to implement and reduces the risk of any data hacks.
Mobiles are the perfect facilitator for the smart home, from keeping data secure, to being easily accessible and allowing us to centralise the control of multiple smart devices. If you’re a property developer looking for advice on turning your building into a smart building, work in the construction industry and need a mobile app to connect your devices, or have a smart device that you need an app for, we’re here to help.
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