As we venture into the world of home technology, many in the design industry are apprehensive of the opportunities, assuming all home automation is complicated, resulting in a losing proposition of both time and money. And in all honesty, this level of apprehension is not unwarranted. As with all new concepts, those of us who are not familiar with the basics think of “The Jetsons” when hearing the term smart house. However, to put things into perspective, imagine all of the times you have used some form of automation. Many of us already have a programmable thermostat, a sprinkler or security system, or even a basic phone answering machine. The fact is that forms of home automation have been available for more than 20 years . . . and many of us use at least some automation daily without even noticing. While most of these technologies seem second nature, imagine how they enhance and simplify life, managing everyday chores like watering the lawn.
Home automation is the intelligent integration of a variety of home technologies including heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC); security; automated window coverings; lighting; audio/video; and a multitude of consumer electronics working together to enable everyday devices to be controlled and monitored wirelessly. The marriage of these systems working seamlessly together adds another dimension of comfort and quality of life. Total home management combines style, innovation and imagination to create the ultimate interior to assist the lifestyle.
On average, today’s home has at least four different remote controls. And in the United States alone, more than 25 percent of new home construction has advanced entertainment networks with a complete home theater package. While systems maintain significant benefits, they are also responsible for producing control clutter. To combat system complexity, today’s consumers are often willing to spend more for simpler systems that integrate with more products.
Modern automation is based on open, integrated systems that allow consumers to select products from a variety of vendors that conform to uniform industry standards, enabling full interoperability across a network. Now everyone wins! Manufacturers expand their markets by developing compatibility with other products, while integrators and designers have more choices to better serve their consumers.
CLOSING THE CIRCLE
In this conclusion of our three-part series, join Techniku, a leader in the design of automation solutions for window coverings, as we explore how the average window coverings professional can become involved in understanding and offering whole home automation solutions.
In the past articles, we have reviewed the basics of home automation in elementary terms including what it is, what it can do and the traditional schools of thought on system integration (see D&WC, April 2004, page 56). We also have introduced the window coverings industry to Techniku’s new RF backbone, the revolutionary Z-Wave control paradigm (see D&WC, August 2004, page 58). Z-Wave is installed in a variety of consumer electronics provided by major manufacturers. It introduces plug-and-play capabilities for all Z-Wave-enabled products, transforming any standalone device into part of an intelligent mesh network that can be controlled and monitored wirelessly using a remote control or computer.
After reading this article, we hope to change perceptions and challenge the preconceived notions of home automation. At Techniku, we are committed to the success of every window coverings professional who wants to join the revolution in these changing times of home automation. The question is not how to eliminate the apprehension, but rather how we can work together to provide readily available solutions that answer your concerns when they arise.
As with anything we try the first time, there are inevitable stumbles . . . our job is to help you work through the issues and provide answers to the applications to ensure satisfaction. After all, if technology does not enrich life or serve the consumer, it has little value; however, when beautiful furnishings and cutting-edge technology merge to benefit a lifestyle, the value of design and technology grow exponentially.
A MODERN ECOSYSTEM
In the United States, smart home technology is expected to reach annual sales of $900 million in home automation controls alone, not including the cost of the appliance/equipment being controlled; overall, a very small percentage of total market share! So what is the cause of this disparity? Simple, the home automation industry is missing a vital link, you, the professional designer.
Technology dealers and integrators have been selling home automation and consumer electronics for years. And while they can sell thousands of dollars in gateways and graphic user interfaces (GUIs) in one single application, there is still money to be made. In most cases, these dealers are not working with the client to understand the behavioral design elements or lifestyle aspects of how the consumers “move through and use” their interior environment. Today’s professional designers are responsible for more than simply selecting fabric and color; they know the client and understand how he or she expects to interact with the surroundings. This is a unique skill you bring to the design experience. It is important to see technology options as a lifestyle/design choice.
You can walk through a day in the life of your client to understand how to trigger scenes or events to accommodate behavior-based lifestyle preferences. Program appliances to operate around predetermined behaviors. For example, upon “arrival,” the garage door opens, the lights turn on, the automated shades open, the thermostat turns on and the consumer’s favorite song plays. Home automation goes well beyond opening the garage door. Integrators know technology; you know design.
THE 3 GEORGES
With home automation, think of your consumers in terms of “The 3 Georges”: (1) George Washington; (2) George Jetson; and (3) Curious George.
Even without the powdered wigs, you still will come across the “George Washington consumers” who want all manual operation with no technology. The television remote control is the limit to their home technology acceptance!
On the other extreme are the “George Jetson consumers” who know everything about whole home automation and are fixed on controlling all of their technology with state-of-the-art GUIs and interfaces. They purchase on the “Wow” factor alone.
And lastly, and most predominant, are the “Curious Georges.” These consumers are intrigued by automation concepts, but are full of questions. Studies show that 93 percent of today’s consumers ask multiple questions and research home networking products before making a purchase. They are more sophisticated in their understanding of the capabilities of these devices and desire more functionality with greater ease of use.
Actually, many of our consumers fall in the “Curious George” category, as do many of us as design professionals. A true professional knows his or her strengths and is not afraid to seek help in acquiring new skills and knowledge to stay abreast of rapidly evolving technologies. As we learned in school, there are no stupid questions!
Now that you are ready to be part of the revolution to design for home automation, what are your first steps? Making the transition is easy. As in most relationships, those who are successful learn one thing . . . partnering. You know design; integrators know technology.
When both parties join into a partnership with a respect for the other’s professional expertise, a great business opportunity exists. While the professional designer can create the perfect ambiance with furnishings and automated window coverings, there are many technical aspects of the smart home where a designer would benefit from solidifying a relationship with a high-tech partner in their market. Learn the basics and use your partners to assist in specifying the appropriate technology to marry the user with his budget and to align all of the systems together so they work as one seamless experience.
As a window coverings expert, it is important for you to understand the best window coverings for the application, the optimal automation options and which fabricators can provide the necessary materials and relationship to ensure the installations are successful. Home technology dealers/integrators are technically savvy and provide innovative products and services for the connected home, specializing in planning and installing
The estimated 3,000 dealers/integrators in the United States account for the majority of sales of products and installation services to residential markets. Most are members of CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association), a trade organization whose purpose is to build recognition and acceptance of installing dealers in the marketplace. Professional designers can find these dealers in a variety of places including “mid-box” regional, home electronics retail outlets. You will benefit by using his expertise when specifying automated window coverings and other technology features in the home that add to your clients’ lifestyle. Meanwhile, the dealer/integrator, will be able to differentiate himself from corporate giants, offering a turnkey design and automation solution.
MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER…MAKE ME A MATCH
Techniku is committed to providing our industry with cutting-edge RF technology that allows fabricators, installers, designers and consumers to win with the best automated window covering product offering. Combined with Z-Wave technology, enable all of the advanced electronics in your clients’ home to work in concert, enhancing the comfort, entertainment and security of the entire household.
To begin your journey into the world of home automation, Techniku is offering a “matchmaking” service on our Web site, introducing design professionals to technology integrators. This is a free service that will collect international data from participating designers (who offer or are interested in offering Techniku automation solutions with Z-Wave technology) and dealers/integrators (who specify or are familiar with Z-Wave installations). Once the database is established, we will match the participants with local partners to establish a relationship. It will merge the expertise of two diverse professionals, promoting a unique business opportunity with enormous growth potential while providing the best product and service offering to the consumer.
Visit the “Match Maker” section at www.techniku.com to complete your information on the secure and private database. Your partner information will be e-mailed to you . . . and then let the magic begin!
Techniku, located in the United States and The Nether-lands, is an international leader in the design and manufacture of automation solutions and controls for interior window coverings. With a market approach to innovation, Techniku is committed to the success of the window covering industry by creating robust automation solutions combined with the highest levels of consumers support.