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Self build: How to Build a Smart Home

Although you may not think of your home as ‘smart’, most houses today are technology-driven.

Does your heating or air conditioning system kick in once a certain temperature is reached? Does your garage light come on automatically when you drive inside? Do you have one of those sensor-based air fresheners that spray fragrance whenever they detect motion?

Nearly everyone has some degree of artificial intelligence incorporated into their home, but recent innovations are taking our properties to genius level. They include:

  • Face recognition and fingerprint access systems
  • Remotely controlled heat
  • Windows that close automatically when it rains
  • Doors that self-lock at night

Although the idea of a smart home might strike you as a plaything for the tech-savvy or super-rich (Bill Gates spent over $100 million US outfitting his automated home system), they’re becoming common enough to turn into a consumer trend. Berg Insight, which produces market research reports, predicts that sales of home automation systems could reach $9.5 billion US by the end of 2015, while CNN anticipates a $44 billion figure by 2017.

The best automated systems should blend naturally into your home’s ebb and flow of activity, coming to life at logical and predictable times. Although concerns have been expressed about multiple control boxes taking up wall space, there are master control panels that unify all smart home technologies and enable disparate products to communicate effortlessly with each other.

Home automation has recognised energy-saving aspects: precisely calibrated lighting and temperature controls prevent unnecessary power consumption, and you never have to worry about accidentally leaving the coffee maker on.

The Latest in Smart Technology

Events like the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) showcase the extent of the smart services available to homeowners.

  • Audio and video: Media and home audio systems can be accessed in any room: Sky box, CCTV, Blu-rays, DVDs, CDs, and even iTunes. Some AV packages include special effects like coloured light systems.
  • Automated lighting systems: These multifaceted systems allow homeowners to remotely control their lighting needs. Certain upgraded systems use movement sensors to allocate light automatically, depending on which rooms are occupied.
  • Occupation simulation: When the family is away, occupation simulation systems can activate a sequence of activity that gives outsiders the impression that people are still at home: curtain movements, automatic lighting, and TVs.
  • Security solutions: CCTV cameras can be customised to record upon detecting motion, with the video stream being accessible from anywhere in the world.
  • Climate control: Touted as energy-efficient solutions, these systems can intelligently allocate heat and air conditioning to occupied rooms in the house or act on programmed preferences.

Central Controls

Two of the most popular controlled ecosystems are made by Apple and Google. Both are advertised as easy to use and guaranteed to work.

HomeKit, Apple’s upcoming intelligent home package, was debuted at the 2015 CES. It is an iOS8 framework that allows anyone who owns an iPhone to communicate with and control any connected features in their home.

Users can discover HomeKit accessories in their home and configure them, or create actions / action groups to control those devices. For example, you can say “It’s bedtime” and Siri, Apple’s intelligent voice recognition system, will alert your lights to turn off, doors to lock, and alarm clock to set.

Google’s Nest delivers an ecosystem of smart products that control a thermostat and smoke detector. A feature called ‘Works with Nest’ allows Nest devices to securely interact with the things you already use every day: a closing garage door can trigger an ‘Away’ mode that lowers home temperatures and puts your fridge into energy-saving mode.


Specialists in Construction Insurance

HomeKit and Nest have different functions, but they both create a versatile and user-friendly ecosystem using a single key product as the base. Once you own one of them, it’s a simple matter of accessorizing: there’s no need to invest in an entire new home infrastructure. They make smart home creation fun: there are exciting products to buy and things you can do with them that are time-saving, energy-saving, or fun.

Budgeting for a Smart Home

Smart home build costs vary depending on the desired features. The good news is that control systems are coming down in price, along with gadgets that used to be the domain of the wealthy, such as cinema-grade movie screens. If you’re not rich, you may have to scale down your ambitions and prioritise what you really want (doors that automatically lock at the end of the night) vs. what would be great to have (Blu-ray in all the bedrooms) until you can afford to expand or upgrade.

Planning for the Future

If you’re starting to build and not sure what you need now or in the future, home automation specialists can suggest suitable products, put together a customised software package, and do the wiring and installation. They can even assist with any troubleshooting and help you upgrade later on.

You will also have to decide on a storage space for the central processor that controls the entire system. For example, if you want Sky to be available in the living room and all bedrooms, you’ll need a Sky box for each room, all of them stacked together and stored in a cool and dry place. Media hubs for laptops and PCs and direction connections for TVs and game consoles will also need to be accommodated. The more intelligent you want the house to be, the bigger ‘thinking room’ it will need.

Regardless of the technology used, automated systems present homeowners with some exciting and enjoyable opportunities to change the way we live, while at the same time reducing energy consumption and costs. Smart homes have developed so far in scope and ability that their only conceivable limit is designer imagination.


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