The upswing in home automation
Home automation in increasingly becoming popular in the UAE. But are the advantages of an internet operated home outweighing the disadvantages? SmartSMB discusses with experts.
Imagine walking into a door that automatically opens through a face-lock identification system. You walk in and get Alexa to play your favorite music or turn on the TV and put on your favorite channel. Further, you can also give commands to open your curtains or windows to let the fresh air come in.
The above is no longer a fictionalized account but a reality for many. Home automation has made a lot many things possible which previously seemed like a fantasy. Interior designers no longer only need to focus on basic colors, patterns, materials and layouts but also on how can they make it technology friendly for people to automate their homes the way they like.
“Over the years people have begun to automate many more systems” says Gopal Chandanani, Director, Cable Master Electronics LLC. “Before it was mainly lights and AC. Curtains were not very popular but have now become, along with security systems, main door intercom, audio, video, smart sockets, smoke detectors and so on.”
In-fact, in 2018, Amazon acquired Ring, a manufacturer of video doorbells in a deal valued at more than $1 billion. As Amazon already had Alexa, its virtual assistant, the brand\s control in the smart home sector increased after this acquisition signalling that the brand was now looking at entering new markets because of the growing popularity. But in UAE, are we witnessing a steep, sudden growth too?
“Home automation has been in the market for over a decade and in the UAE, it has been growing slowly and steadily,” says Luqman Hussain, Technical Manager, Expertech UAE. Gopal seconds Luqman saying: “It’s not that home automation did not exist before. It did, just that in Dubai people have become more aware now and we are witnessing a rise.”
While Gopal notes that due to globalisation and thanks to the internet, a lot of customers know exactly what they want, Luqman’s main concern is that often people mistake home automation for remote automation. “The majority of homeowners believe that if they’re living in a house where they have the ability to control their home gadgets remotely via multiple dedicated Android and iOS apps, means they are living in a smart home. That’s not true. What is being described here is a remote home, not a smart home.” To operate a smart home, you need to be physically there to give commands. However, remote home, an extension of smart homes, is where you can manage the activities of your house without physically being present in or around the house. The challenge is, accordingly to Luqman, communicating this basic difference to clients.
Another important challenge being faced by the home automation experts is that of price sensitivity. According to Gopal, depending on the extent of your home automation, you can be charged anything between AED 50,000 to 500,000 for one project, which is a hefty amount. If, however, customers are made more aware of the different home automation options, because not everyone may necessarily want everything to be automated, the costs associated with each and how much technical inputs and expertise are required, they’d be more appreciative of the price. Luqman says: “With the emergence of wireless technologies and DIYs, IoT device automation is now in presence and can be easily deployed at most of the residence giving the sense of Home Automation.”
But a fully automated home can provide a huge sigh of relief to many people, especially for whom safety and security of their families is a priority. “By using camera locks, you can ensure safety of your family especially when your kids are home and you’re out,” says Luqman. “Moreover, you can reduce your expense because automation will ensure your electrical appliances are not turned on when not in use, thereby ensuring an Improved lifestyle.”
As per Gopal, in addition to energy saving, the advantages include: “The ability to complete monitor your systems from anywhere in the world. Everything is one-touch so it saves so much time of yours, makes you more productive. Moreover, an automated home looks stylish too.”
Despite these, there are a couple of disadvantages of home automation. The first and foremost is the pricing, which even experts agree with. The second in line, as Gopal notes is: “…it requires additional contractors like civil and electrical contractors for the major cabling of services like lights and AC. Moreover, because the appliances are used majorly by the house helps who aren’t as tech savvy, they can mess up the entire system if not educated and monitored properly.”
Luqman also says that the implementation needs to be done by an expert. If it isn’t done properly, then it can create a huge security issue because everything is connected with the internet and electricity. “For example, adopting the correct wireless protocol, Implementing a secured network, these are things you cannot absolutely compromise on.” Especially for the price conscious consumers, ensuring they are using the right experts is quite important.
Looking at the future and scope of improvement, Gopal wishes to see more development in the wireless sector. Presently, most of the things use wires and physical set up. However, wireless solutions can not only be more cost effective in the long run but also more reliable and safe. “There are many wireless solutions but they all need to improve on their wireless connectivity and longevity. Many clients are opting for wireless solutions as they save on costs of major cabling, breakage of walls etc that comes with conventional automation.”
In conclusion, however, remote automation seems the key to growth and the next big thing to look forward to. Luqman foresees an entirely different world though in the coming years. “Future Smart Homes will be intelligent to automatically adapt the home environment according to the homeowners’ comfort, Safeguarding the properties against intrusions while reducing energy consumption to help to reduce the carbon footprint. In fact, with the growth of the usage of voice assistance like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana and IoT devices, you will not require mobile phones to operate your Smart Home. All automation will be based on AI and Machine learning.”