The global explosion of “smart home” technology has gotten reams of press over the last decade — and truth be told, it’s been something of a misnomer. Until recently, the experience of a smart home really hasn’t lived up to its promise.
While a great many tech companies drove awareness of the connected devices that were available — a beneficial development, frankly — many of these same companies pushed inexpensive, so-called DIY systems that created more friction than function.
Fortunately, that’s changing rapidly, and homebuyers appear quite willing to pay for a proper connected experience. “As homeowners have gotten more comfortable with the technology in their home thanks to the mass adoption of smart speakers and the like, they’re now seeking a curated experience that goes beyond plug and play to technology that enhances their lifestyle,” said Michael Short, Director of Residential Marketing for Crestron.
There are several concepts one needs to understand when it comes to smart home technology, and understanding these concepts will help any agent describe top-of-the-line tech solutions in a manner that will make these systems as desirable as high-end countertops or luxurious bath fixtures.
First and foremost, every device, every part of a smart home solution, no matter how narrow or broad its functionality, needs to “work and play well” with the others. The most efficient way to achieve this? Ensure that every part of any smart home system, from AV to HVAC to lighting, is part of the same ecosystem, or is supplied by a third party that’s partnered with that ecosystem.
No matter how devices and systems are controlled, whether by “graphical user interfaces” (GUI – think buttons on a touchscreen) or via voice (also referred to as “voice user interface,” or VUI) adjusting any aspect of the connected home should be as easy to understand as a common light switch.
A proper interface should be accessible to a variety of users, too – or customized to whomever might be using that interface at a specific time or in a specific room of the home.
Automation and scenes
This is where the smart home “magic” happens. Think about the automated systems in your car – the way your headlights turn on at dusk, or how seat settings in a luxury vehicle can be customized to spontaneously adjust for every driver. Now apply those same ideas to a residence.
- Imagine interior lights mimicking the color of the sunlight at a given time of day.
- Think about shades opening and closing for cooling, heating or even privacy at certain hours.
- Imagine coming home and having your favorite playlist begin streaming over the speakers in your dining, cooking or living space.
When a system’s performing all of these tasks effortlessly, then the “smart home” is living up to the hype.
AI and machine learning
While it’s info that’s not necessarily critical to selling a homebuyer on tech, there’s quite a bit of confusion regarding these two terms. Machine learning is what most smart thermostats do. They’re logging behavior and adjusting settings accordingly.
Artificial intelligence is just that — the ability to learn, think and make predictions. (Imagine if your smart thermostat saw you reach for a blanket and raised the temperature a few degrees, for example.) What’s important to note here is that any connected home is only as “smart” as it needs to be – it’s not a sentient robot spying on its owners.
One of the consistent demands homeowners, architects and interior designers have for tech is aesthetic. Simply put, if it has to be visible, make it elegant.
Speakers that are flush-mounted in walls and ceilings, keypads and thermostats constructed with an eye toward beauty, and even asking flat-panel TVs to do double-duty as digital art displays when they’re not broadcasting content are all part of the mix.
The hard-wired “backbone”
An issue that’s been seen in a number of new residential construction projects (especially in larger developments) is a single router/modem setup placed near or in the utility space, expected to deliver wi-fi signals to an entire property. While wi-fi is terrific for mobile devices and laptop connectivity, the need for cabled infrastructure becomes jarringly apparent as larger homes are considered.
If those cables are run to a robust system of wireless access points, much smoother connectivity will be the end result. While obsolescence is an issue with any form of technology, there are ways to prepare a home’s infrastructure for eventual upgrades and expansions. In a new build or a remodel, running more cable (or even conduit) than is necessary for a current smart home system can be a huge help later on.
Integration and integrators
Making all the disparate parts work together properly requires a professional, someone who knows what devices to specify, how to install and service these systems and how to ensure they’re secure. They’re often referred to as “integrators,” since they literally integrate digital systems into real-world applications.
A growing number of these professionals are reliant on platforms such as Crestron Home, a complete ecosystem that checks all the boxes above, and provides the homeowner with the kind of robust, reliable experience that makes a home truly “smart.”
Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis and co-author of Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.