Did you know that there is a takeover happening in your home right now? A technology takeover. Over the past decade the number of devices, gadgets, applications, screens and sensors used in our home life has grown enormously. It is only ten years since Apple launched the iPhone; this game changing mobile device took dozens of previously used gadgets and bundled it into one pocket sized tool to support our busy lifestyles. Since its launch the iPhone and other smartphones have been a gateway product for scores of other hi-tech products to enter our homes. Some provide entertainment and convenience and others bring comfort and security; products like speaker docks, LCD televisions, security cameras and thermostats. These products and similar others are a regular feature in our homes now.  For a long time these were solitary devices doing their own thing, but now these devices are internet connected and communicating with each other. They are the foot soldiers of the technology takeover. To recycle the now well known slogan used by the Ministry of Information, "Keep Calm and Carry On". The technology takeover is here to revolutionise and improve how you connect and live in your home. 

We’ve now reached a highly anticipated landmark for control of technology in the home, voice control. The Amazon Echo arrived, won over the sceptics and is now on track to becoming the first choice voice controlled home assistant for many. Google has launched the market alternative with Google Home, but Amazon’s willingness to collaborate with other software and hardware manufacturers has seen it pull away from the chasing pack, which also includes Microsoft Cortana and Apple Siri. Microsoft are predicted to concentrate their voice assistant services on businesses and busy professionals, and Apple, surprisingly, have yet to offer a cohesive offering combining Siri, Apple Music, Apple TV and HomeKit. Aggressive moves by Amazon and Google are making the gap for Apple to enter the market smaller and smaller. 2016 ended and 2017 started with voice control being a new interface in our clients Smart Home installations. It is now a recognised user interface to be factored into our designs. 

Customised have been professional home technology installers since 2008 and we’ve charted the rise in the number of connected devices entering the home. The increase in devices results in an significant increase in traffic on the home network. For close to a decade we’ve waxed lyrical about the need for our clients to bolster their home network; this can often be one of the least expensive elements of their project. Hard-wired cable infrastructure, a robust router, a managed network and far reaching wireless coverage can often be the difference between home automated bliss and frustrated, unhappy customers. It’s easy to overlook the planning and design needed for the installation of technology in homes. Developers, architects and home owners are blinkered by wireless technology and readily throw up the classic comment of “Isn’t everything wireless these days?”. Poor preparation for technology can result in new homes being out of date from the moment the keys are handed over to the new owner.

The most exciting features of a Smart Home are the audio and visual systems. Ranging from multi-room music and hi-fi, to big screen televisions and surround sound cinema rooms, home entertainment is what brings a home alive. For over sixty years the television has been the focal point of family entertainment. Since the advent of television we've relied on broadcasters to schedule our viewing and set the times when we'd gather around our electronic window to the world. Nowadays streaming and downloading from the internet is how we access our favourite programs. Box sets and binge watching are broadband hungry habits and therefore it is vital that your home network is built to cope with the demands of multiple users accessing content from the internet. Video formats like UltraHD and 4K plus audio streams of High-Resolution music all add up to fully load your home network.

If audio and video systems are the nice to haves then security systems are the must haves. Figures from UKCrimeStats.com report an increase in burglaries in England and Wales from 35,130 to 37,396 from October to November 2016. Intruder alarm and CCTV systems still remain the best deterrent of crime against your home. Modern alarm systems now offer app notifications and remote connections for alerts and status, and CCTV has evolved to now provide UltraHD video quality and outstanding night time performance. DIY security products like indoor cameras and smart doorbells are easy to install security enhancements for your home; check out products from Nest, Yale and Ring for inspiration.

Automation and control of your homes lighting, heating, ventilation and blinds/curtains is the part of a Smart Home which generally requires the most planning, design and engineering. Customised are specialists in combining these services onto one common system. Think of the system that automates and controls them as your Home Operating System. We always recommend a hard-wired system for the management of these essential services in the home. In past years the systems that performed these tasks were generally very expensive and exclusive to luxury homes. Nowadays there are reliable options for every budget, there are even robust and secure options for wireless or retrofit automation systems and these can be very quick to install and setup.

The electrical wiring for most automation systems differs from traditional household wiring; the majority of systems take the approach of star wiring the lighting circuits back to central control locations, typically the consumer unit location. The light switch or control panel in the room would be provisioned with an extra low voltage (ELV) control cable and would not contain mains voltage, however mains power would be present at the light fitting or driver and consumer unit. The switches or control panels would all be interlinked by the ELV control cable in a daisy chain or bus wired layout. For more information on bus wired systems search for KNX, a global standard and protocol for automation systems and is used by hundreds of manufacturers.

In today's modern home, which has systems in place for controlling lighting, climate, entertainment, and shading, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that the homeowner is not capable of managing. Home automation systems do require regular updates, changes and maintenance to keep them performing at optimum levels. Updates to the system normally bring new exciting features like voice control or integration with new DIY products like doorbells or wireless music systems. A home automation system should be installed and commissioned by a certified professional installation company. Seek out your local CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association) member to plan your Smart Home project.  They adhere to industry standards, equipment specifications and workmanship levels and have proven insurances and trading histories. When choosing your installer request client testimonials, case studies and ask to visit previous projects or dealer showroom.

A Smart Home system could cost as much as your next car so give it as much research time as you would choosing your next car. There are a lot of options for your home technology at varying budgets; find the systems that suit your home, lifestyle and budget.

Customised are Norfolk based home technologists providing Smart Home consultation, design, installation and maintenance services.