Is A Smart Home Complicated to Use?
Common Myths | 13-12-2022
One of the most common fears that I come across from potential clients is that the Smart Home system we design will be too complicated for them to use. This is a common myth and so far from the actual truth.
The concept of a Smart Home is to provide simplicity not complexity. It provides a single point of user interface as opposed to multiple different systems and ways to operate them.
I often explain to clients that in order to provide a simple system, complexity is required behind the scenes and it is our role to navigate this on their behalf. We design all of our systems so that anyone in the property can use them – from your 5yr old child to your nanny or relatives – the user interface is always intuitive and simple to use.
When we reference user interfaces we are referring to the ways in which you engage with the system. These are provided by the Smart Home system which is at the core of the design. As a company we have opted for 2 of the largest manufacturers in the US – Crestron & Control4 as our control systems of choice.
Both Crestron & Control4 have a range of ways to control the system – from in-wall or tabletop touchscreens, through to handheld remotes and also their own proprietary apps.
When designing a Smart Home system I often refer to the system as a recipe. You can opt for the ingredients that you would like to add to this recipe and add them to the mixing bowl. It is our role to ensure that the ingredients are compatible and there is a way to build them into the overall mixture. Once in the bowl you can control them from any of the user interfaces. You can also add them to a ‘scene‘ which will automate a series of events with one button push.
For example; a Cinema, or Media Room is a place where scenes are very useful. In this room you might have ingredients such as lighting, a Projector, a motorised Projection screen, and AC for example. When you are settled and ready to watch a movie you can simply tap one simple button on a keypad, a touchscreen, a remote or an app and the room will align itself for this scene. So the lights will dim, the projector will switch on and the screen will drop. This is all possible because we have ensured that all these components are fully integrated with the control system.
If you were to attempt to operate this room manually without a control system you would need to carry out multiple tasks such as adjusting each of the lighting circuits in the room to the right level, turning on the projector with it’s own remote, turning on the AV Receiver or Processor with another remote, picking up a third remote for the Apple TV or Kaleidescape Player. This is incredibly complex and the chances of everything going to plan and you being able to watch the movie in the right format are very low. Ultimately you will not use the room as often because it is too difficult.
Lighting Control is also a great example of this. If you have a lighting designer and you have invested a significant amount of time and money into a beautiful lighting scheme for your property you will probably find that you can easily have 4-6 circuits in a single room with multiple different lights from pendants to 5amps to LED strip for example. If you do not have a lighting control system you will have a line of traditional dimming switches. You will have to manually adjust each one of these until the desired effect is reached. This will be a timely process so overtime you will just revert to 1 or 2 circuits, turn on the pendant for example in the evenings and the downlights during the day.
With a lighting control system we would be able to provide you with simple engraved buttons where these scenes are all automated and programmed with you and your lighting designer or interior designer. In the evening a simple button press will bring all of the circuits to the correct levels and you will get full enjoyment of all of the lighting, as it was intended.
An additional advantage of an integrated Smart Home is that there is no need to have what we refer to in the industry as ‘wall acne‘ …! This is when we see a thermostat located next to an intercom panel, right above a lighting keypad for example – a whole wall scattered with devices, each controlling only their own systems.
An integrated system eliminates all of this. To sense temperature we would install a discreet thimble sensor which reports back to thermostats which are concealed from site. The touchscreens can provide you with a way to answer the intercom and release gates for example. The lighting keypads can also activate a scene, switch on the radio or close the blinds. This significantly enhances the overall look and feel of the design and hides the technology from sight.
If you are working on a project and you feel that the holistic, integrated approach would suit the design but the clients are fearful of the complexity please do not hesitate to reach out to me for a brief chat. It is exceptionally painful to see projects where this fear has led the client to go down the route of separate systems which has ultimately provided them with an exceptionally complex system at the same cost. Rectifying this years down the line is possible but never quite the same compared to designing it differently whilst the cabling is being installed.
We have both Crestron & Control systems in our Showroom for you and your clients to see, touch and get a feel for. Book an appointment for the showroom here.
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