Imagine a home where your alarm clock going off at 7am commands the blinds to open, while the coffee machine switches on and the television turns to the your favourite channel. Once an ideal only found in the realm of science fiction, new technology means we are closer than ever before to creating truly smart homes.
The Internet of Things has provided a world of new opportunities. The property landscape is primed for innovative developers to become one step ahead of their competitors and invest in this technology for their new builds.
What does the smart home industry look like in the UK today?
Devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home mean the once alien concept of a connected house is becoming increasingly well known, if not quite yet mainstream. Auxiliary devices such as smart plugs that can be turned off via an app, doorbells with remote monitoring and smoke alarms that send notifications to your phone are proving the future is now.
One company currently providing connected house innovations to developers is Cyberhomes, who offer lighting and climate control solutions, as well as home cinema technologies and automated security systems. The company was first established in 2006, when ‘smart home’ tech was of a very different nature.
“In 2006, the priority was very much about trying to eliminate the half a dozen or so remote controls you might have on the coffee table,” explains Cyberhomes co-founder Andy Mack. “The idea of controlling other technology like lighting started to develop, though typically these whole house systems were only available to the very premium properties owned by the mega rich.
“However in recent years prices have tumbled substantially, both in terms of equipment costs and also faster, and therefore lower cost, installation and programming, making them accessible to more modest developments.
“We don’t see it as the luxury it once was. We’re rapidly approaching the point where every new home that is built will be pre-wired for smart technology.”
The role of smart meters
Arguably the most prolific of smart home technology in the UK today is the smart meter. According to government research there are currently over 8.61m smart meters being used in the UK by both homes and businesses. This is a 12% increase from previous quarter of 2017, showing that adoption of this technology is quickly on the rise.
And while some smart home solutions are primarily for comfort purposes- after all, very few home owners need voice-activated lighting- smart meters are providing significant financial and energy savings.
One property developer taking full advantage of the boom in smart meters for its occupants is One Housing, who provide affordable housing across London and the South East. The company has committed to only building smart homes complete with energy meters, which includes its homes for affordable rent and shared ownership.
Director of pre-construction at One Housing, Mark Crosbie, said: “The decision to put smart thermostats in all of our new builds was easy. We are very conscious that residents in our affordable homes are the people who are most affected by the rising cost of energy and the cost to us is minimal.
“The product that we normally install is a learning thermostat, which could save residents up to 12% on their bills and has the capacity to interact with other smart technologies, such as control over lighting. This is a very useful feature for our older residents and for those who are working long or unsociable hours as it increases their feeling of security.”
What smart home tech should property developers invest in?
With the government’s commitment to give every household access to a smart meter by 2020, this technology will become commonplace. Therefore, while investing in inbuilt energy saving devices is certainly valuable for occupiers, it is unlikely to remain an innovative move for developers for long. So what else should property developers focus on?
“Nobody wants cables on view spoiling the interior design of rooms—so developers need to be sure they are installing the right cables during the build,” says Cyberhome’s Andy Mack. “As for the next big thing, certainly voice control is becoming very accurate and no doubt will soon be the preferred method of interacting with your connected home.”
As with all technology, what was once innovative can quickly become outdated. But by optimising new builds for smart technology, developers can prove they are preparing for the home of the future.