New tech­nol­ogy is mak­ing ev­ery­day liv­ing a breeze

Let tech­nol­ogy take the strain out of ev­ery­day liv­ing – it’ll even boil your ket­tle for you if you pro­gramme it

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - Text by An­nick Larkin.

‘Smart Homes’ – a tech­nol­ogy once re­served for the tech-savvy and gad­get-ob­sessed – is now much more ac­ces­si­ble to the main­stream mar­ket. Even if peo­ple can­not af­ford some of the ‘smart’ prod­ucts, it is be­com­ing more com­mon to fu­ture-proof homes by in­stalling ca­bles when build­ing new or ren­o­vat­ing.

So what ex­actly is a Smart Home? Sim­ply put, it’s the con­trol of elec­tri­cal prod­ucts in the home via a smart­phone or tablet. This can cover every­thing from au­dio, vis­ual and light­ing to se­cu­rity sys­tems and build­ing ac­cess. Some ‘smart’ el­e­ments can be pro­vided wire­lessly, while oth­ers re­quire ca­bles.

The Mezzo sys­tem, for in­stance, is fully wire­less, mean­ing no in­va­sive ca­ble in­stal­la­tion is re­quired. You can even in­stall some el­e­ments your­self. “If you are con­fi­dent reg­is­ter­ing or log­ging on to a wi-fi net­work and us­ing a smart­phone app, you could have a sim­ple alarm sys­tem and a few lights au­to­mated in two hours,” says Mur­ray Ir­win, CEO of Paci­fi­comm, the com­pany dis­tribut­ing Mezzo.

A num­ber of com­pa­nies can pro­vide a ca­bled home au­to­ma­tion sys­tem. One of these is In­tel­li­gent En­vi­ron­ments, which has a plethora of ‘smarts’ avail­able for ev­ery room in the house, all of which can be tai­lored to your spe­cific needs to cre­ate ‘scenes’.

In­tel­li­gent En­vi­ron­ments di­rec­tor Nikki Har­ris ex­plains that a ‘scene’ is a col­lec­tion of com­mands or pro­grammes that make a num­ber of things hap­pen at once. “In a din­ing room, a ‘home­work scene’ may turn lights on to the op­ti­mum level for work­ing at the ta­ble, dis­able the TV and turn back­ground mu­sic to pre-se­lected tracks that en­cour­age learn­ing,” she says. “In the same room, the ‘ro­mance scene’ may close the blinds, dim the light­ing and al­low pre-se­lected sound­tracks to play through the speak­ers.”

In the fol­low­ing room-by-room break­down Nikki show­cases what ‘scene’ pos­si­bil­i­ties are avail­able with to­day’s smart tech­nol­ogy.

It is im­por­tant to note that for the fol­low­ing tech­nolo­gies to work, a full home au­to­ma­tion sys­tem would need to be in­stalled.

SMART KITCHEN

CON­TROL CEN­TRE As the cen­tral point of many homes, the kitchen is the ob­vi­ous choice for sit­ing the main touch panel or tablet to con­trol all your con­nec­tions. From here, you can ad­just lights and ther­mostats, view and ad­just sched­ules and watch recorded or live video from the cam­era at your door or gate.

TIM­ING IS EVERY­THING Sched­ules can help to au­to­mate ev­ery­day tasks. At a pre-set time each morn­ing the smart tech­nol­ogy in your con­nected home can turn on the lights in the kitchen and draw the blinds, ad­just the ther­mo­stat to en­sure heat­ing/cool­ing is at a pleas­ant level, play your favourite news sta­tion through the in­built speak­ers, and boil the ket­tle for your morn­ing cuppa. This may be sched­uled for dif­fer­ent times on dif­fer­ent days – per­haps a later start for the week­end?

RECIPES ON TAP . . . a tap of the screen, that is. The screen that pro­vides you with con­trol of your home au­to­ma­tion sys­tem is also con­nected to the in­ter­net. You can search for that recipe you’ve been mean­ing to try and leave the in­struc­tions to hand as you pre­pare the meal. Or switch to a news site or TV on de­mand and be en­ter­tained while the chores are un­der way.

SMART BATH­ROOM

UN­DER­FLOOR HEAT­ING Un­der­floor heat­ing can be sched­uled to come on be­fore you get up and turn off once you leave the house.

HEATED TOWEL RAILS As with un­der­floor heat­ing, sig­nif­i­cant en­ergy sav­ings are made when the heated towel rails only come on when needed. They can be sched­uled to suit your re­quire­ments.

LIGHT­ING Re­quire­ments will vary from over­all light­ing to task light­ing over the mir­ror or van­ity. Bath­room lights can be pro­grammed to dim after bed­time.

SMART EN­TRY

SE­CU­RITY As you dis­arm the alarm, your smart home wel­comes your re­turn with safe path­way light­ing from your car, au­to­matic ad­just­ment of heat­ing/cool­ing set­tings, cer­tain lights turn­ing on – and even your favourite mu­sic play­ing once you’re in­side.

SCREEN­ING VIS­I­TORS Not all vis­i­tors are wel­come. An in­ter­com or cam­era at the door or gate al­lows you to check who’s drop­ping in be­fore you open the door. With smart homes, if you’re not home, you can even have your sys­tem call you so you can re­spond to your vis­i­tor and they will have no idea you are not on the premises.

KEY­LESS EN­TRY If your vis­i­tor is wel­come, you can open the door re­motely, al­low­ing your vis­i­tor to await your ar­rival or the courier to put your on­line shop­ping safely in­side the door.

SMART LIV­ING

THEATRE CON­TENT Con­trol your Blu-ray, Ap­ple TV, DVR or MySky in many dif­fer­ent ways. It can be from an iPad mounted in a charg­ing sta­tion on the wall, or an iPad mini or re­mote po­si­tioned in the seat­ing. Pre-set ‘scenes’ mean the lights au­to­mat­i­cally dim when the movie starts.

COM­FORT As it’s linked to the home au­to­ma­tion sys­tem, the same tablet that con­trols the vol­ume of the movie can be used to ad­just the heat­ing or cool­ing in the TV or movie room.

SE­CU­RITY FEA­TURES If an alarm is trig­gered, a phone rings or the door bell is pushed, the sys­tem can be set to pause the movie and alert the oc­cu­pants of the room.

As the cen­tral point of many homes, the kitchen is the ob­vi­ous choice for sit­ing the touch panel to con­trol all your con­nec­tions

SMART OUT­DOORS

MO­TION SENS­ING As well as help­ing with safety and se­cu­rity after dark, mo­tion sen­sors can be used to make the most of land­scap­ing fea­tures. Strate­gi­cally placed sen­sors can be used to ac­ti­vate wa­ter fea­tures, speak­ers or out­side lights – what­ever you re­quire to guide your guests.

POOL MAIN­TE­NANCE Your home au­to­ma­tion sys­tem can con­trol the sched­ules for turn­ing on pumps or heaters for your pool. You may also choose to link the pool cov­ers to the sys­tem so they can open with the push of a but­ton and close in the same way when the pool is no longer in use.

OUT­DOOR EN­TER­TAIN­ING Set­ting up to en­joy TV view­ing out­side has tra­di­tion­ally been an ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise. But the avail­abil­ity of TV shields means any flat-screen TV can now be pro­tected from the weather. You may also wish to lis­ten to mu­sic while you re­lax on the deck or in the spa. Out­door speak­ers can be in­stalled to pro­vide an ad­di­tional zone for multi-room au­dio. The mu­sic sources and au­dio vis­ual li­brary avail­able for in­side the house will also be avail­able out­side.

You can con­trol the cam­era and pan and tilt to check out the con­di­tions at the beach

SMART EXTRAS

PERIME­TER PRO­TEC­TION Liv­ing in the coun­try­side or on the beach has its ad­van­tages but smart home­own­ers know that ad­ja­cent fields or beaches pro­vide po­ten­tial ac­cess points to peo­ple you may not want drop­ping by for a visit. If you wish to se­cure ar­eas such as these with­out hav­ing to build high fences, a sys­tem can be in­stalled that trans­mits in­vis­i­ble pho­to­elec­tric beams across those bound­aries. If the beam is bro­ken, an alert is pro­vided by the home au­to­ma­tion sys­tem to warn the oc­cu­pants.

WA­TER, WA­TER EV­ERY­WHERE . . . For those liv­ing in ru­ral ar­eas or who have hol­i­day homes where mains wa­ter is not sup­plied, mon­i­tor­ing the level of wa­ter in the home’s stor­age tanks through the home au­to­ma­tion sys­tem is use­ful. When the wa­ter falls be­low a pre-set level, for ex­am­ple, a text mes­sage can be sent to alert the home­owner. As well as mon­i­tor­ing wa­ter tanks, it can also mon­i­tor the sta­tus of backup gen­er­a­tors and gas or diesel tanks. Sen­sors are used to gather data and com­mu­ni­cate the in­for­ma­tion vis­ually via the home’s touch pan­els or tablets.

CON­TROL IR­RI­GA­TION WITH YOUR HOME AU­TO­MA­TION SYS­TEM Sched­ul­ing will en­sure your land­scap­ing fea­tures are wa­tered reg­u­larly, whether you are there or not. It is even pos­si­ble to in­te­grate a weather sta­tion so your sprin­klers do not turn on and waste wa­ter in cases where it has al­ready rained.

SURF’S UP

View the con­di­tions at the beach with an IP cam­era (dig­i­tal video cam­era) sited at your hol­i­day home and aimed at the ocean. En­gage the op­ti­cal zoom and pan and tilt to take a closer look up be­fore you head to the coast.

Okay, so what does this tech­nol­ogy cost? That de­pends on your bud­get. The Mezzo app is free and pro­vides all the man­age­ment func­tion­al­ity, in­clud­ing cam­eras. “A sim­ple wire­less smart home in­stal­la­tion of some lights, heat pump con­trol, and a sim­ple alarm sys­tem on the garage door would be un­der $2500,” says Mur­ray Ir­win.

Thou­sands of prod­ucts are avail­able with the type of ca­ble sys­tem pro­vided by In­tel­li­gent En­vi­ron­ments. The trick is pick­ing ones that are re­li­able, de­liver value for money, in­te­grate with other sys­tems and al­low a path to ex­pand in the fu­ture. The cost will vary – think $6000 for a ba­sic so­lu­tion, $60,000 for a mod­er­ate set-up and $250,000-plus for some­thing ex­ten­sive.

Smart tech­nol­ogy is a rapidly de­vel­op­ing field and New Zealand is only just get­ting to grips with it. We have come to ex­pect cen­tral lock­ing, re­mote open­ing and clos­ing, alarms, Blue­tooth, au­to­matic win­dows and more, as stan­dard in our cars. Yet with our houses, we still un­lock with a key, man­u­ally open win­dows, switch lights on and off, and move from to room open­ing and clos­ing blinds and cur­tains. Given how much we in­vest in our homes, isn’t it time we all got a lit­tle smarter?

The liv­ing room lights can be bright­ened when home­work is be­ing done and dimmed once the chores are fin­ished. The home-au­to­ma­tion con­trol panel can also be used as a tablet, which is handy when you want to fol­low an on­line recipe or watch TV as you cook.

Un­der­floor heat­ing in the bath­room and heated towel rails can be pro­grammed to come on only when needed.

A cam­era set up at your bach can be aimed at the ocean, al­low­ing you a closer look at surf con­di­tions be­fore you head out to the coast.

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