Smart spa­ces

As home au­to­ma­tion be­comes more ac­ces­si­ble, we look at some of the lat­est ad­vances in the smart home field

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - Text by Fiona Ralph.

Catch up on the lat­est ad­vances in home au­to­ma­tion

While there are many clever home-tech gad­gets now on the mar­ket, to­day’s most ad­vanced smart homes have all their au­to­mated fea­tures (such as light­ing, heat­ing, au­dio and se­cu­rity) op­er­at­ing un­der a sin­gle sys­tem. An in­tu­itive smart home can sense when you are on your way home and make sure the door is un­locked, cur­tains are drawn, heat pump is on and your favourite tune is play­ing as you step in­side. In­stead of us­ing sev­eral apps to con­trol var­i­ous fea­tures, the up-to-date smart-home owner can rely on a sin­gle sys­tem to remember pref­er­ences and ac­ti­vate var­i­ous ‘scenes’ or ‘zones’. Time to wake up? Cue the morn­ing scene, with chill-out mu­sic, un­der­floor heat­ing and the lights set to a lovely warm glow.

Glenn Watts from AVA Pa­cific, which sup­plies the Con­trol4 smart-home sys­tem to deal­ers around the coun­try, says, “We have moved from a cof­fee ta­ble of re­motes to a smart­phone of apps, and Con­trol4 co­or­di­nates the tech­nol­ogy. By hav­ing your de­vices con­nected and work­ing in har­mony, your home can start to think for it­self; it can learn your be­hav­iours and sim­plify what are usu­ally mun­dane tasks. Your tech­nol­ogy be­comes a part of the home; it sets the mood and man­ages your com­fort all with­out you need­ing to think about it.”

An­drew Tuhi of smart-home spe­cial­ist Next AV says they use the Con­trol4 sys­tem as it is a legacy sys­tem. “It’s been around for a long time, it’s been mod­ernised and there’s not much it can’t do. We can ef­fec­tively cus­tomise things for each home­owner.” For an­other user-friendly so­lu­tion, try Sch­nei­der Elec­tric’s Wiser Home Con­trol sys­tem which of­fers lev­els for dif­fer­ent bud­gets.


Stream­ing ser­vices, smart TVs and wifi- and Blue­toothen­abled speak­ers have brought smart au­dio and video into the main­stream. You prob­a­bly already stream con­tent on a num­ber of de­vices, but in­te­grat­ing these var­i­ous de­vices into your home will take your tech­nol­ogy ex­pe­ri­ence to the next level. “What­ever au­dio and video equip­ment is se­lected for your home, the key part that makes it all us­able, which is missed by all but the spe­cial­ists, is the con­trol sys­tem,” says Dan Howard from The Au­dio Con­sul­tant, which spe­cialises in au­dio and video au­to­ma­tion and cre­ates custom home theatre rooms.

It’s not that ex­pen­sive to stream­line your au­dio and video sys­tems, he says. Pric­ing de­pends on the scope of the project and ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture, but “most own­ers of lounge room TV and au­dio sys­tems could elim­i­nate the pile of re­motes on the cof­fee ta­ble, sim­plify their con­trol and add smart mu­sic stream­ing for un­der $2000”.


There’ll be no need to worry about leav­ing lights on once your home is equipped with smart light­ing, com­plete with timers and sched­uled light­ing moods. Light­ing is an en­try-level area of home au­to­ma­tion, with shops such as Bun­nings and Mitre 10 stock­ing wifi-en­abled light bulbs. Com­pa­nies such as Next AV can set your home up so that ev­ery light in the home can be switched on or off with one touch. A sleep mode will al­low lights to au­to­mat­i­cally switch on if some­one gets up in the night and, if you’re out of town, your lights can mimic your be­hav­iour to make it look like you’re at home.


Au­tomat­ing your heat­ing and cool­ing sys­tems will re­sult in a more com­fort­able home and lower power us­age. Heat pumps and un­der­floor heat­ing can be timed to come on in the morn­ing, and de­hu­mid­i­fiers can be set to start when the hu­mid­ity reaches a cer­tain level. Glenn from AVA Pa­cific ex­plains that their sys­tems can work with a home’s so­lar power sup­ply. “We can mon­i­tor your power con­sump­tion and gen­er­a­tion and au­to­mate it to make your gen­er­ated en­ergy work for you.” This means at times of high power gen­er­a­tion and low us­age, heated towel rails can be switched on and hot-wa­ter cylin­ders can be heated.


Your out­door area can be as tech-savvy as your home in­te­rior. Smart-home spe­cial­ist Digi­home pro­vides ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems, out­door heat­ing op­tions, con­nected au­dio sys­tems and in­tu­itive awnings and screens which open or close to suit weather con­di­tions. Smart, eco-friendly ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems can be set up to en­sure a sched­uled wa­ter­ing won’t go ahead if it has rained or if it is fore­cast to rain that day. “We’ve even done out­door theatre spa­ces,” says gen­eral man­ager Rhys Dilks. The most pop­u­lar func­tion is light­ing con­trol. Out­door lights can be ac­ti­vated at sun­rise and sun­set, con­nected to alarm sys­tems or trig­gered by the open­ing of a door or gate.


From touch­screen re­frig­er­a­tors to recipe-sourc­ing ro­bots and smart rub­bish bins, kitchens are be­com­ing more in­tu­itive.

“Think about walk­ing in from a busy day, hands full of shop­ping, and want­ing to set the mood by putting on some re­lax­ing mu­sic, turn­ing on the gas fire or air-con and set­ting the light level to the per­fect am­bi­ence,” says Glenn from AVA Pa­cific. “Now imag­ine do­ing all of this by say­ing, ‘Alexa, turn on Dine.’” This is where smart kitchens come in, with voice-con­trol ca­pa­bil­i­ties sim­pli­fy­ing ev­ery­day tasks. Ama­zon’s ‘Alexa’ is a voice­con­trolled per­sonal as­sis­tant which can in­ter­act with many home au­to­ma­tion de­vices. Google and Ap­ple have also en­tered the home au­to­ma­tion sphere with voice-ac­ti­vated prod­ucts Google Home and Ap­ple HomeKit.


Think beyond au­to­matic garage doors and gates to app-based se­cu­rity sys­tems and doors which can be locked or un­locked – or more im­por­tantly, checked – re­motely. Home se­cu­rity sys­tems are avail­able from most smart-home spe­cial­ists, and there are many en­try-level se­cu­rity cam­era sys­tems such as More­pork, which will en­able you to keep an eye on your home while out and about, and arm or dis­arm doors re­motely. Smoke and gas de­tec­tors are also be­com­ing smarter, with de­tec­tors such as Birdi con­nect­ing to emer­gency ser­vices au­to­mat­i­cally, monitoring air qual­ity and en­abling you to si­lence false alarms from your phone.


How smart can your home be if the in­ter­net won’t work in cer­tain rooms? Glen Keoghan, from home au­to­ma­tion spe­cial­ist Smart In­stal­la­tions, works with home­own­ers to en­sure wifi net­works are up to scratch. “With more and more de­vices be­com­ing wifi-en­abled it is be­com­ing increasingly im­por­tant to have end-to-end wifi cov­er­age in­side and out­side a home,” Glen says. Smart In­stal­la­tions’ wifi ac­cred­i­ta­tion pack­ages en­sure that your home has suf­fi­cient wifi strength to en­able de­vices to func­tion re­li­ably. “Find­ing out that there are dead spots or hav­ing fluc­tu­at­ing cov­er­age in key ar­eas like out­door en­ter­tain­ment spa­ces, kitchens and lounges can be re­ally frus­trat­ing.” Pric­ing for wifi ac­cred­i­ta­tion starts at around $2000.


Sin­gle smart prod­ucts can be in­stalled in your home for as lit­tle as $300, and an in­te­grated net­work­ing sys­tem such as Con­trol4 can be in­stalled for around $2000. Glenn from AVA Pa­cific says a com­plete home au­to­ma­tion sys­tem in an av­er­age-sized home would cost be­tween $35,000 and $50,000.

Rhys from Digi­home says pric­ing for their smart-home pack­ages starts at around $4000, with light­ing at the lower end of the price range. “The price to im­ple­ment smart tech­nol­ogy in homes has re­duced in­cred­i­bly over the last five years, while at the same time we are see­ing huge ad­vance­ments with re­gards to what is pos­si­ble. New tech­nol­ogy has also made it pos­si­ble to phase the in­stal­la­tion to suit peo­ple’s needs and budget. As a re­sult, our goal is to bring what was typ­i­cally an elit­ist prod­uct to the main­stream home.”


+ sch­nei­der-elec­ + ava­pa­ + digi­ + nex­ + smartin­stal­la­ + theau­dio­con­sul­


A smart home fit­ted out by Next AV us­ing the Con­trol4 sys­tem sup­plied by AVA Pa­cific. The sys­tem is ac­ces­si­ble via the TV, smart­phones and key­pads (pic­tured on the left).


The def­i­ni­tion of a smart home is con­stantly evolv­ing as new tech­nolo­gies are de­vel­oped and home au­to­ma­tion be­comes more af­ford­able.

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