Crestron’s Pyng allows users to manage lighting, shading, audio, thermostats, and door locks. The home automation app takes the complexity out of the setup .
Working in an industry where the future has always been now, custom integrators know what it is like to thrive in “on the brink” moments. Home automation and control has undergone so many revolutionary changes over the past decade, inching closer to the realization of wider acceptance of and interaction with technological devices, that the much-talked-about Internet of Things can already seem like old news. The journey toward the complete integration of every programmable device in the home is far from over, but on the way, some aspects of custom integration have gained popularity. Lighting and shade control has benefited most of all, with consumers—now educated about the importance of energy management and tickled by fun control capabilities—actively seeking out affordable and user-friendly ways to pull this feature into their control wheelhouse.
“With the rise of the Internet of Things, we see a rise in the awareness about technology and the potential added value it can offer to our lives,” said Klaas Arnout, managing director, Basalte. “We also see a shift toward a more user-centered approach in the home automation industry, an important factor that we, as a manufacturer, already implemented in our core business strategy. Here, the most important elements are comfort and the added value of integrating functionalities in one system. Accordingly, this involves one control concept instead of having separate controls for lighting, screens, music, and temperature. Additionally, the fact that a system is simple, easy and fun to use has been key to us since day one.”
Significantly, the shift away from complexly designed integrated systems, where specialized programmers are needed to centralize end-user influenced control, has opened up the market for both integrators and manufacturers, allowing creativity and practicality in system designs that have always underpinned lighting control—such as security (scene setting) and climate control—to shine through.
URC’s approach is geared toward compatibility with all the new lighting lamp technologies, ease of retrofit and upgrading, implementation of the popular and widely adopted Z-Wave control topology, and high-quality hardware loaded with features that people want.
“The biggest challenge in lighting and shading control in the past few years has been to create easy, user-friendly methods to control the numerous light fixtures and scenes in your home,” said Arnout. “How can we control this much, whilst keeping it simple, fun, and straightforward to use for everyone, young and old?”
With end users as the main focus, taking into account their habits, lifestyles, and functionality requirements, Basalte has created Sentido and Deseo touch-sensitive switches, which work within the KNX home automation standard to centralize lighting management in one device. As an added touch and in a bow to the proliferation of smart devices as remote controls, Basalte also developed Eve, a minimalist mount in an aluminum design, to place these smart devices within reach while also keeping them charged.
Pointing to a recent surge in a broader base of middle-market DIY and do it for me (DIFM) tech enthusiasts, Lutron recently launched a lights/shades/temperature control solution called Caseta Wireless, which has both DIY and DIFM install and setup models. Touted by the company as a great entry point to smart home technology, the newest solution allows up to 50 devices in a home. “It’s a wonderful addition to our connected home product lineup,” said David Weinstein, vice president of residential sales, “offering a simple, affordable, and reliable solution that can be expanded at any time.”
To harness the evolving home tech ecosystem, Crestron’s hugely popular Pyng stands out as a complete integration solution. Managing lighting, shading, audio, thermostats, and door locks, the home automation app, as explained by Evan Ackmann, Crestron’s technology manager of lighting, takes the complexity out of the setup without sacrificing flexibility. “We are fortunate to have a great relationship with our dealer base and our end users, to know what is important to automate in their homes. So we’re able to design products that are simple to install and configure, but meet our customer’s expectations.”
Basalte’s Eve is a minimalist mount in an aluminum design, to place these devices within reach while also keeping them charged.
Greg Rhoades, director of marketing for Leviton Security & Automation, highlights the benefits of lighting control in small commercial properties—a target audience for the company’s new Lumina Gateway lighting control automation eco-system.
“The simplified system allows for occupancy and schedule based automated lighting, temperature, window coverings, high-draw electric devices, and more,” Rhoades explained. The ability to access both your home and all business locations from one app with no monthly fees is incredibly attractive to small business owners and homeowners alike. Additionally, we have sold a lower-featured Z-Wave lighting control line with only 5 SKUs at Home Depot and Amazon, dubbed DZC, and have seen great attachment sales to small hubs, gateways, and security systems. It’s been wonderful to work with other manufacturers in the space to ensure a proper solution.
“Homeowners and electricians or integrators alike can clearly look at this small line and understand the basic benefits and which device they need to accomplish their desire without confusion,” he continued. “Or, they can step up to the fully featured two-way Vizia RF + line of products sold through distribution.”
The MRX-8 Compact Controller, the Vivido wireless intelligent lighting line, and the new LED Lighting line (developed with LG for the custom market) are standouts for URC as affordable, user-friendly entry points for consumers. The MRX-8, part of URC’s well-known Total Control line and priced at just under $600, with unlimited use of URC’s mobile apps for Android and iOS, offers one-button control of AV, lighting, shades, energy, thermostat, and security.
QMotion’s dual shades bracketing solutions are also enjoying new popularity thanks to their ability to hold a blackout shade and decorative shade on the same window, especially because of their energy-efficiency benefits.
“Add to this our new Vivido lighting line, which has taken URC from a one-room lighting solution provider to a whole-house, integrated lighting system provider,” said Cat Toomey, URC’s director of marketing. “Our approach to designing products for this category is geared toward compatibility with all the new lighting lamp technologies; ease of retrofit and upgrading; implementation of the popular and widely adopted Z-Wave control topology; and high-quality hardware loaded with features that people want. This line will continue to expand, with a relatively near-term ability for users to add and change scenes on their own.”
TiO, part of Anuva Automation, uses a model that learns what the end user prefers. The home automation system, built entirely on Wi-Fi, now has a TL4 touchpad controller, which interacts with the TL4 load agnostic lighting dimmer. “The TL4…doubles as a control interface for all aspects of the TiO system,” said TiO’s president Mike Anderson. “That is, it controls any kind of lighting load or motor, and the assignable touch-sensitive buttons can control any aspect of the TiO system including music, shades, or even arming a security system.”
For Somfy, the rise of the IoT generated more interest and knowledge of the company’s window covering motorization solutions, according to Deirdre Brower, Somfy’s marketing manager. Zeroing in on natural light control with motorized shades to meet new energy management standards, Somfy has focused on connectivity with third-party systems to more effectively combine control of artificial lighting with its motorized shades.
Leviton’s simplified system allows users to access both home and all business locations from one app with no monthly fees.
“Overall, our integration devices and ultra-quiet motors continue to experience growth,” Brower said. “As smart home systems and the Internet of Things continue to gain momentum and acceptance in the market, users recognize that natural light control via motorized shades is an integral element of any home control system.”
QMotion, which also places an emphasis on motorized roller shades, has expanded its fabric offerings with more eco-friendly green screens and room-darkening blackout fabrics. The company’s dual shades bracketing solutions are also enjoying new popularity thanks to their ability to hold a blackout shade and decorative shade on the same window, especially because of their energy-efficiency benefits.
“In addition to energy efficiency and IoT, many customers are controlling shades as part of IoT privacy and security,” said QMotion president of sales and marketing, Gene Demestre. “For example, using timers for when you are away from home to make it look like someone is there by having the shades raise and lower, and link this capability with turning lights on and off. QMotion products can integrate with the controls that offer this combination of scene settings and security.”
LIGHT ON THE HORIZON
Zeroing in on natural light control with motorized shades to meet new energy management standards, Somfy has focused on connectivity with third-party systems to more effectively combine control of artificial lighting with its motorized shades.
Cultural shifts in thinking have always worked with technology developments to determine which aspects of any given new auto- mation devices or systems consumers are willing to buy into. IoT, with its promise of seamless interplay and control of the most basic home essentials, has captured the imagination of consumers and manufacturers alike, and with that, IoT has moved from fantasy to actuality. Still, quirks and room for great improvement remain, especially when it comes to the global clamor for more energy efficiency.
“Since the mid-2000s, we’ve seen a massive increase in the world’s focus on sciences and technologies for sustainable futures, including the tiny new houses that are highly efficient, greater proliferation of green homes and technologies, energy savings, and repurposing of existing materials for new items,” Toomey said. “Add to this that today, virtually everyone has a smart device in the palm of his or her hand, and smart home awareness is increasing. I believe all of these will continue to be focal points and will continue to shift and shape our world tomorrow. What this means to our automation industry is that more devices will become part of the connected home with a keen eye on savings, management, and automatic interaction between devices, without any person interacting.”
With “touchlessness” seemingly the end goal, there are several steps that need to come between now and then, as Ackmann highlighted, noting that the paradigm shift from IoT to smart home is already underway with the proliferation of sensors and scheduling algorithms. “I want my home to know my habits, patterns, and preferences,” he said, “and just do what I would automatically. I believe the technologies we’re creating can deliver on that vision.”