Consumer interest in home automation has spiked with the push toward the Internet of Things. Arguably, beyond brewing a cup of coffee from the bedroom, IoT has generated the most buzz about the practical possibilities of remote management of lights and interior environments, including the use of voice control to achieve overall home automation.
Savant’s Metropolitan wireless lighting line, in addition to being lighting load dimmers, can also be used to control music playback.
“In the past two years, the biggest trends that Lutron has seen in the home automation space are the use of voice control and the need for simple, reliable products that seamlessly integrate with other smart home devices or systems from third-party manufacturers,” said Michael Smith, vice president of U.S. sales for Lutron. “Siri and Alexa have become more precise and have added a host of new capabilities, completely changing the way consumers interact with technology, particularly in the home. In addition, it is essential that smart home products work as expected and help customers solve common, everyday problems.”
What has always been paramount, though, is simplicity of use for both integrators and end users. Although voice control is catching on and is on everyone’s upcoming development roster, what is evolving in residential integration of lighting and window treatment control is ease of use and programming of systems to take the headache out of the integration with the home automation system at large.
Tasked with projects that often go beyond the size and scope of consumer-level interests, integrators have the insight to take home projects from simple to deeply personalized. It helps that CI manufacturers have been keeping pace with changes in the channel, integrating lighting and window control with the larger home automation system. This is nothing new, but the simplicity of this integration as well as its management by end users, has become imperative.
“We’ve seen concerns about privacy and security as growing trends with homeowners the past few years,” noted Savant Systems’ Tim McInerney, director of product marketing. “They want to be sure that only they have remote access to their home and that new devices are secure. To address this, we’ve developed our own cloud infrastructure that ensures a secure connection between the homeowner’s mobile device and their home. We also have our remote access and security regularly vetted by independent security experts.”
Savant’s Metropolitan wireless lighting line, in addition to being lighting load dimmers, can also be used to control music playback. Savant and Savant Pro systems also offer Scenes as a consolidated means of controlling residential lighting and shades as part of the overall home automation system—a feature McInerney believes lays the foundation for perfect sales pitches to potential clients.
Featuring customized keypads, backlit personalized engraving, and LED status indicators, Control4’s solutions allow end users to tailor their lighting experience.
Control4’s Wireless Lighting family is comprised of nearly a dozen products in wide range of colors and finishes to appeal to a broad design aesthetic. Featuring customized keypads, backlit personalized engraving, and LED status indicators that allow end users to tailor their lighting experience, solutions in the collection can be added to an existing home or retrofit project by simply replacing existing light switches with the Control4 dimmers and switches.
Simplicity is at the heart of Crestron’s Pyng, which technology manager Evan Ackmann noted is part of his company’s aim to have its products be self-explanatory, obvious, and “useful in reducing the cognitive load associated with owning a home.”
“Automation should solve problems, not create new ones,” Ackmann said. “Products that dim lights and move window treatments are only one part of the solution. Crestron makes devices that touch every aspect of the home—lights, shades, climate, keypads, door locks, sensors, speakers, and much more—but those are just widgets. Replacing a light switch with a smart dimmer isn’t home automation because the homeowner still has the same interaction with the devices. With Crestron Pyng, we’ve created a platform that brings all of these technologies together into a home automation system. [It] allows for the integrator to get into a job, work with the homeowner to configure the system to their liking, and empowers the homeowner to make changes to that home automation system. They own their technology in the same way that they own their home.”
Control4’s line of Wireless Lighting gives Control4 dealers the opportunity to offer smart lighting solutions in new construction and retrofit installation.
“Control4 Wireless Lighting allows far more than just controlling individual lights and groupings of lights,” said Paul Williams, Control4’s vice president of solutions. “With a myriad of configurable keypad combinations on every new dimmer and switch, all of which incorporate backlit engraving and status LEDs for two-way feedback, smart lighting becomes an intuitive interface for any family member to control a variety of smart home solutions.”
QMotion recently launched the new Qadvanced Motorized Roller Shades with ZigBee Home Automation v1.2, meeting ZigBee specifications. These upgraded Qadvanced with ZigBee HA1.2 shades provide enhanced communication consistency and come with built-in collision avoidance. The QMotion shades will “wake up” at set intervals and two-way communication allows for feedback of the shade position with automation applications.
“QMotion has designed our motorized shades to communicate via the ZigBee Home Automation Mesh Network,” said Gene Demestre, vice president of sales at QMotion. “Products that include this feature allow our automated shades to work in conjunction with lighting and home controls to move the shade position in order to provide the right amount of natural light, which results in energy efficiency and costs savings from the reduced use of artificial lighting.
“Additionally, integrating with a system that controls the thermostat, the shades can be programmed to close during the high-heat daylight hours in summer to maintain a lower interior temperature, and raise in the winter to provide natural light to warm a room, thus helping to control the seasonal heat gain or heat loss more naturally.”
The viability of voice control has played a key role in Lutron’s development of Caséta Wireless, which was one of the first products to work with Apple HomeKit and more recently, with Amazon Alexa.
TiO’s total home control solution—lighting, music, window treatments, security, home theater, and more—can be controlled via the company’s Home App, its only control interface, available on the Apple and Android mobile platforms.
TiO’s total home control solution—lighting, music, window treatments, security, home theater, and more—can be controlled via the company’s Home App, its only control interface.
“For lighting control, we offer the TouchLite 4, which features an elegant and functional design with adaptable, touch-sensitive buttons that allow users to build a lighting system of their choice,” said Sanjay Patel, president and CEO of the company. “With the TouchLite 4, users can update a single fixture and add a few more rooms of lighting control at any time. Each of the buttons can be assigned Moods and Experience, security or music functions, all of which can be controlled through the TiO Home App. Our system does not require any programming or new wiring.”
In developing new products, Basalte’s CEO Klass Arnout said the company has two necessities: One, the product should have a beautiful design with great usability and functionalities, and two, the product should be easy and straightforward to install, while not limiting functionalities for the custom installer.
“Sentido is a multifunctional design switch for Lutron Homeworks QS or Crestron,” Arnout said. “This simple-looking switch actually offers a lot of functionalities thanks to the technical ingenuity inside. This unique combination of high-grade materials and innovative technology helps the custom installer to sell a home automation system, as Sentido appeals to both the design as the tech-loving customers. Additionally, we provide the custom installer with all necessary documentation, software, and example projects. Our staff is also available for technical or commercial questions.”
Lauren Clark, product manager of controls at Somfy Systems has defined the company’s success in the IoT home automation market as having a keen focus on the entire user experience for its motorized window coverings, which in turn need to feature reliable performance, intuitive user interfaces, accessible technical information, and superior product support to address consumer needs and stay ahead of the curve.
“As home automation devices trend more toward commodity, integrators need to find ways to offer clients custom, tailored experiences beyond just a group of networked hardware,” Clark said. “To support integrators, Somfy will be making available for the first time ever a public API for integrators to create custom programming for Radio Technology Somfy and Somfy Digital Network motorized window coverings. The value for integrators, and their clients, is that utilizing Somfy’s API to create custom programming provides added synergy between home automation systems and Somfy’s motorized products, which can be used for light management, energy savings, and comfort.”
Somfy will soon make available a public API for integrators to create custom programming for Radio Technology Somfy and Somfy Digital Network motorized window coverings.
Draper’s Amy Madden, who serves as residential market manager, made the point that now that homeowners are able to control more of their home remotely, they are learning on how to better utilize their window shades to optimize HVAC costs and their privacy, as well as protect their chosen décor.
“Draper window shade products aren’t sold through mass retailers like Home Depot or JCPenney; they really aren’t meant for the DIYer,” Madden said. “They were designed with the custom integrator in mind. We’ve always wanted our dealer to take an active role in the planning and installation of our window shade products. We don’t keep standard sizes on a shelf that can be cut down to fit any window. Our shades are custom made here in Indiana. The fabric is chosen based on the room décor and the goal of the homeowner for that room—meaning do they need privacy or are they trying to maintain that million-dollar view but also cut down on the heat generated from the natural light?”
IoT is our industry’s most recent transformative force, but the truly viable smart home is still evolving. Mobile apps, along with simplification of integration and use, have seen lighting and window treatment control serve as the entry point for consumers looking for practical solutions for their home automation needs.
“As IoT enables more robust smart home applications, products such as connected lighting, shades, temperature, and security systems will continue to create greater opportunity for dealers,” Smith said. “Mass-market acceptance ultimately depends on offering products and solutions that are easy to use and provide obvious benefits such as making homes more welcoming, more comfortable, more accessible, and more efficient.”
Llanor Alleyne is a regular contributor to Residential Systems.