In a fully digital world, technology has taken centre-stage. And it has completely taken over the home as well. Much more than just living spaces, homes have morphed to become personalised sanctuaries that understand their inhabitants and speak to them.
In India, smart homes started off on a slow wicket, largely because of lack of awareness of the concept and, therefore, demand. However, the smart homes trend has caught on now. ¨Technology-driven smart homes essentially encompass a range of services that integrate systems of lighting, security, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, home theatre, wireless PC networks, etc,¨ elaborates Sumit Joshi, Marketing Head, Philips Lighting India. And where does the benefit lie for the end-user? Sameer Saxena, Vice President-Marketing, Legrand India, responds, ¨Today, we have comfort and convenience at the touch of a button or swipe of an app. We can take care of our near ones and our homes through remote access (safety and security). We can set up an ambience or convert our living space at the click of a button (entertainment, climate control).¨
From prefabricated housing to steel buildings, lighting control systems to complete home automation, HVAC and solar rooftops for energy generation, smart home concepts are evolving day-after-day. A major revolution has been brought about by the internet of things (IoT). ¨Smart homes and smart living have become the new-age mantras and various technology players are eyeing their share of the pie through introducing a mix of products and technologies that transform conventional housing to a smart home,¨ says Yoshiyuki Kato, Director-Lighting, Anchor Electrical India. To this, Manjul Trehan, India Head & Director Sales, Lutron Electronics Inc, adds, ¨With a few taps on your smart phone, tablet, or even a smart watch, lighting, HVAC, security locks of gates and doors and other systems can be controlled, thus ensuring improved convenience, comfort, energy-efficiency and security.¨
The home makers
While vendors are on an innovation spree, what is on the agenda of realty master planners?
¨Smart homes are generally being developed by the more prominent members of the builder fraternity as such projects require a rather high level of knowhow and capitalisation,¨ says Anuj Puri, Chairman & Country Head, JLL India. ¨The predominant buyer audience is the IT or ITeS sector, which is more familiar with the concept of technology-enabled homes and tends to command higher salaries and purchasing power. As such, smart home projects work best in and around IT-centric workforce catchments of larger cities.¨
In this context, Shresht Kashyap, Principal Architect, KNS Architects Pvt Ltd, recalls the talk about Bill Gates´ house, which at the time, seemed akin to science fiction. But similar technologies are easily available today. ¨Because of the progression in technology,¨ he says, ¨innovation has become reality and the cost is coming down, becoming more universal in a way.¨
But while ´universal´ is an architect´s take, a builder may see things differently. Nayan Raheja, Executive Director, Raheja Developers, believes smart homes to be more of a luxury quotient. ¨Software is too high in automation and the biggest challenge that Indian households face is that the housewife or servant who spends the maximum number of hours at home is not as technology-savvy,¨ he points out. ¨Hence, smart home automation has been a bit slow.¨
Still, all considered, Dinesh Dubey, Vice President, SD Corp, believes that the smart homes market is going to explode. ¨I see growth spanning from 30 per cent to 100 per cent year-on-year over the next decade,¨ he insists.
There´s certainly enough happening. Among its most recent innovations, Raheja Developers has cracked the code of voice recognition and integrated it with home automation systems - now, we have Talking Homes! ¨You can just talk to the house; there are sensors or micro devices being installed at the construction stage itself through the house that pick up your voice,¨ says Raheja. ¨These are actually the first steps of artificial intelligence and can be further upgraded considering future trends and buyer requirements.¨ This is a first-of-its-kind application that controls electrical appliances. Further, while the second level is actually connecting the Internet, the third application will involve e-commerce applied arts. Beyond this, too, there lies a world of possibility.
Shapoorji Pallonji offers real estate projects at all price points. And, as Dubey says, ¨We consider home automation at the entry level itself in the form of safety and security. We also use the BMS to control utility to all developments.¨ For instance, the company has a smart car parking system - you swipe before you leave the home and by the time you reach the ground floor, the car has arrived. It also offers retractable curtain solutions and lighting, AC control. Going forward, he believes, health and air quality will become a priority.
For his part, Raheja envisions a future with mandates to designing smart homes. ¨In the next five years, probably all smart home components may become a standard feature for middle and upper segment houses,¨ he says. ¨Although this is not a huge market in India, the country is fast growing and, hence, smart homes will eventually pick up.¨
Smart, and green
While home automation technology has been around for over a decade now, the need for ´green-technology savvy homes´ is being acutely felt. The imperative to cut costs for energy and electricity has paved the way for energy-efficient solutions, even in home automation. Green homes and smart homes are similar in terms of using natural resources to their most optimal. Hence, they go hand in hand.
To save electricity, LED lights have come into the picture and there are motion sensors to ascertain level of occupancy of a room and accordingly adjust the light. Timers too can be set for everything - from geysers to air-conditioners - to cut down that electricity bill. And in terms of water management, recycling will become a big thing. ¨Smart homes will lower electricity and water consumption and will actually benefit the green home revolution,¨ affirms Raheja.
Smart Ps: pricing and premium
The best part is that smart homes are gradually becoming economical. ¨Earlier, a three or four-BHK smart home would have cost you anywhere between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 20 lakh depending on the level of automation required,¨ says Raheja. ¨But with time, this has been getting cheaper.¨
Technology too has become more efficient and less problematic. As Kashyap says, ¨There was a time you had to route your wires from one end to another, which incurred double the cost. However, everything can now be controlled with a single wire.¨ That said, there is an incremental cost in smart homes, but it´s a small per cent compared to the returns one gets from smart features. ¨The initial cost is a bit higher but eventually you start saving money on your running cost, which is your recurring cost,¨ he adds.
With innovative technologies and the benefit of payback, are developers able to sell these smart homes on a premium? Raheja responds, ¨We have been providing it as an optional package for many, many years in all our properties. Apart from the tech-savvy and young target audience, the older age groups are not fond of technology and they are not willing to pay more.¨
What is undeniable is that smart homes, despite being a relatively new concept, are increasingly finding acceptance across the Indian socioeconomic spectrum in some form or the other. To be able to set the mood in your home by controlling lights, music, curtains and heating with the touch of a button is a foreseen reality. The need to regulate devices with ease and adapt to sophisticated technology is paving the way and bringing that reality closer to us by the day. Eventually, smart homes will no longer be a choice, but a norm.
Lutron Electronics Inc: Controlling lights and shades
Lutron offers wireless and easy-to-install light controls for new and existing smart homes. ¨The more objects get connected, the more functionality the smart home will possess,¨ says Manjul Trehan, India Head & Director Sales, Lutron Electronics Inc. He introduces the company´s offerings:
Anchor Electrical India: Smart on lighting and IAQ
Anchor, a member of Panasonic Corporation Eco Solutions, has introduced solar, lighting, electrical construction materials and indoor air quality (IAQ) related products and technologies to India from the parent company. ¨In 2014, we introduced the high-efficiency HIT solar PV modules of Panasonic to India and the response from the market has been heartening,¨ says Yoshiyuki Kato, Director-Lighting, Anchor Electrical India. He confirms that the IAQ-focused ventilation fans from Panasonic have also been well-received by the market. He shares more:
Legrand: Controlling life through a button
Technology has constantly helped upgrade Legrand India´s product offering by enlarging the scope of sensors and re-defining methods. ¨Also,¨ Sameer Saxena, Vice President-Marketing, Legrand India, says, ¨...the various international protocols developed (Zigbee, BAC Net Interface and SCS) have helped in smoother and seamless integration of systems and consolidation of the database.¨ He elaborates:
ACC Ltd: Adding value to concrete smart homes
ACC Ltd offers a wide range of value-added products (VAPs) to smart home owners that are not only sustainable and affordable but highly durable. Anil Banchhor, Chief Executive-Concrete Business, ACC Ltd, lists these for us:
Philips Lighting India: Personalising lighting with LED
Through connected LED lighting, Philips foresees a future where lighting innovations connect seamlessly with smart controls, networks, devices and apps to positively benefit and improve lives and drive new business value. ¨Consumers treat their homes as a retreat and like to be in control of the ambience that suits their moods, personalities and occasions,¨ says Sumit Joshi, Marketing Head, Philips Lighting India. He highlights some of the company´s popular smart home lighting solutions: