Smart homes, the Internet of Things, and contactless technology have become an indelible part of the architecture and interior design industries, with automated lighting, smart HVAC units, and speakers like Alexa or Google Home becoming a principal part of the modern upper middle class home. As new devices and competing systems are continually released, we list some of the most popular home technologies developed by Lutron, alongside tips for how to integrate and choose among them.
As is demonstrated by its increasing integration into our daily lives, the smart home industry has grown steadily since its conception, a rate that is only expected to increase as some of the world’s largest technology companies develop their own smart home products. According to Berg Insight, for example, in 2018, the installed base of North American smart home systems increased by 49.7 percent to reach 135.4 million by the year’s end. Between 2018 and 2023, the market was expected to grow further at a compound annual growth rate of 17.3%, reaching $49.5 billion in yearly revenues by the end of the forecasted period.
Yet as the industry grows and devices proliferate, the complexities of organizing an integrated, cohesive smart home system begin to reveal themselves. Many potential users take issue with the industry for its fragmentation, with competing products implementing different communication protocols that complicate their combined use. Similarly, many voice concerns about reliability, obtuse interfaces, and high cost barriers, while others doubt the technology’s ability to improve their quality of life altogether. While resolving these issues is largely the industry’s imperative, buyers have the means to choose and combine products that best suit their own needs. The tips below are intended to aid in this effort.
Market research reveals that smart lighting, thermostats, and security are among the most sought after home devices for homeowners. Each type of device requires different considerations to ensure they fulfill the homeowner’s needs precisely.
Currently, this product is the most sought-after smart home system. It is beneficial for a multitude of reasons, including convenience, aesthetics, safety, and energy-saving. The convenience of controlling the lights from a single device like a smartphone is self-explanatory. But the aesthetic benefit of eliminating light switches or the security option of integrating lighting with alarms and other security systems are less obvious advantages. To these ends, there exist three different categories of smart lighting systems: centralized, local, and hybrid.
Centralized lighting replaces cluttered groups of dimmers and switches with single keypads that are then connected to a central panel through communication cabling. This option works best with new projects and major renovations due to specific wiring demands. Because they are fully planned, centralized smart lighting systems are highly effective at creating a cohesive aesthetic that spans the entire house, while simultaneously limiting the number of switches or dimmers visible on the walls. With a single keypad, homeowners can control the lights anywhere in the home. Additionally, there is great flexibility with the central control panel placement due to the use of cabling rather than wireless radio frequency communication. Finally, there are typically more design options for centralized lighting systems. Their biggest downside is therefore the necessity of incorporating them at the earliest stages of the design process.
Local systems, in contrast, continue to use traditional switches and dimmers, which are simply integrated into the system and alterable with local keypads placed around the house. These systems use wireless radio frequency communication rather than communicating over wire. Additionally, they use existing wiring for power, making them suitable for smaller renovations as well as new constructions. They can also be easily modified or expanded after initial implementation: homeowners hoping to add additional devices can simply replace existing switches or dimmers and program them for the system. Differing from centralized systems, local smart lighting requires more wall space, and control devices have little flexibility in placement due to the requirements of wireless communication. Those choosing between these two options should keep these issues – aesthetics, placement, and project type – in mind.
Finally, hybrid systems combine aspects of both options, using dimmers and switches or keypads where they are most suitable. Rooms using only keypads must wire these devices to a central control panel, like in the centralized system. However, unlike centralized systems, hybrid lighting is comparatively flexible and allows additional wireless devices to be added after construction. Nonetheless, all devices that use radio frequency communication are subject to the same limitations as in localized systems.
While the control of artificial lighting is obviously essential, natural lighting must be taken into account as well. Smart blinds are similarly convenient and potentially aesthetic, but they may also solve more concrete problems such as inaccessible or difficult-to-access windows. In the typical residence, 45% to 75% of curtains are simply never moved in part due to these issues. Automated blinds resolve this problem by allowing blinds to open or close simply with the push of a button.
Moreover, because the blinds are linked to a system, homeowners can schedule movement, automatically opening the blinds in the morning and closing them at night. If watching a movie, they can close the blinds without even leaving their seat. There are also a number of different designs available, allowing these devices to match the aesthetic of almost any home. Designers and homeowners can choose to integrate this technology if they have hard-to-reach windows or simply if they are drawn to the added convenience.
Room temperature control, or HVAC, is another aspect of home technology that smart devices can transform for convenience and to save energy. Smart thermostats can learn preferences and automatically regulate temperature based on the homeowner’s location in or out of the house. Those who are concerned about conserving energy or who have specific temperature demands should definitely consider investing in a smart thermostat. For added convenience, like many other automated products, these can be triggered by smart speakers.
One of the best ways to unify different smart home systems is by integrating them through a smart speaker. This device can singlehandedly remedy issues of fragmented communication protocols or obtuse user interfaces. With the speaker app, homeowners can usually log into each of their smart home accounts, automatically making them accessible through voice commands. Thus, simply by listing demands, users can adjust the lights, open the blinds, and change the temperature within seconds without moving. Even if different manufacturers create each smart system, they are all easily alterable using similar commands. In the case of Lutron, its technologies are compatible with all currently available voice systems.
Users can also program certain statements to effect several changes through different systems: for example, with a simple “I’m leaving!” the smart speaker can initiate the lights turning off, the thermostat shifting to absence mode, and the door locking.
Of course, smart speakers have value even when unlinked to other smart home systems: they can give the time, the weather, play music, or read the news in response to a simple voice prompt. Because voice commands are so natural, they have gained popularity around the world, with 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. currently in possession of one. Just like home automation in general, these numbers are only expected to increase.