How hard is your home currently working for you? Would you consider it technologically advanced? The latest smart home technologies available can help make your life easier, from automatically starting your dishwasher, to even helping detect physical or mental health issues.
A recent report on smart home automation from Swedish research group Berg Insight says: “The number of European households to adopt smart home systems is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.3% during the next five years, resulting in 83.2 million smart homes by 2023.”
The more automated your home and farm are, the more energy efficient they will be. There are savings in monthly utilities to be had, but also health and security benefits.
Internet of things
The current automation we see – and the bulk of automation we will see in the future – is thanks to something called the Internet of Things (IoT, for short). IoT describes objects – everyday objects, like toasters and lightbulbs – which are embedded with sensors, software and technology which enable them to “work with” other devices over the internet. For example, a smoke detector might send a message to your phone when it requires a battery change.
Architect and popular television personality Dermot Bannon says he can’t remember the last time he had to touch his thermostat – smart home automation is simply the way of the future.
“Things are becoming more automated as new technologies become available,” he says. “When you think about the basics, heating [for example] is now largely controlled in a smart way. I have smart home heating in my own house. For the first three months, it purposely annoyed us by making it too hot or cold, and we would reset it. It learned about our preferred temperatures from our pattern.”
He also says that, as new builds and renovated homes become more sustainable and energy efficient, our biggest utility in the future is likely to be broadband internet.
“As things move forward, most appliances (dishwashers, lighting) will be linked back to your phone. Some of these things might not sound very technologically advanced, but if you think back 10 or 15 years – who’d have thought all of this would be linked to your phone?”
Justin McInerney is chief executive of Smartzone in Co Cork. He says automation is becoming popular in rural areas for a variety of reasons, but security is one of the most important, especially among the agricultural community.
“Outbuildings, farm machinery – today, farmers require CCTV integration and video cameras on site; all linked into one app,” he says. “It’s an easier way for them to control their security needs.”
Smartzone uses an advanced GPS-focused, movement-monitored system which is then connected to their clients’ smartphones. The smart technology learns the normal behaviours of the home’s residents, so if something out of the ordinary occurs – for example, if a window is opened which normally isn’t touched – clients receive a message letting them know this has happened (installation costs start at €99, followed by a monthly payment of €29.99).
Peace of mind
Humans are creatures of habit, and when these habits are monitored, smart home automation can tell when something is off. This is good for security reasons, but can also provide peace of mind for vulnerable individuals who wish to live independently.
“We do a lot of work with families affected by dementia,” Justin says. “A huge part of our business is in wellness; automation helps people live independently while maintaining contact with family members. Our Wellness Cam has a two-way voice command as well as a call button; enabling family members to check in with a loved one through the device. It’s not for everyone – some people hate it; some love it, but since COVID, it has increased in popularity with people not being able to visit.”
Water sensors can let you know if you have a leak before it would otherwise be discovered and provide up to 30% in energy savings. Smart water valves are also increasing in popularity among home owners because you can track kettles going on, toilets being flushed and, on-farm, this type of automation can help control animal feed and water distribution.
“Water is very telling, regarding people’s movements,” Justin says. “If a toilet is being flushed more often by an elderly family member, it could indicate a potential health issue. If the kettle hasn’t been turned on yet that morning, it could indicate a fall. Everyone has a pattern.”
Being “monitored” by your home might sound creepy, but it provides peace of mind to many. Imagine a home which preemptively understands what you need – before you even realise you need it! Experts say within the next few decades, your home will even be able to tell when you’re coming down with a cold by identifying the change in air particles.
By combining smart home automation with the modern airtightness, air exchange and filtration systems we now see in new builds and renovations, the way we live in the not-too-distant future might not only be easier, but much better for our physical health.
If you’re looking to spruce up your home but aren’t sure where to begin, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), in partnership with Simon Communities of Ireland, have launched their annual RIAI Simon Open Door initiative. For a donation of €95, you can get an hour-long consultation with a registered architect (all meetings this year are virtual). Bookings are now open and consultations will be taking place between the 4 and 14 May 2021.
Dermot Bannon has been involved in the initiative since it began 17 years ago and says he is proud of what they’ve accomplished over the years.
“I’ve been heavily involved as spokesperson for the last ten years, and I do the consultations,” he explains. “Everyone knows charities are struggling at the moment, and people are struggling themselves. One of those areas is their home - they’re saying, ‘I’d kill to knock down that wall or build a home office’, and sometimes you need that consultation.
“All of the money – every last cent – goes to the Simon Communities,” he continues. “It’s a big chance for people in rural Ireland to find out who their local architect is – it gives you a map or Ireland, you go to your locality and you can see where your nearest architect to you is.”