Craig Gemmill

Ahead of the pack

Smart home technology is giving this HIA member an edge in a competitive housing market.

Author

Phillip O’Brien

Recent HIA research has revealed that the Australia-wide decline in home building approvals over the past year has been caused by a number of factors, including a tightening of bank lending, rising borrowing costs and a slowdown in immigration. 

In Western Australia in particular, these factors have been compounded by the end of the mining boom. Builders in that state face the challenge of looking for new ways to differentiate themselves in a tight housing market.

Long-term HIA member Craig Gemmill, managing director of Perth-based Gemmill Homes, knows this only too well. ‘The economy in Western Australia has been hit hard,’ he says. ‘Building approvals are at their lowest level for 18 years. For a while, we have been searching for something extra to give us an edge.’

That certain ‘something’ has been a partnership with another Perth-based company, iZone, to install smart technology into Gemmill Homes’ residential building projects. 

‘The iZone app allows everything from airconditioning, lighting and reticulation to power, entertainment and security to be controlled from your smart phone or tablet, using wi-fi or 4G,’ Craig says.

The initiative caters to the growing numbers of consumers demanding innovative and integrated technology in their newly built homes.

We have been searching for something extra to give us an edge.

iZone smart technology
‘The iZone System is easy to use and incredibly efficient’

The partnership with iZone came about when Craig approached long-term HIA member, Andrew Sharp from Hearth Cooling and Heating, about the latest heating, ventilation and airconditioning technology. Andrew had worked with the directors of iZone and was able to arrange a factory tour. 

‘Some of the smart technologies were still in the development stage,’ Craig says, ‘but we saw the potential of iZone and realised it was exactly what we were looking for.’

Craig’s strong attention to customer needs began early in his career in the hospitality industry where he worked for several hotel chains. He later studied law while working in sales for a land developer and builder in Canberra. But he was also interested in developments elsewhere in Australia.

‘The Western Australian economy had a downturn in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s after which I saw the growth potential in the state and moved there in 1994,’ Craig says. He launched Gemmill Homes in Perth a decade later, with the goal of becoming one of the state’s premium builders. Such ambition, Craig knows, also generates an expectation to offer the best products.

‘We are proud at Gemmill Homes to offer this new technology as an option to our customers,’ he says. ‘The iZone system is easy to use and incredibly efficient. It allows you to manage your energy use, so [our customers] will save money on [their] electricity bills, while also helping the environment in the process.’

Craig says that iZone is a company with a particular appreciation for Australia’s climate and this is reflected in the product’s energy-savings technology. It’s also highly adaptive.

‘iZone software works with all appliances and, unlike other smart technology, can be integrated with other brands,’ he says. ‘It is also designed to be added to in the future, as householders’ requirements evolve.’

Craig explains some of the uses of iZone technology in a typical household’s day: ‘In the morning, users can adjust temperature, airconditioning and lighting from the moment they wake up – both from the controls on the wall and on their smart phones,’ he says.

‘The iZone technology allows users to control the temperature of each room in the house. If a room is unoccupied it will then automatically adjust the temperature or switch off the airconditioning to that room. And, if children leave the lights on, it will automatically switch them off.’

The system can also be scheduled to come on at any time of the day and to switch off automatically. ‘You don’t have to have the airconditioner running all day,’ Craig says. ‘You can signal it to come on before you arrive home, thereby avoiding the massive surge in power that happens when everyone turns their airconditioners on at the same time.’

In the garden, the iZone reticulation ‘soak and cycle system’ can schedule the watering of plants for fifteen minutes, breaking this cycle into three blocks of five minutes and, in doing so, saving costly water run-off.

As technology develops it always becomes cheaper. I see this technology becoming standard in the future.

Additional benefits for when householders are not home are being looked into. For example, camera technology at the front door is currently in the research and development phase: ‘If someone rings your doorbell when you are out then a camera will send an image to your smartphone to tell you this,’ Craig says. ‘You can have a look and, if it’s a delivery driver, you can open the garage door, they can drop the package in and you can close the door.’

He adds that if a homeowner has left for the day and wonders if they have left the iron on, then they ‘can easily check’.

‘And, if you are on holidays, you can push one button and the lights will come on in the house at night as a security feature. Or you can even set a schedule so that you don’t have to do anything at all. The iZone system will do all the work, all from a touch screen on a smart device from anywhere in the world.’

While the iZone system involves an initial outlay by homeowners, Craig says that it is becoming more affordable and can easily be supplemented later.

‘It is similar to what has happened with the cost of solar panels. As technology develops it always becomes cheaper. I see this technology becoming standard in the future,’ he says.

‘It is a great home investment for the future and extremely practical, given our increasing dependence on smart technology in our everyday lives. Right now, the iZone technology is a must- have for anyone looking at designing their new home. In fact, it is an opportunity for them to future-proof their home.’

And, for Gemmill Homes, the partnership with iZone is an opportunity not only to offer a cutting-edge technology to its customers but to secure the company’s future in a competitive and uncertain housing market.

www.gemmil.com.au

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