home auto

Interconnected homes

Today’s households have around 17 smart devices, with this only expected to increase. COVID’s impact means we can also expect more people will make their homes a base for their work and studies. But are our houses equipped to meet these connectivity demands?

Photos courtesy Argus Technologies

Author

Laura Valic

One thing the outbreak of COVID-19 has made clear: if we have to go into lockdown to prevent the spread of an infectious disease, then we will be spending an excessive amount of our time at home. Many of us in recent months have attempted to continue functioning as close to normal as possible, transferring our work and studies to the dining table, with fingers crossed our connectivity remained during a surge in video calls. As businesses and their employees adapted to new ways of doing things, the question was soon asked: is this going to be our new norm? 

For those in the business of designing and constructing houses, understanding how people will use their home is one of the fundamentals to get right; then it’s about translating that into functional spaces and amenities. A lot of this amenity will come from technological systems, and to support the systems that people are interested in acquiring – such as entertainment, electrical storage (batteries), energy management, intelligent lighting control, security (or even preventative security) – first and foremost it’s important to have the right wiring infrastructure.

‘Most homeowners are seeing the importance of having good Wi-Fi and a good network, especially during COVID when people have been working from home a lot more,’ says Robert Urpis, general manager of Argus Technologies in Victoria. ‘The first thing we tell clients is they need a solid backbone; that is, the network is fundamental to any system that we put into their home. If we don’t have excellent Wi-Fi and data cabling infrastructure, the experience is lost for any of the automation features they may choose.’ 

 
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Brenton Morris, company director of Intelligent Home in Perth, seconds this and says to ensure good connectivity you need to cable between a home’s main areas. ‘A house isn’t meant to be completely wireless,’ he says. ‘If anything requires a lot of bandwidth, such as computing equipment, audio systems or TVs with gaming and movie streaming, then you need to run cables.’

Data from 2018 showed the average four-person household has around 17 smart devices operating at any one time, which is predicted to jump to around 37 devices by 2023. This will include anything from iPads or smart hubs, such as Google Home, to smart appliances.

Brenton says for high performance Wi-Fi connectivity, homeowners should have at least one good quality Wi-Fi access point because many ISP modems aren’t strong enough. They can also opt for UniFi Wi-Fi which runs devices on cable for fast and robust coverage. 

‘What a lot of people don’t realise is that some wireless extenders can drop your signal by half,’ he adds. ‘But if you run a cable out to the back of the house and put on UniFi, you still have 100 per cent wireless network capability with normal speed.’

Consumers are currently interested in getting their house structurally ready for NBN, networking, and connecting the popular wall-mounted TVs. ‘Then it’s typically security, such as CCTV, with the third most popular option for spend being entertainment,’ Brenton says.

 
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Data shows the average four-person household has around 17 smart devices operating at one time

With changing automation possibilities on the market, grasping what’s required for wiring a home that also has the future in mind can be a complicated task for homeowners. Even answering a simple question ‘what functionality do you want to achieve?’ is anything but. 

Helpful guides developed by industry can assist builders and clients alike in understanding smart automation requirements. The Home Wiring Essentials is made up of three useful booklets for wiring new homes and are free resources for builders to effectively discuss the options with their clients early on in the home building process, including the minimum wiring infrastructure required that will deliver on their lifestyle expectations for their new home or renovation. 

The idea is to plan early, and plan well. 

Developed in accordance with relevant Australian Standards, the Codes of Practice and Installer Handbook are designed to provide the latest information and compliance for those who install cabling, giving comprehensive details about the crucial five steps for a job: planning, quotation, installation, testing and user documentation. The Quick Guide for Consumers gives builders and homeowners an overview of the types of technology for today’s homes, as well as an idea of the basic cabling and wiring to support it.

 
home auto Photo courtesy Argus Technologies

The Home Wiring Essentials guides are a must-read for builders and homeowners before starting a home automation journey, and will give an entry point to a cabling platform based on a client’s functional requests. ‘Navigating the world of technology can be daunting and these booklets assist the homeowner and builder by outlining a step by step method to achieve the desired level of home technology infrastructure,’ Brenton says.

With the resources in mind and in hand, builders and their clients can turn to specialists such as Argus Technologies and Intelligent Home to provide end-to-end solutions, including guidance on product selections, plan mark-ups, documentation, fit off and post-installation support. They can browse showrooms for demonstrations and come away with a full infrastructure solution that is easily added into their home building contract.

‘We don’t expect builders to be tech savvy, but [it would be difficult for them to know] what’s the correct functionality for a client,’ Robert says. ‘Argus Technologies tries to simplify the process and has won awards for smart home integration, so our in-house experience and expertise can guarantee outstanding results.’

Robert adds that choosing specialists to cable your projects may also see an increase in your profit margin: ‘If a builder has 200 builds per year we can quickly map what their projections are going to be in terms of earnings if we take the customer on the journey for electrical, technology, heating and cooling, solar PV and batteries and solar hot water, end to end. You don’t need to partner with a number of other integrators, we’ll handle everything and increase your profit with no risk’. 

 

Helpful guides developed by industry can assist builders and clients alike in understanding smart automation requirements

 

Staying updated enough to be able to guide potential clients through the conversation is also an ongoing challenge for those in a home sales role. Through partnerships with builders in Western Australia Intelligent Home provides educational sessions on the latest information and product offering for smart homes, which Brenton says has been well received. 

‘Rather than trying to educate their staff on constantly evolving technology, builders can rely on us to educate them so they can talk to their clients about various options.’ 

Brenton says that despite the downturn of building activity in Western Australia, Intelligent Home completed more than 3000 homes in 2019 – most of them new builds but also a mix of renovations and upgrades – showing demand for home automation remains strong. So, if the past few months has drawn attention to the changing functions of our homes then ensuring future building work incorporates the minimum wiring infrastructure will go a long way in smoothing our transition toward this brave new connected world. We’re going to need it.

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To download the free Home Wiring Essentials guides, go to www.hia.com.au/Publications/Guides-and-Manuals.


This article was compiled with contributions from the International Copper Association Australia

To download the free Home Wiring Essentials guides, go to www.hia.com.au/Publications/Guides-and-Manuals.

 

This article was compiled with contributions from the International Copper Association Australia

 

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