Create a new smart home, rescue home automation systems or get support to ensure smart home systems deliver the best experience.
+44 (0) 20 7193 9691hello@bakerstone.com
Create a new smart home, rescue home automation systems or get support to ensure smart home systems deliver the best experience.
+44 (0) 20 7193 9691hello@bakerstone.com

As more items inside and outside of the home become able to connect, the Internet of Things and the smart home have become two powerful and intermingled concepts in the world of the web. Here we take a look at what they mean, how they connect (literally and conceptually) and how they can work for you.

What is the Internet of Things?

Once upon a time, when sports people were tough and politicians were honest, the internet only connected computers to each other via. servers. There may have been the occasional printer or photocopier, but generally, it was PCs and work computers with monitors, keyboards, mice and such that surfed the web.

As more and more home and office tools and appliances gain computational and communicative abilities, they are connecting to the internet. From Alexa to your AC to your fridge, this new wave of web-ready devices forms the varied and expanding Internet of Things (IoT), which stands in contrast to the more droll traditional state of affairs. Today, entire kitchens of appliances or offices of utilities can connect to the web.

Not only that; they connect in multi-layered networks that may already help to run your home without your knowledge. Smart blinds and window controls can connect to heating and air conditioning systems to keep your home at the optimal temperature. All your kitchen appliances can form a network to help you cook, while all your Amazon tools can form another one. This allows them to do a wide range of things they could not before, while also posing some new challenges for homeowners and producers alike.

The Internet of Things and the smart home

Smart homes rely on the Internet of Things to function properly and achieve full automation. Almost every automated thing within a smart home will connect to the internet to fulfil its role properly. As such, the majority of smart home systems and items are considered to be part of the Internet of Things. Not everything that forms part of the Internet of Things is part of a smart home or home automation system though. In fact, many IoT items and systems reside in offices, on streets or even under the ground, helping our essential services such as water and electricity flow properly.

The benefits 

The Challenges

Creating your own network of things on the IoT

A lot of our readers probably already enjoy the benefits of appliances on the Internet of Things, whether they know it or not. If you use an Amazon Echo with Alexa or have an on-demand media service such as Netflix on your TV, you’re already connected to it, albeit still paddling in the shallow end. Things like web-ready fridges and car chargers will really have you living as part of the Internet of Things in years to come. 

Whatever your situation at the moment, carving out your own niche on the IoT is a must-do for anyone looking to enjoy an ultra-modern lifestyle. The first step on the road to doing this is getting your hands on a smart speaker, preferably with Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant compatibility. These are the three market-leading voice assistants with which you can control your own personal little network of things from bargain-basement-level smart homes to the kind of premium automated homesteads we specialise in. They are all widely compatible and user-friendly. If in doubt, go for Alexa or Google Assistant.

Avoiding obsolescence

There are two ways to avoid obsolescence in your web-ready appliances. One is to stick to large, reliable and well-established brands like Amazon, Google, Apple, Sonos or Lutron. However, this narrows down your choices considerably, especially for niche applications.

A more flexible and variable way to keep your ‘things’ on the internet is to hire a professional installer and integrator to look after them for you. This can take a huge weight off your mind as integrators let you enjoy all the advantages of the Internet of Things while they handle and avoid the drawbacks.

If this sounds like a promising option to you, book a chat with us to see how we can help you.

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A good house builder or housing developer follows the trends in home design and construction. A great builder or developer leads by predicting the trends before they happen. One such trend that will redefine the housing market more and more in 2024 and beyond is smart home integration.

What is smart home integration and why does it matter now?

In the early days of home automation, many smart devices fitted into homes as they stood. You could pop an Alexa on your kitchen counter and a smart vacuum dock under your dresser or sofa.  

Now, home automation increasingly demands homes that are either built or adapted to allow for it. As smart home devices are increasingly systemised and integrated, they require houses that are designed around them more and more. This could be compared to the early development of central heating or electrics where the first systems were always installed to fit around existing houses. Then after systems became more expansive and normalised, houses were increasingly developed and built with these systems installed.

Normalisation

Normalisation of systems and devices is another driving force behind smart home integration into housing design, just as it has been for many other integrations. Today, houses are routinely designed and built to contain fridges, cookers, washing machines, baths, and showers. Meanwhile, some premium homes allow for jacuzzis, hot tubs, and large-screen TVs. As we go into 2024 and the second half of the twenties, the same will begin to come true for smart devices and systems.

There were 375 million smart homes around the world at the end of 2023, and this is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 10.7% (CAGR 2024-2028) according to Statista. This is an impressive growth ratio, thanks in part to smart home technology breaking through across the board and being accepted by most people: This is illustrated by a recent survey by Compare the Market which showed that only 7.9% of respondents didn’t own any smart devices or want to invest in any. 

Beginning at the premium end

During the 19th century, expensive new electric devices were first installed in large new-build houses like Cragside in Northumberland because the owners could afford to install them. The same is true of modern premium homes old and new, which will be the first to benefit from adaptation to smart technology. Indeed, some already are. Housing developers at the premium end of the market have begun to work with smart home integrators and home automators like ourselves to provide their clients with the smart home technology they desire. As smart systems become cheaper and more widely available, we can expect more and more homes to be developed to accommodate the technology across the market, as they did with electricity over the past decades.

The big questions that remain are how is this change going to affect smart home development and what areas will be affected.

Areas affected

System Integration

Like so many things, early examples of smart home technology function simply on a stand-alone basis, often with easy installs. Alexas for example might be compared to early mass-market gas heaters, which could be plugged into a canister and turned on. Now though, home heating systems are commonly integrated with mains gas, electricity and water as well as devices such as thermostats, something which happens from construction in almost all new builds.

By the early 2020s, smart home systems had already moved toward some level of general integration, with smart audio-visual, security, energy and heating systems often linked to phones, virtual assistants and each other. Because of this, We’re beginning to see more sophisticated and integrated smart home control systems taking the place of more simple setups in some places.  Further down the line, Master Appraisal Services predicts that over half a billion homes worldwide will have at least one type of complete smart system installed by 2028. That’s 24% of all households around the world with a fully integrated smart system, such as smart heating, smart security, smart lighting or smart energy tracking.

A statistic like this illustrates how important it will be to build houses ready to incorporate smart home systems. New builds without these will require a significant proportion of buyers to make costly adaptations to their homes after purchase, which could be quite a repellent.

Device integration

The integration of individual smart devices into the home is likely to become more of an attraction in the coming years as well. For example, some homes already exist with cubby holes for smart vacuum docks. Perhaps less exotic is the tendency for many smart fridges to be of the wide American design, requiring more space in the average kitchen. In the same area, exciting new things are coming our way in smart hob technology: New electric hobs allow owners to allot different areas to different types of cooking, warming, and cooling with the touch of a button. Meanwhile, there are bespoke kitchen systems that track what is in the fridge and cupboards, providing a list of recipes that can be made, which are then transferred to a screen on the hob. Mass-produced, integrated versions of this system are already in development. Needless to say, it could be a huge draw to the many food lovers and family chefs out there.

Lighting – More imposing means more demanding

Smart lighting can achieve some amazing effects while allowing residents to switch between different scenes. This is particularly true at the premium end of the market. Just recently, Baker Stone worked with architects and landscapers to turn the garden of one Italian villa into a wonderland of illuminated flowers and trees. The lights used for this ranged from average-sized lanterns and spotlights to imposing structures the size of small trees. Many of these lights have smart lighting features such as colour, direction, and intensity changes, which go well beyond the basics to create different scenes.

Of course, large and striking smart lights like these require much more than a particular fitting and maybe some special wiring. For now, such lavishness is limited to very high-end construction projects, but more and more complex lighting designs will likely expand to the upper-mid and mid-market over the next five to ten years.

Wiring – Old news, new standards

Standards are a big part of any industry’s development, making products and services easier to work with. As we progress through the 2020s, increasingly prevalent standards in smart home integration like KNX and the new Matter standard are changing the home automation market for the better. These are gradually putting an end to awkward wiring and integration problems, as well as early obsolescence. The upshot is that experts from other industries, from housing developers to architects, will find it easier to adapt to and work with smart home technologies and experts. It will become much easier to design and develop buildings to accommodate smart home systems. Meanwhile, those within the industry will be able to achieve more in the same projects. And we can all be secure in the knowledge that our installations are safe and long-lived.

Heating and air conditioning

As we have already mentioned, central heating is one of the most integral systems in a building, often requiring gas and water piping, as well as multiple mains electricity connections. This makes replacing it with a smart equivalent after the fact expensive, which makes installing smart central heating systems in new build homes a great investment for housing developers and a draw for buyers.

The public recognises the benefits, too. A recent survey by Compare the Market found that smart thermostats and heating systems were the third most popular smart technology people wanted if they didn’t own them already, and the second most popular integrated smart system after smart security. While smart security can, and perhaps should, be added to houses after the fact, true smart heating systems require adaptation of the building or installation during construction.

We need to integrate together

Housing developers and smart home specialists need to integrate smart technology into new and old homes together.

There was a time not so long ago when a homeowner could plug the best of smart technology into their home and be happy that they were on the cutting edge. Now and in the future though, smart systems need to be integrated with each other and, more importantly, with the houses they occupy. As this becomes the case, housing designers, developers, and builders gain the opportunity to satisfy their customers and lead the market in a novel way, while adding value to the homes they build.

To learn more about how this could benefit your business and its projects, book a free design call with one of our senior specialists.