Effortless style is a cliché that gets bandied around a lot, but smart lighting systems really deserve that moniker. They add a whole new facet of style to your home that you don’t have to think about. They’re incredibly convenient, too.
A well-designed smart lighting system can be a dazzling and delightful thing, as well as a useful and entertaining one. It can give you many choices for on-demand mood lighting and scene creation while keeping control simple.
Practically, smart lighting systems vary from traditional lights in two ways:
At Baker Stone, we normally talk about full smart lighting systems, often integrated with a variety of other smart systems. The overall outcome is that your house’s lighting can provide you with many different, attractive and functional lighting options. The same living room can appear bright and clear for working, cosy and warm in the evening and dimmed with only guide lights for cinema night, as well as having many more settings. You can even switch to a disco scene if you’re throwing a party or toggle between spotlights and floodlights with just a word.
All of this functionality can be added without sacrificing any simplicity. Smart lighting systems still generally include toggle or dimmer switches on your wall for easy control, and the more in-depth options are activated with just a few obvious words.
For the style-conscious and house-proud, having several different looks for one room is an important benefit that usually takes a bit of fuss. It used to mean moving furniture around or switching wall hangings. But with smart lighting, it’s possible to have a huge range of varying looks in the same place with little-to-no effort. Different colours can accent an area, automatic dimming can draw the eye and set the focus and warm and cool or bright and dim lighting can create a mood. As mentioned above, projections can add a whole new array of spectacular effects to your smart lighting system.
These options can bring out the best in your home, change your own mood for the better, impress guests or simply make your housework better for you. What is more, all of your scenes, moods and settings can be accessed at a word or push of a button.
This is where smart home managers like us really come into our own. As well as physically installing your smart lights and smart lighting control systems, we set up and program your lighting to create the scenes and moods you want in your home.
In our case, it starts with a relaxed conversation about you and your home. We cover how you use the space, how you enjoy the style of your house, what you do with your lights currently and what you would like to do with them. We look at what scenes might work well for you. Then when the installation is complete, we set up the different scenes and take you through how they can be accessed, usually by a quick word, a simple phone app or possibly a specialised switch.
Do any of you Harry Potter fans remember the roof of the Great Hall, which was … “bewitched to look like the sky outside”?
Surely such a thing could only be achieved by magic?
Back in 1997, when the first Harry Potter book was published, that may have been the case. Today though, with the help of smart lighting systems, cameras and projectors, you too can have the sky at night on the roof of your dining room, or even above your bed.
So, you, like Harry, Ron, Hermione et. al, can see the ceiling “with lightning blasting across it” during thunderstorms, “lit with glorious red-gold” at sunrise and “velvety black … dotted with stars” on clear nights. Although in some places in grey old England, you may be better off going for a pre-recorded projection, as this astrological Instagrammer has.
Artificial intelligence is writing a whole new chapter for smart lighting systems. One major benefit of AI is that smart light systems, like all smart systems, can understand and interpret an ever-wider range of vocal commands. Ultimately, this means that users can control lights more naturally than ever before, without needing a manual or any in-depth training. Guests who have never used smart lights before can now come along and say, ‘I fancy some warm and cosy lighting’ or ‘Please turn the living room pink’. Then, an artificially intelligent control system can interpret and understand what they want, no matter their specific words or accent.
In the past, particular command words were required to enable one scene or another. If you didn’t know this word and have the right accent, you couldn’t access the scene. Now, and increasingly in future, this doesn’t matter. Smart lights will be easily accessible to all, as well as more intuitive.
There are two distinct levels to smart lighting.
First, there are the individual smart bulbs and smart light fittings, which can link up to an app on your phone or a virtual assistant for control. These can provide a good taster of smart lighting, allowing you to switch them on and off, and control their colour individually. They are only a partial taster though.
For the full experience, you will want to install or commission a complete smart lighting system run via the leading industry standard, involving professionals who can set up functionality and scenes at your request. This will give you a system that works with your house, includes a good range of stunning, complimentary scenes and enables you to control it easily.
Your smart lights will still work just fine if you lose connection to the internet. You will still be able to access the full functionality of our smart light systems, and most other modern smart light offerings when you are offline. The only exception is if you try to control them away from home or your local network.
Smart lighting systems add style, convenience and security to your home and your life.
Learn more on our Lighting Systems product page.
Smart lighting systems are things of incredible beauty and convenience. They allow you to create stunning scenes reminiscent of a Hollywood movie or change the style of your home at will. Careful installation and management mean that even the more complex systems can be controlled with surprising simplicity by the homeowner. What’s more, advances in artificial intelligence have made control more intuitive than ever. So you, your family and your guests can access all the style, convenience and security more easily than ever. To find out how, book a design call with Baker Stone.
Some service providers can support us without knowing us. Meanwhile, others need to be intimately familiar with our likes, dislikes, and personality. A personal trainer needs to be familiar with our motivations, how we see ourselves, and what our life goals are. Meanwhile, a home help needs to know personal things like how their client likes to spend their free time and how they keep their home. A Smart Home Manager is very similar to these service providers.
Meanwhile, many other services don’t require such personal or social familiarity. I see my local shopkeeper many times a week, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about them, nor they about me. Similarly, a consultant doctor can change their patient’s life with barely any personal knowledge or social exchange.
I mentioned a home help in the first paragraph. That's because a smart home is a lot like one of these professionals, as well as a personal assistant and a butler rolled into one. As such, a smart home manager is a lot like a personal service manager in charge of all these professionals. Like these people, your house’s systems need to know how you spend your personal time and how you keep your home. They also need an idea of your schedule, your likes, and the little quirks of your character that affect your personal choices.
These are all very personal, subjective, nuanced, and emotional things. A smart home’s systems are excellent at learning the data behind these things – If you always turn your lights to a warm orange at around sunset, there are systems that will learn this quirk of your preferences and do it for you. However, smart machines are still a long way from being able to interpret your character traits, make inductive decisions about your quirks, or engage with you to learn how you spend your time.
“One of the things that we’re good at is that we develop relationships with clients where they trust us and let us get on with what they need in their properties”
Andy Baker – Founder of Baker Stone
In other words - Your smart home, intelligent as it may be, can’t build a human relationship with you. For that, you need a good Smart Home Manager.
Despite what you might have heard about Open AI, Smart GPT, or anything else, it is a long time before smart homes will be able to take on this essential role. We here at Baker Stone are satisfied that we won’t be replaced by machines any time soon.
When choosing a smart home manager, most people go for someone who has experience and subject knowledge. These are both important characteristics to look out for (and ones in which Baker Stone excels). However, many professionals in our field can offer these things. There is another characteristic we believe will sort your ideal candidate from the rest: It’s important to go for someone you think you will be able to confide in and trust in a professional and personal way. Someone you feel you can work with and rely on easily and intuitively.
A smart home manager will keep their relationship with you professional. However, they can do their job best when you feel able to disclose personal information to them like the environment you like to sleep in or who you trust around your children.
We mentioned a butler in the third paragraph of this blog. This may seem like an archaic reference, but a smart home manager is like a butler in many ways:
The modern-day equivalent of a butler is probably a house manager, although this professional role is usually more pragmatic and less executive with less delegation. We Smart Home Managers tend to delegate to the smart home systems and tools, rather than the servants.
When you look for a smart home manager, look for some of the characteristics you might look for in a butler. Trustworthiness, empathy, intuition, and (not to be undervalued) someone you can get along well with.
First of all, an important part of the smart home manager’s job is to guide you and fit around you, so working with them should be easy. That said, there are some strategies that can help you get more out of them.
Essentially, you will meet with them and interact with them occasionally to outline your home life and that of your family. Their job is to audit your home environment and smart tech in terms of how well it meets your needs and to decide how this ability can be maintained at a high level and improved. The more they know about what your home environment does to make you happy, what you like about it, what you think could be improved, and what you would like to change, the better they can do their job.
Don’t be afraid to open up to them to assist with this. let them know your little niggles about your home and the quirks of your home life. In this way, they can figure out how to really help you.
One trouble clients often have is they may bump into a problem we could solve or a strong point we could take advantage of, notice it temporarily, and then go on with their day, thinking of more important things. By the time they get to the meeting, that thing is forgotten. To avoid this, make a point of remembering these things. Try taking regular voice notes and perhaps have a quick chat about the problems, needs, and sources of happiness your home environment presents you with. Kids are great at noticing and processing things our busy minds skim over, so be sure to ask their opinion.
You will benefit from having a smart home manager you can trust and build a close, professional relationship with. When you are looking to engage someone in this role, look for someone you can get along well with. Also, be on the lookout for empathy, trustworthiness, intuition, and depth of knowledge. From the point when you take them on, be open with them. Where possible, take note of the important issues from day to day to bring to their attention.
Are you wondering if you might get along with Andy Baker, George Stone or one of our other smart home management experts? Book a meeting to find out.
There’s a saying in the tech industry that says ‘The flaw in most computer systems is the big, fleshy lump of meat sat in front of them.’
To put this in security system terms, how many times have you watched a Hollywood crime thriller where the criminal sneaks past the security desk or CCTV cameras while the guard on duty is asleep.
Home security system flaws are just as likely to be human errors as their Hollywood counterparts. Here though, it’s more likely to be lack of reaction to an alarm or the simple fact that people can’t monitor security systems all the time – By the time someone reviews the CCTV recording and identifies the individual in it, they are long gone and unlikely to be found again.
Unlike us lazy humans, smart home security systems can monitor themselves all the time.
In the instance of the ignored alarm, smart systems can assess threats and intelligently differentiate between an intruder, a pet, and a postman (for example). This allows them to reliably prioritise alerts and only sound smart alarms when essential, which means more attention gets paid to them. What’s more, rather than blaring out to the local neighbourhood, modern smart security systems can intelligently alert the people who will care and can act. If you’re on holiday for example, they can alert a family member to review the CCTV recording and contact the police. On which note …
In smart CCTV systems, the self-monitoring characteristic of smart security systems allows them to really come into their own. A smart camera system can differentiate between a human and an animal, and even recognise the humans that should be in a particular area, as well as those that shouldn’t. Some smart security cameras can zoom in on perceived threats to make identification easier, cutting down on the all-too-frequent incidence of intruders being caught on camera, but still unidentifiable.
“People often represent the weakest link in the security chain and are chronically responsible for the failure of security systems.”
Bruce Schneier, security professional and lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School
With the correct setup and programming by an expert, these security systems can even identify and prioritise a threat. Smart surveillance systems monitor the behaviour of individuals seen on camera or on other sensors, highlight any questionable behaviour and send the relevant recording to owners or managers for review. This allows the system, together with operators, to pick and execute the correct response quickly. As well as alerting the right people rapidly and cutting down on false alarms, modern smart surveillance systems can coordinate with other smart systems, such as access control systems to actively respond to threats as they are developing.
For example, if a smart surveillance system detects that someone is breaking into a particular room, it can lock internal doors leading out of the room and lower smart security shutters. This can all be done in addition to sounding the alarm and letting chosen individuals know via their mobiles.
Many people worry about the potential of smart security systems to endanger individual privacy. This is completely understandable – Our privacy and that of our families are our greatest assets, and there are many stories on the news of compromises from China to Chester. This is why Baker Stone works with providers who respect individual privacy using methods that preserve the same. In fact, because premium smart security systems can control what information is accessed by whom at multiple different points, they can be more private than traditional systems. This is particularly true when they are installed by skilled experts. That said, there are situations where smart security systems can pose unavoidable privacy problems.
Of course, one of the biggest worries is always the unknown. That’s why we like to start with a conversation to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of smart security systems and choose one that you are comfortable with or not, if you prefer. Click on this link to book a meeting for a frank and honest discussion with one of our experts
The ultimate advantage of a smart security system is the peace of mind gained from the knowledge that your home is secure. To guarantee this, we select and commission only the finest systems and keep astride of developing smart security technology to ensure that your home and family are secure and satisfied. From initial meeting to installation to management, we maintain an open and honest relationship with our clients to let them know exactly how their security is being maintained.
Book a meeting using the link below to start ensuring your security with us today on the link below.
Smart home technologies are becoming ever more popular and widespread in the eyes of consumers, but what is it that attracts people to invest in these technologies?
Smart tech media was awash this summer with stories of a Star Wars superfan selling a $15 million mansion including a Millennium Falcon home cinema. The flickering buttons and burnished metal conjure up a sci-fi fan’s idealised vision of the future, or possibly of a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Ask most people over the age of 18 whether this is what they dream of when they look to futuristic smart tech though, and you’ll likely get a stony-faced negative in reply.
Generally, people want the exact opposite for their smart homes. Tech needs to be hidden and seamless with panels of controls kept small and simple and rooms kept looking as they did pre-smartening. It turns out that, far from all the bleeps and flashes of sci-fi futurism, people want their homes to function better without much visible tech. We’ve even hidden televisions behind mirrors to retain a certain je ne sais quoi. Simplicity, it turns out, is the ultimate sophistication.
Buyers fall in love with smart homes because of the experience the various functions come together to create. Smart lighting isn’t just about automatic colour changes and dimming on command. It’s the key to creating the perfect mood for a family night, dinner party or film marathon. Even the Millennium Falcon cinema is really about the experience. Find out more about the importance of experience in our blog on the subject.
While everyone automates for slightly different reasons, there are five big reasons most consumers buy a smart home.
Smart homes can make your life easy. They can automate difficult tasks, time things you might forget and intelligently learn your lifestyle to smooth out the rough parts. This is a big plus-point for stressed-out professionals and busy families, and it could be a big motivator for older people with limited mobility in the future.
You can do things you weren’t able to before. For some, this might mean turning on Return of the Jedi in your Star Wars cinema, answering the door from a different country or perfecting the maintenance of a big garden. For other older people though, it may mean living independently for longer, which is a huge boon.
For smart home tech, security has turned from a weakness to a strength in recent years. Smart CCTV, burglar alarms, doorbells and access control systems are quickly becoming must-haves for the security conscious. For many consumers, these systems are an entry point into the wider world of smart automation.
Another area where smart tech has come to the fore. As energy prices have spiralled and global climate change has become a serious issue, the ability of smart tech to offer substantial energy savings has become a big pull.
There’s that word again. As mentioned above, people want exciting new experiences and the key to selling smart home tech is to let people experience it in action. Not always an easy task, but an effective one.
For businesses and salespeople, it’s worth hitting on one or more of the above points during the sale, depending on the buyer. Busy professionals and the elderly tend to value ease of use and empowerment, while savvy young families appreciate energy savings and security. It’s also worth figuring out how you can best let prospective customers truly experience the smart home, too.
Smart homes used to be exclusive investments for the rich. However, a recent survey by Statista found that the proportion of smart home tech users on low income was almost as large as the high-income segment:
There is still a way to go before smart homes are truly diversified across the market; there are many times more mid-income consumers than high-income ones, but things are changing.
Mid- and low-income consumers are more likely to buy off-the-shelf, DIY and piecemeal smart home solutions, rather than having one designed. These offerings have in the past been notoriously buggy and difficult to synchronise and keep working, but all this is set to change…
Earlier in 2022, a new industry protocol called Matter was introduced to standardise smart home device communication and interaction. In short, all differently branded devices will ‘speak the same language’ and will be able to communicate easily at a basic level. This means no more updates stopping your lights from talking to your control hub and much less awkward tinkering to make systems with differently branded devices work together. It was agreed on by 200 of the industry’s biggest players, including Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung, and it is forecasted to kick off a revolution in mainstream smart home technology.
In the past, complete smart homes have been the exclusive domains of hobbyists and the wealthy. If you didn’t have the money to get a bespoke smart home set up and managed for you, or the tinkering time to handle the buggy value-priced tech yourself, you didn’t get a smart home. Now, home automation is set to become an easy-access option for the masses with the introduction of Matter, along with widespread 5G and optical internet to the premises.
That means huge increases in demand and opportunities for new supply in the middle market over the coming years. It also indicates that large-scale new home developments with smart capabilities may become a common sight in years to come.
Those who can sell the concept will find themselves in great demand as smart homes become more and more mainstream. To find out more about selling smart homes as a developer, designer or electrical specialist, book a meeting with Andy Baker of Baker Stone today with no obligation.
The home cinema is the big Hollywood celebrity of the smart home specification game. Everybody knows them, most people like them, and you don’t have to put them in the middle of a complicated plot to get people interested.
Smart spotlight is a regular feature where we’ll be taking a closer look at one of the aspects of a smart home for homeowners and home designers alike. We’ll be asking what it is, why you might want one, and what you might want to think about when buying or specifying one. It’s more of an introduction to ideas than a technical deep dive. Either way, we hope you like it.
For as long as I can remember, TVs have stood firm at the top of the home appliance popularity stakes. Most of us spend longer staring at them than our beloved ovens, fridges, and washing machines put together and demand for them transcends class and earnings. Millionaires and minimum wagers alike are wont to invest significant portions of their income in getting the right one.
It’s probably no surprise then that their descendants – smart TVs and home cinema systems - have led the way for smart tech, selling hundreds of millions when many smart home appliances are still pushing to manage a hundred thousand.
Like televisions before them, smart TVs have diversified to satisfy every niche and income bracket. While you can grab a cheap 'smart' TV for £200, the smart home cinema and its elusive sibling, the media room have risen to occupy the upper echelons of the AI-TV market.
Premium offerings offer far more than a massive screen on one wall: Smart media management, lighting, heating, air conditioning and audio compliment mind-blowing interior design and some serious screen-seating comfort to create a unique experience in front of the screen. Meanwhile, ultra-HD TV, multimedia services, gaming and smart home control give a whole host of spectacular options on the screen.
As you may have guessed, home cinemas and media rooms occupy significant spaces within the home. When designing a home cinema as a professional, be prepared to match the impressive piece of tech that occupies that one wall with something equally breath-taking between the other three. For many homeowners, the home cinema is an opportunity to express their wild and hedonistic side within the home. Think snazzy lighting, super cool décor and ridiculously comfortable seats that are often prone to vibrate and change temperatures on command. Some go for smooth and sophisticated, instead of hedonistically overloaded, while others opt for the traditional dark walls and subdued lights. When the film comes on, it’s all in the dark anyway, right?
We know what you’re thinking. A media room sounds like somewhere the PM might tell the nation about hands, face and space, or that place in every spy film with an unfeasibly large number of TV screens. In fact, there’s very little to distinguish it from the home cinema.
Despite the formal-sounding name, media rooms are often cosier and more relaxed than home cinemas in layout. More like living rooms where families can be together than theatres where audiences sit in rows. While the cinema / TV is still a major focus, media rooms often incorporate other home comforts and sources of entertainment, from VR goggles to mini dance floors to pool and football tables.
All it literally means is a space where people can gather to enjoy high-quality media.
This could be one of the shortest benefits sections in this series. While it takes a while to explain why one might want smart air conditioning, the benefits of a home cinema are obvious. I can sense the film buffs and binge-watchers getting excited as I write. For the sake of appearance though, I’ll lay out the main benefit:
The home cinema is your own private cinema...
...Not to mention games room, and super-hedonistic TV space. You can decorate it how you want, enjoy all the comfort you want and watch whatever you want, all at a cinematic scale with first-rate audio and visual tech.
As already mentioned, film buffs and Netflix bingers will love this option, as well as gamers who want to level up their playing time. But the home cinema and media room is also a great option for those who like to share family time enjoying something a bit different. Those who like to entertain can also get a lot out of a home cinema, inviting friends round for a blockbuster night or simply a supersized viewing of the latest Goggle Box episode.
Smart cinemas and media rooms can also be useful for businesses, providing for unforgettable pitches and presentations that competitors can’t match. They can be especially useful for highly visual high-ticket industries such as design, advertising or holiday sales.
The main point to make about home cinemas is that, unlike many smart home options, they require a big space commitment. In most cases they will require their own room, although they can integrate well with games rooms and dance floors, which can benefit from a shared or linked sound system. These would generally be installed behind the cinema seats, which are often in rows or a horseshoe shape facing the screen.
Media rooms are generally more flexible and can range from fairly focused setups to living rooms with a little extra investment in audio-visual tech.
To a greater or lesser extent in both cases, allowances for sight lines and audio fidelity place strict limits on some design aspects of the room. Meanwhile, the desire for a little flare in this room can make for some exciting and demanding design briefs. Lighting design and light exclusion are also fundamental to a good home cinema.
Home cinemas and media rooms are highly desirable and very enjoyable. For home developers and designers, they’re easy to sell, but hard to specify. The benefits and the type of people who want them are both obvious. However, there are many occasions when layout or cost may require the owner to compromise on their idea. For new builds, layouts can be designed, but constraints are significant compared to other aspects of the smart home.
If you’re an owner and you really want a home cinema or a developer committed to providing one, we can support you to create an enjoyable highlight in almost all cases though. Find out more about our home cinema and audio visual offerings on our dedicated page. When you’re in the room eating popcorn and enjoying your favourite movie on the huge screen, you’ll know that it was worth it!
Images co. Christian Collins and Light Tape UK
If all this talk of home cinema has given you a taste for movie magic in your home, book in a meeting to start planning yours below.
Whether it’s for the environment’s sake or because of the ever-increasing cost of power in 2022, saving energy at home has never seemed so important. Efforts are being redoubled to reduce the effects of climate change and energy prices are being pushed up to new heights by the energy crisis. Both of these things can be aided by effective use of smart home tech.
The good news is that savings from this are very impressive at the moment and set to get even better as technology advances and use becomes more widespread.
I’m going to start by warning you that there’s a lot of bad news in this first section. Everything gets rosier as we look at the current and future potential of smart home technology further down the page though.
Let’s kick off with a review of recent developments that could come as a big shock to many:
In the year 2000, fossil fuels supplied 80% of the world’s total primary energy consumption.
What do you think the percentage was in 2019 after the Kyoto Protocol took hold and The Paris Agreement had been reached?
That’s according to a report by Professor Mark Diesendorf, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTech Sydney
It's a sad state of affairs. In 2019, fossil fuels supplied more of the world’s total primary energy consumption than they had nineteen years earlier. That number outlines the urgency with which we need to alter our energy habits in order to promote real, positive change.
Around a quarter of the UK’s energy consumption is accounted for by domestic use. The industrial sector has cut its consumption by around two-thirds since the early 1970s. unfortunately though, British homes are still consuming the same amount as they did seven decades ago. Serious change is needed, and there are two big steps to be taken:
The importance of insulating homes to energy efficiency has been known for a long time. Yet despite the issue becoming more pressing and innovations making insulation more widely available, installations have fallen off in recent years. This is largely due to a lack of government funding or initiatives. Around 63% of household energy consumption is used for heating and as few as 9% of qualifying homes have modern solid wall insulation. Hence, it is clear that more focus and investment can make a big difference in this area. A well-insulated house consumes around 15% less energy overall than one without insulation.
Installing smart lights that are only on when they’re needed slashed lighting energy use by 87% for King’s College London’s halls of residence. These few buildings alone save 34.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually as part of an institution-wide carbon cutting drive. It acts as a clear example of just how much of a change smart home technology can make to emissions and the environment.
Energy-efficient Smart home systems can manage the consumption of many household devices. Smart devices chosen over their older equivalents often use a fraction of their energy, managing power and turning off when not in use. Smart plug sockets and similar solutions can smarten up the devices you can't or won't replace, turning them off automatically when not in use too. This could save close to 10% of household energy, which is otherwise used by devices on standby.
These savings – 87% of light energy, 10% of household consumption on standby, 12% on heating – are all impressive on their own. However, they’re only the first chapter in a much bigger story.
The new generation of smart devices go beyond cutting energy consumption by being off when not in use. They can reduce it far further by using a fraction of their full energy when partially in use. Imagine a fridge that only cools the parts where it knows there is food. Think of a laptop that lets you type a document in low power mode before waking up fully to run something more demanding. These aren’t distant dreams. I’m writing this blog on just such a laptop and we’re already specifying a wide range of super-smart appliances for our customers.
Synergy with other innovations takes the story further. Next-generation smart homes can save supermarket trips by reordering shopping and having it delivered by efficient drones. Meanwhile, smart boilers and batteries in future homes will have a big role in solving the storage problems of renewable energy. Tomorrow’s homes could loan each other energy when their batteries are too full for efficient generation. They could even plan the amount sold to the grid for maximum effect. Communities in California are looking to combine all these innovations to become energy-independent smart towns. These will save CO2 while cutting the fire risk of long-range energy transfer via pylons in hot weather.
Turning a home into a smart home can be a major step toward environmental sustainability. A well-managed smart home refurbishment can reduce your energy consumption vastly, paying off in carbon terms in only a few years. As well as owners, home designers and creators can make their practices more sustainable and valuable by incorporating smart tech.