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Is it really prime time for home automation?

It has been almost 10 years since I set to install in my home what would become a comprehensive home automation system. It integrated a home security system with lighting control, thermostat control and cameras which could be controlled using multiple keypads, keyfobs, smart light switches, remote telephone access, PC controls and even web-browser based access.


June 1, 2011
By Rob Colman


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This was not a high-end system yet used widely available technologies and was a comprehensive solution. It provided energy management by controlling my thermostat and lighting based on the status of the security system and gave me the convenience of having inside and outside temperature displayed on multiple keypads throughout the house. Scene control was a nice feature as well. All could be controlled and managed locally and remotely.

I saw the real benefit of this system sitting in my car in my driveway after a dangerous drive home in a snowstorm with my two young daughters strapped in their car seats. Realizing that I left my house keys at the office I faced the dilemma of driving back or wait at least an hour for my wife to come home. Using my cellphone I disarmed my security system, turned on the outside lights and opened my garage door to save the day.

Better safety, convenience, energy savings, cool gadgets. No wonder why home automation has been deemed on a few occasions to be ‘on the brink of taking off in a big way’. I can’t help but draw a parallel with tablet PC’s. Bill Gates announced the tablet revolution a few times in the last 15 years to see few products being introduced in the market place with very timid results.

So what is the missing ingredient that could make home automation the next ‘iPad revolution’?

For one, the iPad has shown that price point is not the most critical factor. Millions of people paid good money for a device that effectively does less than a laptop of the same price. But judging by the type of security systems installed in new home,  it will be an uphill battle to convince builders to include any significant home automation technologies from the get-go. New home buyers are in many cases looking for resell value in the mid-term and upgraded bathrooms and kitchen are still a better investment. It is not so much a question of cost but rather of return on investment. As for the retrofit business, it continues to offer some technological challenges but are not unsurmountable even if they tend to increase cost.

There is once again a buzz for home automation and I am glad to see many players in the security industry taking part. We are well positioned to be privileged providers in this field and we need to be on the forefront for the day when the floodgate will open.

iPad’s are very easy to use, simple, sexy, intuitive. Kids and grand-parents alike can use one without too much training and don’t require complicated configuration for the most part. They sell by the millions

On the contrary I’m pretty much the only one who ever understood how to operate my home-automation system. It was not intuitive and complicated.

I believe that for home automation to really become the next iPad revolution it will have to be as easy, intuitive and sexy.


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