Smart homes: The future of home automation in Australia

The ‘internet of things’ is no longer a phrase reserved for some ambiguous future. With automation now a crucial part of everything we do professionally and commercially, it’s about time the residential sector caught up. Welcome to the era of smart homes.

From automating lighting to heating, appliances to air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio, video systems and security — the possibilities for smart homes are seemingly endless.

A smart home provides the ability to wake up in the morning and with a simple ‘good morning’ command, have your blinds open, the lights gradually turn on, the TV switch to the news, Fleetwood Mac blast from your speakers and receive live updates on the weather and your commute. Smart homes have come a long way from being ‘dad’s toy’ and there’s plenty more to come.

As early as 1982, the concept of a network of connected smart devices was floated, and by 1999 this was represented by the term ‘internet of things’. Now, this concept is a reality that’s integrated into all aspects of modern life in a more functional way than could ever have been predicted. While we may not have Marty McFly’s hoverboard, smart homes represent a sci-fi-esque future made possible.

As well as integration in existing homes, smart home automation systems are becoming a staple for new and off-the-plan luxury residences. Gone are the days where a pile of remotes sit on the corner of the sofa and entire work days are spent worrying about whether or not you turned the air conditioning off before you left home. Smart homes can provide safety, security, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency at all times, regardless of whether or not anyone is home.

The leaders in tech automation throughout the United States, Crestron, have been the go-to guys for celebrity smart homes for as long as smart homes have existed. While originally only utilised by the mega-rich in their multi-million dollar LA mansions, smart home automation is now making its way through the residential sector at a phenomenal pace.

Expanding out from the American market, Crestron is now making waves in Australia. These systems are no longer out of reach for middle-income earners, causing a transition from ‘showy’ smart homes, to customised systems that offer a whole spectrum of automation options. Some installations involve simple lighting and audio, while others integrate under-floor heating, full security systems and voice control.

Crestron has recently established an impressive display at Brisbane’s largest smart home experience centre at the Digital Residence Space in Albion. After taking a tour of the space (and pressing all the buttons), PropertyMash spoke to the Crestron’s Director of Residential Systems, Trevor Rooney, to find out what’s possible for smart homes in 2019 and in the future.

Kitchen with home automation in the Digital Residence Space Brisbane
Kitchen with home automation in the Digital Residence Space Brisbane
Hidden cupboards reveal in a kitchen with home automation in the Digital Residence Space Brisbane
Hidden cupboards reveal in a kitchen with home automation in the Digital Residence Space Brisbane
Kitchen with home automation in the Digital Residence Space Brisbane
Hidden cupboards reveal in a kitchen with home automation in the Digital Residence Space Brisbane

Taking a tour through a fully-equipped smart home is like taking a glimpse into the future, and it’s a future that’s not too far on the horizon. Trevor predicts that within a few years, automation will be standard for all new residences.

“There’s going to be a time when the trigger is pulled, and smart homes just become the standard,” said Trevor. “I see it happening within the next three to five years, where even semi-rural house and land packages will be sold with automation,” he said.

A decade ago, the pinnacle of home automation was getting Foxtel from the living room to the bedroom, or transmitting music to the alfresco area. Now, the number one conversation starter for Crestron is smart lighting.

“Nobody wants to move into a new home with an on/off switch on every wall of the house,” says Trevor. Smart lighting means much more than just moving switches off the wall and onto a phone app or central console; it’s about creating an atmosphere. Through a Crestron or other home automation system, you can set ‘scenes’ to create the ideal lighting for everything from dinner time and reading time, to party mode and even panic mode (where every light in the house will flash on and off, alerting neighbours).

House in Bellvue Hill with full home automation by Crestron.

House in Bellvue Hill with full home automation by Crestron.

Creating a custom lighting set-up throughout an entire home is simple when you go down the route of automation, especially if this is integrated into the property from the initial design and building process, as opposed to retrospective installation. As functional and as impressive as lighting automation is, many residents are chasing a voice-controlled smart home. Similarly to the hoverboard, voice-control is seen to be the pinnacle of futuristic living.

“When it comes to voice, there’s that novelty factor there that makes people go crazy for it,” says Trevor.

Whether it’s HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey or Tony Stark’s Jarvis, we’ve all grown up watching voice-responsive systems on the big screen. With Siri now sitting in most of our pockets and Alexa lining the shelves of every JB HI-FI, voice control has developed at an exponential pace in the few last years.

“We’ve gone from a 60 percent success rate to around 90 percent, which means it’s very viable, especially in the disability sector,” says Trevor. “To add voice control to a Crestron system is as simple as buying an Alexa, which will evolve significantly this year and become far more refined.”

While novelty will always persist within emerging technologies, it’s the seamless integration of the ‘every day’ that’s the end goal of a true smart home.

What does the future hold for smart homes?

“In ten years from now, I think every home on the planet will have some kind of automation unless you’re living in a tent,” says Trevor.

In the shorter term — the next three to five years — is when the awareness will develop and smart homes will no longer be a novelty. Whether it’s biometric entry into your house with a thumbprint, facial recognition cameras to play your favourite song when you walk in the room and AI integration to make these smart systems even smarter, the potential is boundless.

Written: 19 December 2018, Updated: 22 January 2020

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