ShowHouse Magazine had a chat with the MD of Amina Technologies about the Invisible Loudspeakers and technology in homes, here is what he had to say.
Is it important to include smart home technology?
I very much believe customer expectations of a new home is and will continue to follow the expectations they have of features found in a modern car, especially as reliable, compact and fully inclusive integration technology is offered to them in an ever increasingly affordable fashion. Very few people today would reject the idea of having electric windows, electronic management systems (which dramatically improves efficiency), blue tooth connected entertainment and communication systems, parking sensors, high technology keyless entry and security systems and Satellite Navigation systems in their car. In fact the lack of any of these features makes a car a lot less desirable and a lot harder to sell today.
This can also be seen in the desire that has existed for some time now in the housing market for properties with features such as underfloor heating, and more recently energy saving devices such as extremely high levels of insulation, PV energy generation and heat recovery systems. Such properties are relatively rare and very much demand a premium value and are quickly snapped up.
The consumer is fully aware of the cost of energy, both financially and from an environmental point of view, and that its expense is not only going to rise, but do so in an ever accelerating fashion. Therefore, just as the new car has to be more efficient, consumers will demand very efficient next homes.
In the same way a home equipped with a sophisticated alarm system, not just the type the wakes the neighbours, but that actually sends you video footage to your phone to allow to understand what's going on, is increasing sensible. The very same electronics now allow the consumer to communicate with the home to control lights, temperature, blinds etc., all remotely from the smartphone.
We all appreciate the world is now forever digital where content is increasing being sourced from the 'Cloud' or kept on instantly accessible hard drives within the home. Homes that are wired throughout, distributing broadband to any room, allow high definition video and audio (including gaming and knowledge) streaming to be selected and played in any location.
Music streaming and reproduction in multiple areas of the home is now very easily possible without the need for wall mounted complex and costly control panels. A simple multi-channel amplifier in a central cupboard along with an internet connected hard disk source wirelessly controlled from a smart phone is all that is required to generate completely different audio streams to every room in the home.
Keeping the number of electronic components down to a simple minimum like this allows for easy and cost effective replacement when items break or become obsolescent. Infrastructure items such as wiring and loudspeakers should last the lifetime of the building. Conventional grilled in-ceiling speakers may need replacing more frequently because of discolouration of the grille. They also tend to be more obvious and obtrusive, spoiling interior design criteria. The invention of plastered over fully invisible loudspeakers by Amina more than 12 years ago, means that these infrastructure audio sources no longer affect any interior design, now or however decoration is changed in the future, and they never need to be changed.
Aesthetics, design and stunning modern interiors are the other crucial area in driving the perception of property value and speed up sales. With technologies such as Invisible loudspeakers, wireless control of internet / hard disk sources and remote monitoring, the developer really can add all the functionality to a home whilst allowing the design team the freedom to create desirable properties for the future.
Should house builders be embracing technology more?
For the very reasons already discussed, these new simpler, all embracing technologies should indeed be taken up by the house building community. Like the car market, this technology may never be attractive in the very entry level house market, but should be considered for executive homes, if for no other reason than to help drive consumers desires to move up to them as they progress the housing ladder.
Just like car manufacturers, housing developers should in addition to energy conservation (which includes lighting control), now be working with manufacturers to establish standardised packages of infrastructure items (wiring, speakers, alarms sensors etc.) along with some of the new smart phone controlled, internet enabled audio and video distribution components together with remote security monitoring and control components.