ABB makes home automation lower cost and easier than ever – Voltimum

End-users and electrical installers alike are on the hunt of a high quality home automation solution that is easy to design, install and commission. Crucially, it must also be easy to operate and it must, of course, be affordable.

Recognising this requirement, at the 100% Design show, held in London’s Olympia last week, ABB launched its innovative entry-level, affordable yet sophisticated home automation system during a seminar entitled ‘free@home – Making home automation easier than ever’. This new and important ABB-free@home home automation solution is aimed at electrical installers who currently have no access to the smart home or building automation world. 

Home automation – often known as the ‘smart home’ – is putting an ever-increasing demand on house builders, developers and electrical installers. This is because most intelligent building solutions are either designed for commercial applications or require a specialist installer. 

The problem is that most end-user customers – the homeowners – and installers alike don’t really understand home automation. Yet increasingly, homeowners are demanding smart homes. Those specialist installers that do understand home automation systems tend to be under-resourced and very localised, so tend to be restricted in their scope of service – and also expensive.

So ABB decided to put this situation right to meet this demand for an affordable, accessible smart home solution that also closes the existing big gap between current low and high-end sectors. The result is ABB-free@home, which is suitable for both new builds and renovations, single and multi-family dwellings, and for both housebuilders and electrical installers. 

How it works in essence

ABB-free@home is not a KNX system, but is essentially a twisted pair bus-based system with control provided via wired modules or wirelessly via smart devices (smartphones and tablets).

Other features include the app, which provides its own WiFi network, remote access via the app or the web, web-based on-board commissioning software, time controls, an anti-burglary absence mode (detecting and providing previous lighting patterns for when the householder is away), an indoor video station with TFT touch display (which also works with the company’s ABB-Welcome door communication system. Finally, there is the central control of up to 16 free@home nodes.

The system includes a room temperature controller, movement detection, various sensors, actuators for switching, dimming and controlling most applications), plus matching wiring accessories.

The tricky part of most existing home automation systems is the programming, but the company has tried hard to remedy this with just three basic steps needed: The House (floor plan); Allocating (recognising devices – such as switches etc via an app); and Linking (linking it all together).

This is indeed simple, yet importantly, ABB has recognised that training can be an expensive business for many installers, so is providing a week’s free@home training for free.

The advantages

ABB-free@home is a system that every electrical installer can easily learn to install and commission – and each developer will be able to easily sell it. In only a few hours, the company says, installers will be ready to go, increasing his or her expertise in this important and fast growing sector. 

A major bonus is that no expensive software license is needed as this solution is fully web browser based, and importantly from the electrical wholesalers’ and installers’ points of view, it adds a new revenue stream for their businesses going forward.

For the end-user homeowners, the greatest advantage of ABB free@home is that they have all the control of their heating, lighting and other systems that they need, and it can be controlled remotely via a free smartphone app. It also integrates the door communications so that users can take door calls from their gardens, or the supermarket, or from anywhere.


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