By Shishir Gupta, CEO at Oakter
It was the sweltering summer of 2013. My friends and I decided to traverse around the city of NCR. We conducted a survey amongst home automation customers to understand their lifestyle. The deductions were surprising. We discovered that a home automation user needed to be brave. They need to be brave on at least one of the two fronts. Either be brave to adjust their lifestyle according to the product installed in their homes or brave enough to follow up with their expensive vendor to adjust the product according to their likings. A large number from our survey sample refused to be brave on either and ended up deactivating the home automation system. Many who got the system pre-installed at their homes never activated the system. Those who were brave enough to use the system had few things that they wanted to change.
In retrospect, I analyzed the core reason for the need of bravery. It was due to a myth that home automation shall be planned and implemented during the construction stage. When someone is building a new home, that family is imagining a new lifestyle and comfort that they want to experience in their new adobe. According to that imagination, they are planning the home with help of experts like architect and designers. No matter how much time and effort is spent in this initial planning, once the family actually moves and experience the new lifestyle they see improvements and changes they want to do in their home. So, the furniture moves around, some new things come in, few things are moved out.
Experts help the family so that these changes could be accommodated in future. Most of the items like furniture, white goods, and partitions can be modified or procured. However few things like beams, columns, electrical wiring conduit, building material cannot be changed. They are hence designed in a way that even if things change in future, they would not be required to change. Home automation falls into a category that is required to be fluidic based on lifestyle, usage of a room and even weather. However, since traditional home automation is wired-in along with wall sockets and plugs, it becomes very difficult to change it. So a system that is required to change frequently and adapt itself according to the varying parameter is fundamentally designed otherwise.
The core technology for home automation has gone through a transformational change with advances in wireless communication. Wireless communication has become so robust that wiring is not required. All traditional home automation companies have developed the wireless range of products. Hence, if someone built their home after 2005 AD, then it did not require them to have a wired system. However, the myth supported by eager home automation vendors & technology fearing architects has resulted in the need of bravery. Itâ€™s only in 2010 that another technological advancement has made home automation truly fluidic. The technology of Internet of Things (IoT), which arrived in 2010â€™s is the final frontier when it comes to fluidity of home automation systems. All home devices get connected to the internet and they operate via a mobile app.
The advent of the wireless internet and mobile phone has made it possible to seamlessly upgrade the devices using over the air mobile app upgrades and firmware upgrades. Itâ€™s only now that user can automate only a few devices in a home and easily expand your experience by adding more devices to the same mobile app. It is now that home automation companies, which are essentially software companies, upgrade their system on monthly basis without any extra cost to the customer. If enough of user request are received by these software companies then they will surely incorporate that in their next upgrade. Not because they are more customer conscious companies, but because itâ€™s much less costly to do these frequent upgrades.
Modern home automation systems are not tied to a home; if you change home you can unplug the system like your refrigerator and take it with you to your new home to get the same coolness. Doing a retrofit installation of the home automation system is much more cost effective and provides a much better customer experience than that which is implemented during the construction stage. Still, most of the home automation decisions are taken at construction stage since the myth is strong.