Design dilemma: Where to start with technology at home

Interior designer Pallavi Dean offers advice on incorporating smart solutions into your home, without going overboard

Pallavi Dean, founder of Pallavi Dean Interiors. Courtesy Pallavi Dean Interiors
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Q: Home automation technology is evolving at an astounding pace. From smart fridges and blinds that respond to light levels, to fully integrated music systems and CCTV security, there is seemingly no end to the amount of technology you can incorporate into your home. We ask: how much is too much?

A: "Love it or hate it, there is no escaping the onward march of technology. The question is, how do you bring this smart-home magic into your space, without breaking the bank? There isn't a one-size-fits-all solution; it really depends on your specific lifestyle and needs.
For example, if you are a music-lover, a fully integrated music system should be a given in every area of your home; if you fall in the eco-warrior camp, you should invest in sensor lighting, controlled thermostats and timed sprinkler systems; and if you travel a lot, remote monitoring is probably important to you.
I would suggest that there are four main categories where automation can make a real impact. These include: security, which can vary from sensor-controlled outdoor lighting to security cameras; entertainment, which covers music, your home theatre and ambience control; convenience, which can range from window blinds that respond to the level of light coming into the room to voice-controlled appliance controls; and environment, which covers all your heating and cooling requirements.
For a fully automated smart home, you need to bring these different elements together in one system. There are a few established market leaders that provide a fully integrated system – check out Crestron, Lutron and Control4. These are "closed" systems with their own control devices (similar to iPads) that come at a considerable price.
More recently, we have seen some market disruptors such as Amazon's Alexa app, which can "talk" to any device connected to your home's Wi-Fi or Ethernet, or Apple's newly launched HomePod, which is basically Siri on steroids. It's a speaker for your music, but can also control any smart devices in your home.
This means you can adopt an individualised approach to automated elements. For example, remote-controlled motorised blinds cost about Dh2,500 for a 2.5-metre-by-2-metre window; a Philips Hue smart bulb costs Dh150. Both can be connected back to a programme such as Alexa.
This in no way compares to a holistic solution, which combines different elements together in a user-friendly and intuitive package. It does, however, provide a far more cost-effective solution. Automation for a five-bed residence can range from Dh150,000 to Dh500,000, depending on the complexity of your requirements. Amazon's Alexa-compatible devices cost from about Dh250.
To start, why not contact an AV/IT expert? They'll do a thorough needs assessment. It's important to communicate your budget. If it's a new-build project, get the specialists involved early on to ensure all cabling is in the right place."

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 Pallavi Dean, founder, Pallavi Dean Interiors,, Twitter: @pallavidean_id

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