Design dilemma: How to choose a smart-home system to suit your space

A common interface that controls all functions via a single app is a better choice for most single-family residences

Woman using home app to open the door of her house with her smart phone, close-up.
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Connectivity and smart technologies are essential in our daily lives. The number of smartphones sold globally last year alone stands at 1.4 billion. And the spending on connected devices of all sorts is forecasted to triple by 2022, compared to 2017. This exponential growth shows that personal, connected technology is no longer just for fun – it's ubiquitous, in our offices, our cars, our homes and everywhere in between.

Research also indicates that by the end of this year, almost 30 million households in Europe will be smart homes. But what does that mean? A smart home is a dwelling that contains connected devices, sure, but it’s more than the sum of those devices. “Smart” living is about functionality and the simplification of everyday life. A smart home should directly respond to its owner’s real-life needs, whether you are concerned about the safety of your property and loved ones, or simply love gadgets.

The diversity in today’s smart-home market gives homeowners a broad range of solutions and customisation opportunities. We’re spoilt for choice, but this variety can also make it hard to figure out what will work best for you and your home. There is no golden formula when it comes to picking the perfect smart-home system – it largely depends on your needs.

Ask yourself: do you worry about lights left on when you’re away? Or about your home looking unoccupied and inviting to the wrong sorts of guests? Perhaps the stability of your electrical system is a concern, or you want to save money on energy bills. Or maybe you’re after the ­ultra-convenience that comes from smart-home scheduling. A good system can address all of these needs.

Additionally, there are certain things to be considered in every smart-home project, such as the control model and system flexibility. In a distributed control model, each function – such as lighting, heating or shutter control – is managed separately via its own interface. This approach is common in larger buildings, where a certain level of system independence is necessary for overall stability. But for a homeowner, distributed control can make life complicated.

Philippe Delorme from Schneider Electric
Philippe Delorme from Schneider Electric

That’s why an integrated approach, with a common interface to control all functions, is a better choice for single-family residences. In this set-up, all devices are connected by a hub device and managed via a single app. This makes control easier and more intuitive, which directly translates into greater comfort and convenience.

Schneider Electric's Wiser home technology, for instance, unites all devices by a central hub, called the Home Touch, and the app (pictured) lets homeowners manage everything from lighting to heating and energy management.

With no smart-home company doing it all, another vital criterion for making a smart choice is flexibility. This refers to both compatibility with third-party solutions – think voice ­assistants such as Amazon Alexa, ­Google Home and Apple HomeKit – and the ability to adjust the functions to specific needs. You need to keep this in mind when installing a smart-home system or risk significant limitations if you wish to expand its capabilities in the future.

Philippe Delorme is the executive vice-president, building & IT business, and member of the executive committee at Schneider Electric