Q&A: Smart homes are not just about fancy gadgets, says Lutron

September 28th, 2015 | by Alfred Siew
Q&A: Smart homes are not just about fancy gadgets, says Lutron

Boon Liang Seng

Smart homes are still an alien concept to many home users in Singapore, despite the country being one of the most wired up in the world. The reason – home owners often find the technology unfamiliar and deem the costs too high.

That is about to change, say a new wave of smart home vendors using technologies that will bring costs down through the same mass market mechanics as PCs and smartphones.

One of them, lighting control company Lutron Electronics, has been developing automated lights, sensor-based dimming and remote controlled window shades which don’t require an electrician to install.

The company’s director for Southeast Asia, Boon Liang Seng, tells Techgoondu that home automation is a new wave that is reaching Singapore soon.

(NOTE: The responses have been edited for brevity and house style)

Q: We’ve seen smart homes demonstrated in show houses over the years. More realistically, what can high-rise apartment dwellers like most of Singapore expect?

A: Mention “smart homes” to people and they will have a tendency to associate the concept with fancy technology and flashy gadgets. But the fact is, a smart home is essentially a home that provides added convenience, comfort and maybe a touch of luxe – with the help of wireless and mobile technology, of course.

Given the products and technology available in the market, Singaporeans living in high-rise apartments shouldn’t have the mindset that they are in a less favourable position to enjoy the benefits that home automation brings.

Take smart lighting, for example. You no longer need to have a massive overhaul or even an electrician to install automated lights, sensor-based dimming and remote controlled window shades. The technology has evolved to become so user-friendly that most of it are DIY.

Q: Rapid growth is expected in the home automation market in the coming years. Briefly, what is fuelling this optimism of late in Singapore and the region?

A: Yes, indeed, we are seeing huge market potential for home automation. To put a number to it, (research firm) Frost & Sullivan forecasts that market earned revenues in the home automation market in the region will reach US$361.1 million in 2018.

Home automation used to be such a niche market, but the proliferation of mobile devices coupled with their high penetration rates in this region have caused product prices to drop. This is likely due to home automation players wanting to tap into a wider market.

We are also seeing an increase in demand for smart lighting solutions as more people become aware of their energy- and cost-saving benefits. For example, lights dimmed by 50 per cent can provide energy savings of up to 40 per cent.

Q: In urban areas like Singapore, what are the unique challenges for building out smart homes?

A: Well, home automation technology has evolved to a level where you no longer need to build smart homes from the ground up.

In fact, most home automation offerings are so user-friendly that they can be seen as an optional extension to existing households in Singapore.

For instance, the traditional on-off light switch can now be easily retrofitted with remote control and sensor occupancy enhancements.

Q: Privacy is expected to be a big issue for homes that are remotely controlled. Or is that something people don’t have to worry about?

A: Privacy and security concerns have been the bane of technology adopters of the 21st century. However, it all boils down to the individual. Some would prioritise privacy and security over added convenience and comfort, while it’s the other way round for the others.

Interestingly, if you talk about privacy and security from a non-digital point of view – that is, if we are looking at physical privacy and security, smart lighting in the form of movement-activated lights and remote controlled window shades would actually provide increased privacy and security.

Movement-activated lights can detect unwanted intruders while remote controlled shades give you added privacy at the click of a button.


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