The pandemic has revamped the way people live and work in their homes. Here’s how integrators can make residences smarter, more comfortable and safer.
Residential integrators are in an important position. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the home more important than ever. It’s where families stay safe, entertain themselves, work, study, and re-charge.
It’s also where consumer products — groceries, gifts and more — come directly to homeowners under the watchful eye of video surveillance solutions, and where people sit outside and socialize — safely apart — while listening to a whole-home audio system or watching the big game on an outdoor television.
And notably, home is where Hollywood has begun to premiere its latest movies. All of this means the technology professionals who enable these experiences are among the most in-demand contractors safely entering homes today.
Studies show that your clients — and prospective clients — have been busy renovating during the pandemic to improve the spaces where they spend so much time. Consumer Specialists, a research and consulting firm, found that 57% of homeowners undertook a renovation project during the early months of the crisis.
According to a survey by home improvement site Porch, 44% of homeowners planned to make technology enhancements.
For many homeowners, integrated technology systems for entertainment and control are important to how they experience smarter living. But systems only go so far. Smarter living is not just about making the home itself smarter; it’s about seamlessly integrating professional solutions that allow people to live how they want without regard for the enabling technology.
Such solutions are built on the foundation of a powerful and unified network and allow for simple control of not only entertainment systems, but also lighting, shades and comfort.
The interaction among all these systems and the convenience that comes with it makes a home not only smarter, but more comfortable and enjoyable. And that’s really what homeowners are after in these challenging times.
#1: Smart Living is Increasingly Popular
As you approach that next residential project and begin huddling with the client, make sure they understand: Smart living is increasingly popular. Smart home technology sales are growing because of the pandemic. The market was already expanding: Even before the pandemic stuck, ABI Research said global revenue from smart home technologies would rise 21% in 2020.
Now, after a brief slowdown adjusting for the early economic impact of COVID-19, ABI Research expects demand to surge even more than originally projected in the future. Its most recent study says the market for smart home technologies will reach $317 billion by 2026, representing an additional 5% of growth over pre-COVID-19 forecasts.
In short, because of the pandemic and more people sheltering and working where they live, demand for smart living is increasing.
#2: Smarter Control Systems are Needed for Smart Living
From voice assistance to video doorbells to automated lights to smart thermostats, from whole-home media streaming in the evenings to multiple separate-but-simultaneous videoconferencing calls during the day, today’s smart homes have a lot to process if they’re to create the experience demanding clients seeks.
The professionally installed control systems that are the brains of the operation continue to grow more open and robust with improving capabilities to see and understand many more devices in the home. And they’re more important than ever before.
With so many siloed, smart products entering the home — sometimes through DIY channels and controllable through their own, separate software apps — complexity is at an all-time high and homeowners are recognizing the need for an integrated smart living experience that only a professional can deliver.
They don’t necessarily have to ditch what they already have in order to make their homes smarter, but to achieve the ultimate smart living experience, they certainly need a professionally installed, centralized control system capable of managing and monitoring the most diverse set of solutions available to them.
#3: Smart Living Requires Broad WiFi Coverage and Bandwidth
If the first thing clients may realize is that too many different smart home devices can be confusing, the second is surely that the average home network wasn’t built to handle all those connected devices and the data traffic now traversing it. Especially when multiple family members are taking advantage of multiple services — streaming media, e-learning, videoconferencing — at the same time.
Residential technology professionals are seeing increased demand for enterprise-grade networks in the home (note: that’s not actually what homeowners ask for; they just want the spinning wheel to go away when they’re trying to watch a movie or their video call not to drop out).
They also need connectivity outdoors, where many are working and studying, or where automated lights, cameras and more are increasingly part of the smart living experience.
Homes large and small now function like corporate offices and require more bandwidth and WiFi coverage, in the form of a powerful router, high-speed network switches and multiple, strategically placed wireless access points inside and outside of the home.
#4: Smart Living Experiences Extend Beyond the Physical Home
Smart living is no longer confined to a traditional space in a home. The fact is, most homeowners want to experience the benefits of technology, but not necessarily see it all around, whether they’re inside or outside. For example, media rooms and home theaters are witnessing a renaissance during the pandemic, with people streaming more and first-run movies showing up directly in homes.
But today’s home theater isn’t necessarily a standalone space. Multifunctional rooms feature aesthetically integrated surround systems for movie night, but they’re also capable of launching that weekly Zoom call with relatives.
And then there’s the new “addition” many are building outdoors. With weather-proof TVs, full-coverage landscape speakers and seamless WiFi coverage, outdoor spaces have quickly become the newest rec room.
Homeowners enjoy the space more and they can safely entertain small groups of friends in a socially distant manner. Many professional integrators have learned that when they give a quote for a smart home solution, they should also propose one for a porch or patio. That’s what smart living is all about.
#5: Smart Living Depends on Homes That Heal Themselves
At least it will appear to clients like the smart home is healing itself as more homeowners sign up for remote monitoring and maintenance services. As you well know, integrators are professionals because they install systems that are universally and seamlessly addressable over an IP network.
And having installed 100% networked devices, integrators can remotely monitor and manage those systems for a monthly fee, or to connect the homeowner with a third-party provider that specializes in smart home management.
We’re seeing this now. The number of residential installations connecting to SnapAV’s OvrC remote management platform grows every day. Like any other system in the home — HVAC, appliances, security — smart home solutions require professional support, whether it’s troubleshooting network issues or ensuring devices keep working properly.
And for now at least, many homeowners will appreciate receiving that professional support without opening their doors to technicians. Remote monitoring and management is key.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus is not yet in our rear-view mirror and people continue to adapt in all aspects of their lives. Smart technology was changing the way people enjoyed their homes before and will continue to do so in the years ahead — pandemic or not.
The important thing for integrators is to focus on enabling smarter living through technology, not just selling systems. A year ago, the possibilities of smart home systems certainly spurred sales, but now it’s a smart, integrated lifestyle that clients are after.
This article first appeared on SSI sister publication CE Pro.
G Paul Hess is Chief Product Officer at SnapAV. He has almost three decades of experience in the industry, beginning in national then boutique AV retail sales while acquiring marketing and computer science degrees.