OPINION

Home automation goes beyond smart speakers and 'plug and play' options

'Smart' homes help reduce energy usage

The average 'smart home' in Australia just isn't that clever.

Despite the promise that the internet of things would seamlessly connect technology throughout our houses, it's only now that we're starting to see its potential being realised.

Home automation is set to become the key to consumers' understanding, control, and improvement of their energy consumption. However, to truly empower homeowners we need to support technology that goes beyond smart speakers and 'plug and play' options.

Showcasing monetary value of home automation

When it comes to 'green' technology, Australians are mostly interested in devices that provide a lifestyle benefit. Collectively, we are visibly taking small steps in the direction of home automation. It's no surprise smart speakers are driving home automation adoption with 26 per cent of Australians owning a Google Nest, Amazon Alexa, or similar product, and accounting for a 53 per cent increase year-on-year.

These products are vital to engaging homeowners in the technological advancement of their houses. However, without connection to functions such as lighting and air conditioning they fall short of the lifestyle and financial benefits offered by true home automation, while running the risk of becoming a gimmick.

While a possible part of the solution, these devices are limited unless they are incorporated into a system that offers a backbone for whole of home automation. It is important that affordable and accessible technologies that help visualise energy usage and creation enter the consumer market.

By educating consumers about the current and future benefits of these devices, such as connecting solar panels, photovoltaic batteries, and electric vehicle chargers, whole home automation will become more appealing to the everyday Australian - helping us create 'greener' homes across the country.

High-end options including C-Bus have offered this connectivity for luxury homes for a number of years. Now, mass market adoption is set to ramp up with the launch of a new, affordable, and scalable system, Clipsal Wiser Smart Home. It is the opportunity for middle Australia to control everything from lighting to automated blinds from a single app. And electricians are in a unique position to help homeowners understand the impact a smart home can have on their lifestyle, energy efficiency, and back pocket.

Flicking the switch for a 'greener' Australia

Most importantly, smart homes also have the potential to benefit more than their occupants. In fact, the adoption of this technology within the home will help propel Australia toward a carbon-neutral future.

With the global ambition to hit net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, we are seeing businesses all around the world begin to implement strategic and bold sustainability initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint, and a desire from homeowners to do the same. While this goal is more targeted globally towards corporations and large-scale buildings, residential smart homes will be key to achieving this.

Using renewable resources can dramatically lower overall household energy consumption in Australia, which is why this is set to play a large role in the race to transition from fossil-based fuels to zero-carbon.

In fact, renewable energy and energy efficiency measures have the potential to achieve up to 90 per cent of the required carbon reductions.

Leveraging the renovation revolution

Thanks to smaller, more convenient systems, installing home automation technology no longer requires major renovations.

However, with $1 billion a month on home renovations currently in progress, now is the most opportune time for Australians to consider their smart alternatives.

This is particularly critical for homeowners looking to build from the ground up. Just like large buildings, smart homes see the most impact when they are designed with the environment in mind.

Industry figures estimate that 130,000 new detached homes will be built in 2021. If each of these properties harnessed smart technology, Australia would see a dramatic reduction in household energy consumption rates per year.

The future of home automation is here and growing. With it, will come a range of alternatives to the energy draining technologies that have been around for decades. Today, Australians can control their energy usage from smart lights, temperature sensor enabled blinds, air conditioning, and other electronics via a single app. They can choose what to automate as their needs change via new affordable, scalable systems to create better lifestyles for themselves and a greener, carbon-neutral future for all.

  • Chris Kerr, home and distribution vice president at Clipsal by Schneider Electric.
This story 'Smart' homes help reduce energy usage first appeared on The Canberra Times.