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Bright Ideas in Smart Home Technology

From Lighting to Listening, Home Automation is Easier than Ever

Goodbye, complicated thermostats. So long, key codes for contractors. Hello to letting there be light—and heating, cooling, audiovisual, and security—all at the touch of a button or voice command.

Today’s smart home technology is easier than ever to use thanks to advances in automation.

“The key to success with any of these smart features is to make them easy to use,” notes Melissa Mitchell, systems designer for Wipliance, which specializes in turn-key solutions for smart homes.

Home automation is particularly important in secondary homes, Mitchell notes.

“You can turn on the pool heater three days before you get there. You can set the thermostat when you’re on the tarmac so you can make sure the home is comfortable when you get there.”

And no matter where you are in the world, you can use an app to let in cleaners and contractors, watch them on your security cameras, and lock up when they leave.

In fact, cameras are at the top of the list for most luxury homeowners looking into beefing up automation, according to Haley Dickey, head of brand for Monarch AV and co-owner of the company along with her husband, CEO Derek Dickey.

“That’s their number one concern—making sure it’s completely outfitted for security,” she says.

Cameras now are more intelligent, she remarks, with high-resolution images and the ability to track a person as they move through the property.

Instead of keeping track of various apps for cameras, garage doors, lighting, security, audio-visual, and so on, everything can be integrated into one app.

“It’s all housed in one place for clients,” states Dickey.

Both Monarch AV and Wipliance use Control4 as the go-to umbrella app for controlling everything.

“You’re able to access everything” with it, Mitchell notes.

Today’s apps are fully customizable as well.

“We take photos of each room so when you use the app, you can see the room,” Dickey says. “You can visually see what you’re doing in the app.”

Mitchell also notes, “Everyone lives in their home a little bit differently, so there’s no one-size-fits-all for automation.”

Everything is programmable, Dickey explains, so you can hit a “welcome” button when you come in to turn on certain lights and open or close shades, and then hit a “goodnight” button to turn everything off without having to leave your bedroom.

Also, keypads or touch screens and voice controls are strategically placed around the house, Dickey notes, so that guests who don’t have the app on their phone can use the system.

While apps can sync with voice-controlled devices such as Alexa and Echo, Mitchell notes that is an alternative voice control platform that doesn’t sell or share any data, so it offers privacy (though it is at a luxury price point).

One of the most rapid advances in home automation has been with LED lighting, according to Mitchell.

“Light should change throughout the day,” she explains, with warmer tones in the morning and evening, and cooler tones during the day. Also popular are applications for color in lighting, whether for holiday decorating or parties.

Motorized shading is another helpful tool, Mitchell points out.

“If your shades aren’t motorized, they’re likely always in one position: always closed or always open.”

Programming them allows in heat and light in the winter and keeps them out during the summer.

Automated outdoor shades are also essential in Arizona, as are programmable outdoor lighting and audio—especially on large lots.

“They want to feel like they’re at a concert,” Dickey says. “If you’re on a couple acres of land, you need more power.”

Audio-visual controls in living rooms and home theaters are in high demand right now as more people are enjoying entertainment at home, Mitchell says.

“One of the biggest products in demand for us right now is an AV receiver that all of the speakers and components plug into,” she notes.

She also advises investing in a robust network with multiple access points, which is “the foundation of everything smart home,” she declares.

However, Mitchell warns not to rely on wifi alone. Even though the name Wipliance comes from a blend of “wireless appliance,” she explains, hard wiring is more reliable, so she suggests planning ahead to add it when building a new home or doing a renovation.

“WiFi’s great, but it’s not the end-all, be-all,” she states.;