Once an option only for the wealthy, the smart home is on its way to ubiquity. Today’s consumer wants to move into a brand new home, with automation features pre-installed and ready to use. This is convenient, and it allows them to include the smart home cost in their mortgage.
This represents both an opportunity and a challenge for builders and integrators. Get home automation right, and your business will flourish. The challenge is to figure out which products home buyers want and make sure they are compatible. Of course, all smart home systems still rely on a fast, reliable internet connection distributed by structured wiring and centralized in a media distribution hub.
A number of home automation systems have emerged in recent years that claim to address these challenges for builders, five of which we discuss below. While each company takes a slightly different approach, all of the systems covered here include these popular smart home features:
• Climate control
• Home entertainment
Most of these options feature hubs that are unlikely to be aesthetically pleasing to your customers. If you work with any of them, you’ll want to include a media panel in your plans.
Otto claims to make it easy for any builder to offer home automation to their customers. The company’s mission is “to make home automation irresistibly easy and lucrative for the home building and renovation industry.” Otto works exclusively with builders and integrators and does not sell to the general public.
With Otto, the integrator need only upload the details of the smart components in the home. Otto software then creates a single automation system. The integrator receives a box that runs the network. Homeowners then simply set up the Otto app on their smartphones, and they will be able to control all of their smart home features through Otto’s dashboard.
TiO, short for “Turn it On,” claims to take a fresh approach to building automation; the system is designed with the end user in mind. TiO uses Wi-Fi for all communications, but the home needn’t be connected to the internet for the automation system to function. The TiO system uses what is essentially a router to create a separate network for the smart home.
While TiO has a great user interface, the setup is not plug-and-play. In fact, the website indicates that, like Otto, only a professional can install the system. The website also states, however, that any builder who can install a light switch will be able to install TiO.
Loxone was a 2017 Global Innovation Award winner. Like Otto and TiO, Loxone has a single box that functions as a mini server for the smart home. While Otto and TiO work with a variety of different devices, Loxone sells a complete package called Loxone 360˚ that includes all of the devices.
Loxone offers training to builders for installation and uses the Modbus communications protocol. According to the website, Loxone will have voice control soon.
Nexia has been around since 2008, and while Nexia is not designed exclusively for builders, the company does have a builder program. Nexia installations require no special wiring considerations, as the system works wirelessly using the Z-Wave standard. A Nexia home automation system uses a Nexia bridge combined with a selection of products that use the Z-Wave standard. Some of these products are manufactured by Nexia, others by Nexia partners.
Savant is marketed as a luxury home automation system. Savant uses commercial-grade equipment, which means customer satisfaction will be high. Savant was founded in 2005, and the company has strong ties with Apple. In fact, in 2014, GigaOm called Savant the “Apple of Home Automation.” Savant has, however, also partnered with Google’s Nest.
Savant has three training centers where you can train to be a Savant integrator. Integrators who successfully complete the three-day training program become authorized integrators and are added to the integrator search on the Savant website.
These companies all market themselves to the homeowner, but the majority of them position their offering as a product that works well because it is installed by a professional. This is great news for builders and integrators.