The truth is, everyone wants a smart-home! Smart homes have indeed come to stay. The question however is, are smart homes just luxurious toys for the rich or a bare neccesity in modern homes? We have also found out people do not exactly understand what these terms really mean and how it can apply to their home experience. To answer these questions, we sat with Kehinde Awoyinfa, the Business Development Manager at Woodstock Electronics (WSE) Limited and explored this topic in more detail.
Kehinde: Good afternoon.
Interviewer: There are different terms like “smart homes”, “home control” and “home automation”, which all seem to refer to the same thing. What is the difference?
Kehinde: Interesting question. Smart homes, home automation and all that lingo can really be confusing especially from an under-user perspective. Personally, I think home automation is the ability to walk into a space, press a button, light comes on, press another the blinds go up etc. It gives you the ability to control your home easily from keypads, touch panels etc. A smart home on the other hand, is when all these things work seamlessly together in a smart way. A smart home is a home where when you walk into a room, depending on the time of the day, your blinds open, lights come on, your favorite music playlist plays etc. Not that you have to actually activate these activities yourself. A smart home is steps ahead of home automation, because your house or building is smart enough to anticipate your needs and answer to those needs without you having to think it through. So it’s a case of your home thinking for you, and this I believe is a very good explanation of the difference between home automation and smart homes. But it must be said that both terms are indeed valid, because automation is what leads to a home being smart. It’s just that smart homes are the next level.
Interviewer: Can I add smart-home technology to my existing home without having to tear down walls and add new wiring?
Kehinde: Of course you can. Our industry is currently experiencing a wave of new technologies where devices are all connected to the internet called Internet of Things (IOTs). These are devices that are available off the shelf being smart on their own. For example, we have products like Philips Hue which is a smart light bulb that can be controlled using your mobile phone. There are A.Cs now that have an apps, even your toothbrush, fridges, cookers etc. will be connected to the internet. So I think technology is moving towards the direction where it is going to be very easy for everybody to have a smart home.
Yes, it is better to start up the whole project with the proper wiring and system designs to meet clients’ expectations. However it doesn’t mean if you don’t have the wiring initially done you cannot have these smart appliances installed in your home.
Bearing this in mind, the key thing every homeowner should start thinking about is having a reliable and robust wireless and wired network around the home. Since all devices will be connected to the network (IOT), it is important that at least the home network is properly planned and executed.
Interviewer: How expensive is it to set up a smart home?
Kehinde: This brings me to the question of SMART HOMES: Luxury or Necessity? Expensive is a matter of perception, it is how much value you put on a solution. For example, my dad’s first car was a Peugeot 504, what happened then was that if you wanted to come down from the car, you had to unlock all the doors separately, and the windows too were operated separately. With the next model of the car, at the same price, you could easily press a button and everything comes down automatically. Now, my dad could have said, why do I need a button? That’s what we hear most times, clients say, why can’t I close my curtains myself? Why can’t I turn off my lights myself? Without considering the convenience, the energy saved and so many values that it adds when you can automate this. Imagine being able to press a single button, and dealing with all these issues.
So, essentially, it is a matter of value, and our responsibility as home technology specialists is to keep educating the market that having a smart home is a necessity and not because you just want to spend money. It is value in the sense that you can make your life more convenient. The truth is the initial cost of a smart home might look high today, but when you look at the total cost of ownership of a smart home, you realize that you are spending much less than someone that does not have a smart home.
For example energy saving. Do you know how much it costs to have your lights on all over the house, when you are on your bed, and cannot go round to turn it off? I can easily program a keypad on your bed that says “goodnight” and all the general lights in the house go off when pressed. An average person sleeps eight hours a day, imagine your lights turned on for eight hours, your electricity bill keeps racking up, when you could easily turn off your lights. Here you see the energy saving and convenience features of a smart home. Another example is the music system. Imagine everybody in the house had to buy their own stereo boxes and an average stereo box costs about 80,000 naira and has all these obtrusive boxes defacing the rooms. But imagine a fully integrated music system with unobtrusive ceiling speakers. Looks neat and very good and sounds amazing. You probably won’t even need a security man, or a help to do anything, you can automatically open and close your gate from wherever you are, close and open your blinds also and even save energy. It really is not about how much I spend but how much value I put on my home. Now if you have a car that doesn’t have an automatic lock it’s as good as you don’t have a car. We have gotten to the same stage in homes and clients are asking for these things, we all need these smart devices in our homes. Smart homes are the present and they will continue to evolve into the future. They will continue to become smarter, cheaper, easier to deploy, so the earlier you plug into it the better.
Interviewer: Will smart-home technology affect home internet speed?
Kehinde: Not exactly and that’s a very important question. At the backbone of everything we do is the home network. There are two parts to a home network, there is the intranet within the house, which deals with communication within the home, and there is the internet which makes you able to control your smart home even when you are not in the house. So to a large extent, when in-house you don’t need the internet for your home automated devices. All you need is the intranet, which brings us to the point where you need to have wireless access points in different places in the house, because of the intranet within your house, before you start thinking of the internet
Interviewer: Interesting, will Woodstock Electronics install the home internet?
Kehinde: Absolutely, we don’t bring internet services from outside, we install the in-house internet connection.
Interviewer: Since smart-home devices are tech devices, would this not make your home hackable?
Kehinde: That’s another very important question, our routers have firewalls which block unauthorized access, and there are also logins, passwords. The world generally is experiencing internet threats, and because there are internet threats doesn’t mean you will not have a laptop or a smart phone. There are threats and we have our backend solutions to ensure safety. We make sure these devices are very safe and if need be we can control remotely, to make sure there are no intrusions.
Interviewer: Has there ever been a case of your products being hacked?
Kehinde: No, never.
Interviewer: So, Woodstock Electronics change your homes from the conventional to smart homes?
Interviewer: So what will be the exact difference between seeing smart homes as a luxury or a necessity?
Kehinde: It’s the value you put into your home, how important you see your home. Most people don’t know they need these things till they experience it. That’s why we have our experience centers, in Lagos and Abuja where we show the world the importance of smart homes, and why we are the right guys to get them from where they are to where they ought to be.
Interviewer: How many years have Woodstock Electronics been in business?
Kehinde: We have been in business for over 25 years. We started up installing high-end sound systems, we’ve grown over the years, into residential and commercial markets, house of worships, boardrooms and much more. It’s been really great and we are indeed proud of the company, and where it is today, and we are most importantly excited about the future.
Interviewer: Have Nigerians been able to buy into the idea of smart spaces?
Kehinde: Yes, there has been massive acceptance of our services, and as technology evolves, it goes through different cycles. The first are the early adopters, these are the first people to use and try out a new technology. If it works, everybody else keeps doing it to the point where the larger market keeps using it. At this point, the technology keeps improving while the prices drop and becomes very affordable. So the smart-home technology has moved through this life cycle. Now there are affordable solutions for younger people and for every segment of the market. We can have a one-room solution or a more robust solution for bigger mansions. It’s really about how much you have and how much you want to achieve. The customer essentially determines exactly what he wants depending on his need and budget.
Interviewer: Thanks for your time.
Kehinde: You are welcome.