Given the fact that the Denver area has become one of the country’s technology hot spots, it is no surprise that “smart homes” have become very popular, especially among buyers of custom homes. Many experts believe 2017 will mark the tipping point for these technology-enabled homes.
According to a CNBC report, “in 2016, 80 million smart home devices were delivered worldwide, a 64 percent increase from 2015. That includes Nest thermostats and smoke detectors, August smart locks and Ring video doorbells. A big chunk of it was personal home assistants like Google Home, Bosch's Mykie and Amazon's Alexa. Analysts say despite the growth last year, 2017 will be the year of the smart home because the companies behind the technology will be smarter about educating their consumers.”
This report continued to note that full home automation is not high on the average house hunter's priority list, especially for existing homes. The trouble so far has been the technology itself. Consumers aren't sure how to integrate it into existing home systems. The opportunity seems to lie in new construction.
The Internet of Things
One of the driving factors in number of smart homes is the almost-ubiquitous connectivity afforded by broadband internet and the devices that can access it. The “Internet of Things” (IoT) has been discussed for several years, albeit by the more tech-savvy folks. A Forbes piece from 2014 noted, ”Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.
“The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices. That's a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The IoT is a giant network of connected ‘things,’ which also includes people. “
Custom Homes are Becoming Smarter
The “sweet spot” for smart homes is upscale, custom homes, which is the type of home that Schroetlin Custom Homes builds for clients in the Denver area. Mike Schroetlin has first-hand knowledge of the growth of these technology enabled homes.
“For most homeowners, a smart home includes anything that can be automated and controlled from a remote control, computer, tablet or smart phone,” Schroetlin said. “Most homeowners think of lighting, security cameras, home theaters and landscape and gardening irrigation applications when they are contemplating the advantages versus the expense of this type of amenity of a custom home.”
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The Seven Most Popular Smart Home Features
In the process of serving customers for custom homes in the Denver area, Schroetlin has noticed that several smart features are the most popular for the region. His top seven include:
· Security window coverings
· Home theater
· Home audio
· HVAC controls
· Doorbells with video cameras
· Exterior door deadbolts that can be opened via keypad or smartphone
Is the Technology Boom in Denver Driving This Demand for Smart Homes?
“I believe that lower costs and more practical uses of smart home technology, and a little more discretionary income by buyers today is driving the demand in this area” Schroetlin said. “It seems that 10-15 years ago there was a big push toward home technology, but at that time it wasn’t nearly as ‘smart’ as it is today.
“The economic downturn then occurred and we didn’t see the same demand for smart home features for quite a few years. Recently it’s made a comeback, and it is bigger than ever. I believe this is due to the big product push we are seeing from tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon (Alexa).
“Certain building manufacturers are creating products that are compatible with one or more of the devices these tech companies offer. One of the first questions that a homeowner should ask now is ‘what type of smart phone do they have?’ Or ‘do they prefer to use Alexa from Amazon or Google Home?’ That can dictate which products we use for their home automation.”
High Tech and High Touch
When surrounded by all this technology, there is a risk that the home begins to feel impersonal. This is when a savvy homebuilder can use natural, warm materials to offset the sterility of this technology.
In his seminal 1982 business book, Megatrends, futurist author John Naisbitt proposed a concept that is as relevant now as it was 35 years ago. He noted that as humans are exposed to an increase in “high tech” they will need an equal dose of “high touch” in order to feel relaxed and comfortable. When custom homeowners are surrounded by high tech gadgets of a smart home, they will likely feel the need for some “high touch.” Natural building materials such as brick construction can supply that feeling.
“Brick is today what it has always been,” said Michael Earley of Acme Brick. “It is an authentic building material, made from the earth for the earth. No other building material has equaled the unique blend of ‘beauty’ and ‘brawn’ found in the fired clay brick that we make at our plant in Castle Rock.
“The natural beauty of Colorado-made brick offers an excellent contrast to the high-tech smart homes. It is the ultimate high touch feature to a high tech home.”