As it becomes more important for home automation to be both impressive and functional, Dimi Kyriakou reports on an emerging trend to integrate security systems with energy management.
The installation of a reliable security system is always important, considering that thousands of dollars are easily spent on the latest technologies for a dedicated home theatre. But something as common as home security can also be expanded to look out for the environment as well.
Ness national intel systems manager Greg Kingsley says it’s essential for people to integrate security into their home so it not only protects their family but also provides a functional home automation system.
“Security is a bit like insurance,” Greg says. “No one really wants to spend a lot of money on it, but it’s becoming a necessity to have it.
“At the same time you can tie in some home automation functions and get the best of both worlds. You have a powerful security system, but you’re not paying for something that you don’t want and it’s not considered to be a burden.”
He says a home security system can range from something simple like controlling a garage door, to the more complex option of managing lights in the house. But it still has to be simple enough for the home owner to use.
“Our system has lots of user interfaces. It can start off with a basic keypad and expand to have iPhone interfaces, touch screens or telephone control.
“There’s not much point installing a security automation controller if it’s difficult for the customer to run and they need to do a training course to learn how to operate their own system. We make it easy for the customer to use, but at the same time make it powerful enough for them to get the benefits and features that they’re looking for.”
Axeze chief executive Shelley Elder says biometrics also plays a vital role in home automation.
“It saves time and money because we work longer hours and the demands on our time seem to constantly increase. The greatest feature of the automated society is that it reduces the stress imposed by our fast-paced lifestyle.”
Axeze’s latest products in biometrics revolve around the measurement and recording of biological data, which is mostly used in personal identification.
“We have a computer lock which only unlocks my computer with my fingerprint and we are also looking at a range of wireless technology products.
“We expect to release two new ECKey technologies that integrate with your existing door. After a one-time registration, your phone will automatically lock the door when you leave, and unlock the door when you return,” she says.
“People think of automation as being electrical gadgets, but it’s far more. It is about the environment, saving energy in as many ways as possible and taking shortcuts that benefit us and our lifestyles.”
Both Shelley and Greg agree there is an increasing trend for security and biometrics to be integrated with energy management as rainfall lessens, water supplies dwindle and energy costs rise.
Greg says the combination of security with both water and energy conservation will give a customer better overall control of their home automation system.
“Motion detectors can be used to control lighting, provided that it’s programmed with the lighting and you make sure it doesn’t flood both systems. If there’s no movement in a particular room, it can automatically turn the lights off.”
Greg says water monitoring and power monitoring can be tied into other parts of the system, including thermostat, lighting and sprinklers.
“Smart water meters can show how much water is being used and feed this into the security automation controller. The customer can then set it up to do things, like announce how much water is being used and graph it to show the peak times it is being used.”
Home owners can then use these facts and figures to determine if they need to change parts of their lifestyle to become more energy-conscious, or if they’re happy with what they’re using.
“It’s really giving you control over the system. You can control how it works to save power and energy.”
One of Ness’s latest projects in energy conservation revolved around a Victorian school that wanted to ‘go green’.
“We installed a system that revolved around window and curtain control, depending on the temperature outside. During summer the windows can open to let a breeze through, automatically. The teacher can override this if they wish to of course, but it aims to open windows and cool down the classrooms rather than turn the air-conditioner on.”
Shelley also agrees that home automation systems are able to provide the added benefit of energy conservation.
“Electric curtains and blinds mean not only longer life for furnishings, but reduced overheads in keeping places hot or cold. You can tie it all together with energy management and water consumption. This includes monitoring the amount of power being consumed by certain power points and knowing when something is drawing excessive power,” she says.
“The worst thing that everyone feels is entering a freezing cold or boiling hot house. How much energy is consumed having these items turned on when no one is there? A far better idea is to turn them on as you leave the office or as you are driving towards home. Great energy saving.”
Although it’s becoming more popular for customers to integrate these automation systems into their home, consumers must remember that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome revolves around installation into an existing structure.
“Most lighting controlled systems are designed for new houses, so they’re a lot harder to retro-fit. It can be done, but it’s cost-prohibitive,” Greg says.
According to Ness, it’s important for consumers to look at their immediate requirements but make sure their home automation system can be expanded in the future.
“Most people install a security system initially and then add automation functions as time goes by. But if you pick a cheaper security system to put in, it’s not very flexible for people to add automation in at a later time,” Greg says.
“Make sure the system you select can be easily expanded in the future. Even if you save $1,500 initially, it’s always best to look at your future requirements and you’ll be better off in the long-term.”