Professional installation of whole house automation requires four critical steps, involving on-site home survey, hands-on modification, software programming and end-product verification with customers, according to smart home enabler Flex Automation.
The very first step is obtaining what the customer wants, and doing a site survey of how the house was built as-is. Instead of relying on a construction blueprint, installers should perform an on-site survey, to check what is actually there, said Flex CEO Jean Pascal Nathan De Simone.
The second step involves making a design of what needs to be changed, and then physically installing the devices and making the infrastructure changes.
The third step is doing the programming. In this step, programmers will configure and debug the system to enable home automation. They will create the “dining scene,” for example, based on what customers requested in the first step.
The fourth and final step is called consolidation, in De Simone’s term. “The step is where you consolidate the job.” A document detailing how to control the renovated home will be provided to customers.
De Simone noted that customers are likely to request modifications in the fourth step; however, modifications shouldn’t be made right away. The reason is that end-users may come up with many new ideas all of a sudden when they see the new home. However, making all the changes at this stage is not feasible.
“Tell customers that we’ll make any changes they want, but not before they test-drive it for 30 days first. Ask customers to make a note of what they want to change on a sheet, and then come back 30 days later,” De Simone stressed.
Different from the U.S. Market
Founded in 2005, Brazil-based Flex Automation specializes in 100-percent whole house automation, letting homeowners control everything, ranging from curtains to entertainment systems, from their smartphone. This is very different from the majority of smart home implemented in the U.S.
“The business model for smart home in the U.S. is related to security, so basically you have an alarm panel close to the front door, and there are door lock, door and motion sensors and a lighting circuit,” De Simone said, adding that “90 percent smart homes sold in the US are based on 4-5 devices implemented. It’s not necessarily a whole house control.”
Z-Wave’s Many Advantages
Flex Automation’s founder and CEO De Simone is also a Z-Wave Evangelist in Latin America. He has been working with Z-Wave for 15 years, and brought the technology to Brazil, even before it was available in the U.S. The company has deployed thousands and thousands of homes using Z-Wave, De Simone said.
Z-Wave has many advantages. It operates in the sub-1 Ghz frequency range, which is less “noisy.” Similar low-power protocol Zigbee uses the 2.4 Ghz frequency, which is very crowded with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth also operating in it.
Another advantage of Z-Wave is “interoperability.” All Z-Wave devices have to talk with one another. “This creates a very safe environment for long-term business. For any reason I’m not in the business anymore, there are 700 companies in the world that works with Z-Wave. The products are replaceable,” De Simone noted.
This doesn’t happen on Zigbee. Home automation company Control4 uses Zigbee, and there won’t be any replacement items if Control4 is out of business.
Zigbee Alliance has been working for many years trying to create a standard for interoperability. “The problem is that the system doesn’t start from the beginning, and now they need to convince people. Standardization is not mandatory,” De Simone pointed out.
According to De Simone, there are more Z-Wave-certified products than any others on the Samsung SmartThings platform. “Thanks to interoperability, Z-Wave gives customers the right to choose what they want. They have options to buy this product form this source, or from the other one. They will all work.”
Of course, Z-Wave is not suitable for all the applications. It’s a short distance technology, and not suitable for outdoor or transmission. Its low speed is not fit for audio/video transmission, either.
A TV using Z-Wave doesn’t make any sense; it makes better sense to use Wi-Fi. Most battery- IoT devices like door locks, lighting devices and sensors may use Z-Wave, which is designed for low-power consumption.
Regardless of protocols, as long as they are all IP-based, homeowners can control everything from the same user interface. “At the end of the day, they want to push button and things happen. Some of them will be Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, infrared or RF, as long as everything is integrated,” De Simone added.