What does ‘smart’ technology mean for the consumer, and how does an installer get the concept across to their customer? Energenie’s Adam Smith gives his verdict.
With ‘smart’ technologies such as thermostats, lighting, cameras and plugs now on sale in the retail sector, how does an installer get in on the action? In our experience there are two approaches to take with the ‘smart’ home.
Firstly there are the mega-bucks solutions where it’s not uncommon for systems to start at £10,000 and the sky’s the limit. Installing these is highly-skilled work because the systems often use on-site intelligence (something
resembling a server) with various busses and control boxes around the property, all hardwired together.
Alternatively, the emerging IoT (Internet of Things) systems use cloud-based intelligence and wireless technologies.
These are much cheaper and easier to install with regular electrical skills and no knowledge of I.T or computing. This sector is where the current, and more importantly, significant future growth is coming from so it’s a good bet for an installer to invest time in it.
With smart thermostats getting the share of the advertising space, this seems the likely point of adoption. Often available in retail stores, smart thermostats are often sold without installation and really do require a qualified person to fit them. But as they’re sold in retail, it’s likely that a customer may have already made the purchase.
The opportunity for the installer is to tackle the consumer before they’ve decided on a choice of smart thermostat,
which means talking to them! The installer should choose a device they’re comfortable with and one that offers them a reasonable return on the product and installation.
The best way to understand which products are for you is to simply buy a small selection and fit them to your own property and live with them for a little while; remember these are consumer devices so they’re designed to be easy to use!
Talking to customers about smart technology can be easy. Would they be interested in upgrading to a thermostat they can control from their phone? What about a system that knows when they’re away and turns down the heat accordingly? What about saving money on their heating bills? The conversation starters are so easy to come by.
Installable sockets, light switches and sensors are the next logical step. Leave the smart light bulbs and the cameras to the retailers and focus on the products that add value to the property. There are a good selection of lighting control products and smart sockets (same as a smart plug but permanently fitted to a 2-gang pattress box) on the market already. A business can be built around installation, but also annual maintenance, changing batteries, programmes or adding newly released products along the way.
As these kind of systems use over-the-air updates and are permanently “connected” there is little by way of
aftersales to deal with. Many manufacturers prefer to support the end user directly, with in-app and web-based
interaction the norm.
The MiHome system by Energenie aims to offer big system features through an affordable, scalable range which is
modular. Already established with lighting, heating, electrical control and sensor products, a new smart thermostat is the latest item to be added to the portfolio.