Times change, but perhaps never as profoundly as in 2020. The way we work, play, communicate and connect is undergoing a major paradigm shift, and homes are experiencing a significant shakeout as a result. They have become not only our refuge, but a place to work and learn remotely, be entertained, relieve stress, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Homeowners are eager to expand the role of the home. According to a poll of 1,054 Americans by Bank of America about their attitudes and shopping habits during the coronavirus pandemic, more than 70 percent have decided to tackle home improvement projects, with more planned for 2021. Technology will certainly be a part of many homeowners’ renovation plans. Here are 10 trends that are shaping the home tech landscape:
Home Networking is Hot
As families set up and use home offices and study spaces, standard networking systems have struggled to keep up with increased bandwidth demands. Having dealt with painfully slow downloads and inconsistent connections, families are embracing faster, more reliable, enterprise-grade networks, like those from Access Networks. What they are also discovering is that the benefits go beyond work and learning applications. “For people who spend 14 hours a day in their home offices, why not enhance the space by adding a quality A/V system and intelligent lighting?” suggests home technology integrator Todd Anthony Puma of The Source Home Theater. With a robust communications backbone in place, a home is ready for anything.
Human-Centric Lighting Fosters Better Health
As families spend more time at home, they want their environments to be as comfortable and healthy as possible. Human-centric lighting systems, which alter the intensity and color of light, are proven to promote rest, relaxation, productivity and wellness. Already a recognized component of WELL certification in commercial buildings, human-centric lighting is positioned to have a “huge impact on the future of residential design,” notes George Harrison, president of Harrison Home Systems, who has been implementing it in many commercial projects.
Acoustical Treatments Tame Household Noise
Also contributing to health and wellness are the acoustical characteristics of a home. Noise, whether it’s from an HVAC unit or a lawnmower next door, can hinder productivity in a home office, intelligibility of audio in a media room, and a restful night’s sleep. The integration of acoustical treatments can minimize audible distractions from any area inside or outside the house, and manufacturers like Rayva are designing acoustical panels that look and perform well in any room of the house.
Touchless Controls Take Off
As homeowners look for ways to reduce the spread of germs, touchless modes of control, such as voice, are in high demand. “Building codes still mandate switches on the wall for critical applications, but voice definitely offers an opportunity for operating lights, A/V equipment, and other features in a more sanitary fashion,” says David Weinstein, vice president of sales at Lutron. “Based on conversations with our dealers, there is a definite decrease in the number of switches that are being installed as homeowners elect to use voice as a control medium,” adds Alex Capecelatro, CEO at Josh.ai.
Home Theater is Booming
Commercial cinemas are either closed or offering limited seating, so many families are exploring new ways to stay engaged and entertained—at home. “Home cinemas are making a big comeback,” says Greg Margolis, president of HomeTronics. Brighter and bigger displays, smaller, sleeker speakers, and completely new ways to consume and enjoy entertainment content are all on the radar, as are home theater solutions that facilitate other forms of recreation, according to Lisa Slayman, president at Slayman Cinema. “In addition to watching blockbuster releases, viewing sporting events, playing video games, listening to music and practicing yoga have become part of the home theater equation,” she says. “Above all, though, consumers want their theaters to serve as an escape.” This requires not just a good dose of technology, but a beautifully designed room. “Properly placed seating, acoustical treatments, colors schemes and lighting are all important elements to the overall experience,” says George Walter, president at Rayva. “As consumers utilize their homes as their main entertainment venue, they want their home theaters to offer great performance, comfort, and aesthetics.”
Outdoor Entertainment Explodes
Often, homes simply lack the space to dedicate to a home theater. In these cases, homeowners are using outdoor areas as an alternative. Weather-hardy speakers and displays are in high demand, as well as motorized shading solutions. Installed around the perimeter of a patio or deck, outdoor shading adds a new, usable space to a home. At the same time, shading is transforming the indoor space, and in a big way. Innovative designs that simplify installation and operation from companies including Screen Innovations, Lutron, and Savant are inspiring homeowner to dress their windows.
Hidden Tech Hits a Chord
Design is driving product innovation more so now than ever before. “Take Apple products,” offers Ryan Gustafson, CEO at Screen Innovations. “Their technology is born by focusing on great design.” The same can be said of many manufacturers in the custom home tech industry. From speakers to shades, and switches to security cameras, manufacturers like Leon Speakers, Nexus21, Future Automation, and Screen Innovations are spiffing up the cosmetics of their offerings and devising concealment solutions — giving homeowners one more thing to love about technology.
Virtual Design & Tech Consultations Cater to Home-Bound Consumers
Adding a home office and/or home theater is a complex job that typically requires a home systems integrator to be physically at the job site for weeks or even months. Not anymore. Social distancing has put a crimp on interactions between installers, inspiring new virtual-based modes of communication, planning and execution. “For each client who requests it, we configure a complete home networking system at our shop, deliver it to their doorstep, then walk them through the installation via FaceTime,” says Otto Benson, Modern Home Systems, of the Access Networks systems he offers.
Security Cameras Provide Peace of Mind
Peace of mind is priceless, especially in times of uncertainty. One of best ways to ensure that a home and its occupants are safe is with remotely accessible security cameras. Of course, features like night vision and zooming and panning, as noted by the Home Technology Association, are important, but the network on which the cameras operate must be rock solid to ensure a clear, reliable view of the camera action. “Wi-Fi needs to cover the property to maintain a consistent connection so that video is accessible 24/7,” says Allen Tremble, owner of Acoustic Evolution.
More Tech in the Kitchen and Bath
Move over, media rooms — the kitchen and bath are inching in on your territory as primary rooms in which to integrate technology. “These are two rooms where you are actively doing something with your hands, making technology like touch-less voice-driven controls a natural complement,” says Gordon Van Zuiden, owner of cyberManor. Also making their way into the space is are many of the technologies discussed above: human-centric lighting, security cameras, shading, networking, and more.
We’ve named 10 trends, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Suffice it to say that custom home technologies are here to stay.