Inside a spacious, 6,000 sq. ft, five-bedroom apartment of an upscale gated community in a Bangalore suburb, its inmates can put on the music, draw the blinds, and dim the light—all with a few touches of a touchscreen. The mother can quickly check on her child playing in the garden, while sitting on her couch in the living room watching her favourite TV show.
These are some of the features of a demo flat at the Mantri Espana project in Bangalore, developed by city-based real estate firm Mantri Developers Pvt. Ltd. And the company, pleased with the results, wants to emulate these smart-home automation features across its residential projects.
Flat screen information display modules in a Mantri Espana apartment.
To achieve this goal, Mantri has collaborated with Cisco Systems Inc., which will develop new information and communication technologies (ICT)-enabled real estate models to create smart urban homes where not just the apartment, but the entire project could be connected through a wireless network.
Home automation is the one of the latest buzzwords in an Indian real estate market that is constantly seeking to differentiate—especially in the high-end segment where buyer budgets have the room for automation. The concept was first introduced by the Lodha Group in its Bellissimo project launched in Mumbai in 2006. It later used the concept in the high-end Luxuria township in Thane, and is now using it in nearly all its projects, said R. Karthik, chief marketing officer at Lodha Group.
The automation trend is fast catching up with other developers as well. In Bangalore itself, apart from Mantri, Total Environment Building Systems Pvt. Ltd is also using it for its Windmills of Your Mind project.
Each villa at Total Environment’s 24-acre project site in Bangalore’s Whitefield area costs around Rs. 5 crore. The project shares many of the automation features that the Mantri Espana offers and those can be accessed by using an iPad.
Sobha Developers Ltd, another prominent property firm in Bangalore, is also marketing its Sobha Habitech project as a smart home project.
Smart homes in Sobha Habitech have conventional manual switches co-existing with centralized touchpad controls.
At Espana, various automation features can be accessed through a wireless network using touchscreen or smartphone interfaces available for installation on popular mobile phone platforms. These features can be divided into different categories—light control, safety features, temperature control and entertainment.
At Espana, various automation features can be accessed using touchscreen or smartphone interfaces.
Lights in an apartment can be automated to turn on as soon as one is home and turn off in case a room is unoccupied for a certain period. They can also be programmed to turn on at sunset and off at daybreak.
From the security point of view, residents can receive email alerts in case a window is left open or the apartment is not locked properly. Internet protocol cameras can be installed to keep an eye on the flat. The entire house can be locked with a touch on the touchscreen monitor on the wall, and all security features can be accessed from a configured mobile phone.
Inside the rooms, window shades can be programmed to adjust for maximum energy efficiency based on the time of day or outside temperature, which helps save some energy.
The total energy consumption of the house can also be monitored through a TV or even remotely. The interface allows the residents to see real-time energy use as well as current costs, and projected monthly costs.
As the master ICT planner, Cisco will help integrate technology into a community, and offer the residents services such as an intelligent concierge, doctor consultation, private tutoring and other digital lifestyle solutions not just within the apartments in a project, but also between various projects in the future, maybe through a centralized system.
These services will go into a dozen of Mantri’s projects across south India.
At Mantri Espana, residents have the option of choosing from a host of services, and pay only for the bucket of services they pick.
Chairman and managing director Sushil Mantri says home buyers will be given an option to choose between platinum, gold and silver categories, prices for which will be Rs. 400 per sq. ft, Rs. 300 per sq. ft and Rs. 200 per sq. ft, respectively.
The total energy consumption of the house can also be monitored through a TV or even remotely.
And while this gives customers greater flexibility, Mantri also says that systems are upgradable—customers can upgrade from silver to platinum categories later if they want to.
Not all developers are making these services optional though.
At Sobha Habitech, homebuyers automatically buy into these smart homes. Apartments in the project are priced at Rs. 80 lakh for a twobedroom flat of around 1,350 sq. ft, and upwards of Rs. 1 crore for a 1,700 sq. ft, three-bedroom home.
Lodha’s Karthik said the company is using the home automation features in almost all its projects.
According to Sushil Mantri, this is just the beginning. He said that going forward, not just one project, but all the projects will be connected to each other, through a centralized control room.
Real estate consultants are hopeful that smart-home services will not remain confined to only luxury residences and will trickle down into mid-segment and budget homes.
Om Ahuja, chief executive, residential, at property advisory firm Jones Lang LaSalle, said that in the next one-two years, most developers are going to use some sort of automation features irrespective of the price. “However, given the weak power supply and back-up in many cities, I am not sure how these devices will work. I also think that many developers would use home automation as a strong marketing tool...,” he said.
Kaustuv Roy, executive director, Cushman and Wakefield India, however, says that it’s a futuristic trend and one has to wait and see to what extent homebuyers take to it.
He says that luxury homes with these solutions usually employ domestic help, and therefore many are questioning the need for such smart-home solutions. “So one has to do a reality check and find out the reach of these products,” Roy said.