The house of tomorrow, today

Doors that open when you walk up to them, lights that change colour with your mood, or iPad-controlled fans—it’s all possible now
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First Published: Thu, Jan 31 2013. 06 02 PM IST
Remote-controlled: The interface mimics the room layout, and you click on the appliances to operate them.
Remote-controlled: The interface mimics the room layout, and you click on the appliances to operate them.
When Ashwin Datta reaches his house in Chattarpur, Delhi, the motorized door of the compound slides open automatically, and the door to the house clicks open just as he’s parking. In the summer, his bedroom’s air conditioner switches on when he leaves his office in Gurgaon, but for now only his TV is on, with VH1 playing just loudly enough to let his parents know he’s headed home.
Datta, a 30-year-old dealer in high-end video equipment, has long been fascinated by home automation technology and has, over the last five years, at a cost of just under Rs.1 lakh, set up three main automated systems in his house—the doors are controlled with a radio remote control he keeps in the car; the TV is managed with a smartphone app; and the smart lights switch themselves off when a room is empty.
He says: “My parents find the TV switching on and off a little annoying, but they really like the lights. The door, I hired a contractor to do. For the lights, I’d read about these motion tracker switches, and just bought those and got an electrician to rewire it. The switches cost around Rs.2,000 for each room; it was worth it.”
Of course, not everyone is willing to rewire their house for automation; if you’re buying a new house though, there’s a good chance that it’s going to have at least some of these services built right in.
Sanjeev Jindal, director, marketing and sales of Punjab-headquartered Barnala Realtech, has just completed the construction of an apartment complex with 165 flats in Zirakpur, in Mohali. The flats come with a lot of automation built in, and Jindal says future projects will also incorporate the technology.
He says: “We integrated the technology to bring in something new, and the response has been good. We have automatic lights in every room and remote-controlled curtains, and electronic door locks, along with a TV and DVD player you control with your phone. Everything can be controlled with your phone, or with a single touch panel in the house, even the door.”
“There are also motion detectors that can alert you if someone breaks into the house, and aside from sending you a message, the sensor can also trigger an automatic phone call to the police with a recorded message asking for help,” he adds.
If you’re not looking to buy a new house though, you can hire Smart Automation, a supplier and contractor for remote control and automation services, to build a solution for you. C.P. Singh, its founder, says: “We’ve got a lot of wireless options today, so you don’t need to rewire the house to do something like this any more. Depending on what a user wants, we can put together a package and design control schemes. Anything that has a remote control; your A/C, your music system, your TV, doors, all that can be designed to work with our systems.”
According to Singh, security is a top priority, followed by automatic lighting. He says: “Most people want digital locks. With these locks, instead of a key, there’s an RFID (radio-frequency identification) tag you carry which unlocks the door. But you can also have biometrics—a thumb scanner to let the maid in when you’re not at home. We’re trying to set up a system where the doorbell can be used to call your phone, so you can talk to people at your door even when you’re not at home, and then let them in if you like.”
With this sort of system, if you forgot your key one day and got locked out of the house, you could just pull up your phone, run the app and let yourself in. Or you could put a bowl of soup in the microwave and have it heated by the time you’ve reached home.
The entire interface is graphical—you see your room on the phone. Tap the fan and you can switch it on, speed it up or slow it down. Tap the lights and you can change their colour, or open the front door. And it’s not too expensive—Singh says it costs around Rs.3 lakh to automate a three-bedroom house .
As wireless technology becomes cheaper, the possibilities of automation will be limited only by our imagination.
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First Published: Thu, Jan 31 2013. 06 02 PM IST
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