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Business News/ Opinion / Anyone can have a smart home
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Anyone can have a smart home

Home automation does not imply a significant pricing premium over conventional apartments

Shyamal Banerjee/MintPremium
Shyamal Banerjee/Mint

After smartphones, it is now the turn of “smart homes". But are automated homes really a smart option for investors? Contrary to what many people think, home automation does not imply a significant pricing premium over conventional apartments. But it does offer investors key benefits such as safety, energy efficiency and convenience.

Before one decides to invest in a smart home, certain basic conditions have to be met. The first among those is that one has to ensure that the developer actually offers all the automation functionalities on possession of the property itself. Second, the availability of basic infrastructure (power, Internet connectivity, etc.) is crucial; without these basic elements a home cannot turn into a smart home. Third, it is prudent to customize the automation solutions based on your immediate priorities (and not on what is on offer), as convenience is what you pay for in a smart home.

Your home in an app

In an era where there is an app for everything—from weather forecast to counting heartbeats—why not have one for your home? A smart home can be remotely monitored through an app on your smartphone or tab, or from a centralized console in the apartment. Most developers today offer ready-to-move-in smart homes, with a host of automation functions (motion sensors to switch off/on lights as you exit or enter an area; gas leak detectors; video door phones and many other conveniences).

Some premium projects also offer integrated entertainment systems, automated garages, etc. The concept was introduced in Mumbai a few years ago and is a trend that is catching up rapidly across projects in Bangalore, Chennai and Gurgaon as well.

Three smart steps

There are a few things that one should keep in mind while shopping for a smart home. First, ensure that all functionalities exhibited in a “sample flat" are activated at the time of handover of your apartment. For buyers not wanting the entire range of automation functions, some developers are also laying out a la carte “smart home" packages. Be clear about what you need—all the features or just a few—and choose the options accordingly.

Second, you must examine whether the proposed project (and the surrounding region) is also equipped with the necessary support infrastructure needed to operate a smart home. Lack of basic infrastructure such as power, Internet/wi-fi connections can render any smart home system unfeasible. This is a key issue even in several metros and tier-1 cities.

Third, home automation can also be modified to suit investors’ end purposes. If you perceive smart homes purely as a long-term investment, it will pay you well to equip the apartment with the whole range of automation facilities as that will boost the valuation.

Alternatively, if you are looking to occupy the apartment yourself, you must also consider your own needs and the ease of use and choose the extent of automation accordingly (you can limit automation to the basic range of safety and energy efficiency functions).

Though you need not be a geek to own and understand a smart home, possessing basic technical know-how will definitely help. Moreover, senior citizens staying alone (or in the absence of other members who may be at their workplaces) may not necessarily be able to manoeuvre the complex systems or respond to automated messages. Keep the technical abilities of other family members or users in mind as well.

Finally, you will always have to contend with bugs and technical glitches. Home automation systems often run on a centralized server. Any shutdown or maintenance activities may completely affect your day-to-day activities. Developers need to institute a robust, round-the-clock facility management system (usually managed by the automation service provider) that can inform residents of any such changes (preferably in advance) and also solve any technical issues in a timely manner. Check with the developer on the maintenance facilities and the back-up options for those periods.

Should you make the leap?

In conclusion, as in the case of an ordinary apartment, ensure that your project fares well on all the basic parameters (adequate funds, right location, etc.).

While price is not a significant barrier, it is still wiser to limit automation based on your priorities (after all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and you don’t want to be tangled in a bundle of gizmos that you are never going to use).

Binaifer Jehani is director, Crisil Research.

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Published: 12 Dec 2013, 06:28 PM IST
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