Editor’s Note: Commercial Integrator has teamed up with the IMCCA, the New York-based non-profit industry association for unified communication and workplace collaboration, to produce a quarterly supplement, titled Collaboration Today and Tomorrow, that focuses on all things collaboration from multiple perspectives.
Two-plus years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lasting effects of this tremendous life change are now evident. We’ve had to work remotely, stay indoors more and transform our activities into things we can do without the need to travel. This has led to us having a deeper relationship with our homes.
Fortunately, it all happened in an era when a house is not just a place where you can eat and sleep. Society has already made great progress transforming the place where we live into a smart home. Statistics put the number of smart homes in the world at around 200 million, and that number is only expected to rise. That’s not surprising because smart-home devices and home-automation systems are becoming increasingly usable, accessible and affordable.
Even people who cannot call their home “smart” are probably already using smart-home devices — these include everything from smart sensors, to tools such as robot vacuums, to voice assistants like Alexa. Homes are increasingly becoming “smart” as we continually adopt new technologies. In addition, having a smart home typically allows one to have a stylish place with amazing interior design, which is also aimed at pleasing the eyes.
Less Clutter, More Style
Arguably, clutter is the thing in a house that is most displeasing thing to the eyes. It can take many forms — for example, an apartment filled with trinkets and furniture, things being strewn all over the place, etc. But one type of clutter has already started disappearing from people’s houses as they transform them into smart homes: The pile of remote controls and the endless wires are vanishing.
The latest interior-design trends show a tendency toward simple, minimalist home interiors. That is especially true in the audiovisual world. Having wireless devices throughout the house, all of them controllable from one app, makes one’s home appear more modern and stylish. Decorating and integrating new pieces of furniture is much easier when there’s no need to worry about heavy devices or about wires that must be placed near an electrical outlet.
Aesthetically Pleasing Devices
It appears that 2022 is the year of smart homes crossed with interior design, as there are now gadgets that also serve decorative purposes. I fully expect this trend to continue for many years from now, as tech designers develop smart-home devices that can seamlessly integrate into people’s home décor. We see this when people are empowered to choose the color of their devices; we also see it in pieces that are both tech tools and cool design elements. Ultimately, the smart-home movement can be part of numerous interior-design styles.
Smart-home devices that have wood textures and natural colors tend to work incredibly well in the Scandinavian and Japandi interior-design styles, while the minimalist style is complemented by sleek and monochromic devices. Metallic-type devices, too, can fit perfectly in an industrial-style home. Whatever the home design might be, rest assured that it’s possible to find smart-home devices that will look great as part of that design and fit right in!
Home-automation systems bring more security and comfort to people’s lives; that, in turn, tends to enhance their well-being. An automated home offers complete control of all one’s devices from a single smartphone app. There’s no need to worry about whether the windows are locked or the door is bolted. Using a smartphone, one can check those things and, if necessary, perform the desired command with a simple screen touch.
Our relationship with our home has changed in the last two years; so, too, has our relationship with entertainment. Yes, we will continue to see a movie or enjoy a night out with our friends, but, as technology continually evolves, we will see our home increasingly become equipped with more usable home-theater spaces and media rooms.
A media room is a dedicated space in the home for entertainment. It’s a place to watch movies, have gatherings, throw parties, play games, etc. Those who don’t currently have a dedicated space for such activities should consider turning a spare room, or even the living room, into a media room.
The great thing about having smart media rooms is that everything is set up such that it’s possible to reveal a big theater screen, change the lighting to improve the ambience and control what’s going on with the music — all from a single app. Furthermore, parties in smart media rooms sound great because the sound can be incorporated into the walls and distributed to the homeowner’s liking. The future of smart-home design seems to bring us everything we ever imagined from a theater experience.
Incorporating the Home Office
All these technology modernizations unintentionally prepared our homes to host us for remote work. The home office was completely reinvented during the pandemic. Gone are the days of the clunky black-box workstation, with bad lighting and slow broadband.
Many of us have transformed our work-from-home spaces into things of art and beauty; in so doing, we empower ourselves to achieve an elevated level of productivity and comfort, as well as a positive image. High-quality spatial audio, noise-cancellation technologies and immersive video experiences have never been more important to job satisfaction and to collaborating effectively with colleagues and customers.
Many of the remote-working tools have themselves transformed. Forward-thinking manufacturers have gone beyond just making their devices work; they’ve obviously put tremendous thought and effort into making devices that people would want to have in their homes. These days, aesthetically pleasing finishes have become just as important as reliable functioning.
Ultimately, these home-office modernizations will become incredibly important as organizations continue to adopt and embrace hybrid work. The bottom line is, in order to feel comfortable working remotely, individuals need to be able to utilize tech tools that make them feel good. That, in turn, will make them more comfortable and confident during business calls.
Truly savvy commercial integrators have recognized the connection between the smart home and the new home office, and they’ve worked to blend enterprise-grade technology — equipment designed specifically for the home office — with the smart controls and devices people already use in modern homes. The result provides harmony where, in the past, there would have been chaos and conflict.
What was previously the domain of sci-fi movies is becoming reality. Having a smart home is the way of the future. Using smart-home devices, we will focus more on our comfort, well-being and security. Smart-home design allows us to take full advantage of the practical benefits of an automated home system while, at the same time, ensuring that one’s home looks aesthetically in tune with current interior-design trends.
Coordinating and blending those smart-home designs with remote workstations is becoming a win-win. Understanding both the enterprise-integration domain and the residential-integration world is an obvious way for integrators to stand out in this field of growing importance and interest.
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Evan Kirstel is cofounder and chief digital evangelist with EvIRA Health.
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