Posted on October 26, 2016

So you’ve been sitting on the fence about Home Automation or Smart Homes right? I mean this stuff is still expensive, a little gimmicky and only for the rich and famous. But with that said, you do love new technology and the idea of controlling your home from your phone or even voice control seems very, very cool…

Well I’ve got news for you. It’s easy to retrofit, not expensive, it can deliver some highly valuable benefits and is available in all regions including Melbourne, Geelong and the Surfcoast. That’s right, you can easily create a smart home in Geelong or wherever without any changes to wiring, fixtures or plastering.

I’ve had this conversation many times and the typical response is “WHAT!?! When did this happen?”.  It can be almost a pained response at times as if the boat has been missed. But thankfully it’s not the case.

This week’s episode of The Block is case-in-point as the Telstra Home Automation system is unveiled.  Now whilst these renovated apartments have basically been rebuilt from the ground up, with all new cabling, switches, locks and fixtures, this new Telstra product (in partnership with iControl) is on display.  Ironically, this is a product best suited to the existing home/retrofit market due to the wireless communication technology used (Zigbee) but does have a lot of upside.  When we worked on The Block a couple years ago with winning duo Shannon and Simon we actually used the well know automation system Clipsal’s C-Bus and achieved a pretty special result, albeit a wired system.

Most uniquely in the Australian market is the subscription model in which you purchase.  Of course this is very common in the telco industry but quite new in the home technology space. Essentially, you pay “the cost of a couple movie tickets” per month on a 24 month contract to receive one of their basic packages.  The catch is that these Telstra systems are actually not available yet and we still don’t know exactly what is in their ‘package’… So it could be about the $700-$800 mark and it will have ‘some’ automation hardware delivered to your door.  Which of course you have to install yourself.

From a consumer point-of-view a huge upside is the alleged ease of installation and the range of products available from the get go.  There will be sensors, cameras, thermostats, locks, power plugs, lamps and of course the central hub.

Quite a lot of grey area right.  Yeah we think so too.  But fortunately Telstra are not the pioneers in WiFi home automation and there are a couple other Smart Home systems that have equal, if not better features.  Most importantly though, they’ve been on the market for a little while now and have already had re-releases and updates applied to the products that had teething problems. Something Telstra wont have experienced yet.

One of our preferred products for Geelong and the Surfcoast Home Automation is the Nero Environexus system, backed by mega technology giant Schneider. Granted there is no lock in 24 month pay back contract available but it is tried, tested, powerful and freaking easy to use.

Not unlike the Telstra/iControl system it has a central hub with iOS or Android App control, power plugs and wireless locks. But amongst other devices it also has a highly functional 4-in-1 sensor that measures movement, light levels, temperature and humidity.  Even more conveniently, there are wireless modules that can be installed on just about anything.  By anything I mean behind a light switch to control the existing down lights in your lounge room, or perhaps at the motor on your garage door to give you automated access. Of course, installing a wireless module onto your existing electrical cabling behind a light switch needs a licensed electrician.  And this comes at a small cost but the benefits far out way the investment, especially when they only take about 10 minutes to install. (I know this as I’m a licensed sparky and I have personally installed a few now!)

This does start the conversation on how comfortable many of us are with the whole concept of do-it-yourself or DIY as Telstra believes we will all be so able to do.  But perhaps this is another blog post altogether…

If you are looking to automate your home, whether it’s a new build, renovation or existing dwelling, there are plenty of options and plenty of experts to speak to.  We applaud Telstra for partnering with iControl to distribute a system that will be available to everyone and anyone, even those without the $700 to spend upfront and feel more comfortable with a monthly plan.  On face value it looks to have heaps of great features.

However, if you want something now or get little nervous when the brand new products come out, perhaps something like the Environexus system is a better fit.  With all that said I will be watching the slow release of this new Telstra Home Automation product with much anticipation and hope it delivers as a product as robust, flexible and intelligent as it’s established competitors.

For more information on Home Automation in Geelong and the Surf Coast, Smart Homes or any new technology entering our homes, contact Sam and the team at Smarter Buildings to see how you too can have a home of the future.

03 5221 5495