FOCUS | ON THE MARKET
BY CLAIRE SWEDBERG
RESIDENTIAL END-USER expectation is fueling automation expansion not only in the homes of the wealthy but also in middle class
developments where residents expect to be able to
manage the operation of their homes with their cell
phone or tablet. That has led to some role shifting
among technology providers, installers and
integrated systems contractors to ensure their
relevance in this growing industry. According
to industry experts, the companies that aren’t
anticipating and developing their own role in
home automation are likely to fall behind.
Developers and homeowners are seeking knowledgeable con-
tractors who can take a holistic approach to automation systems.
These contractors are providing the backbone for security, lighting
and the operation of potentially dozens of devices monitoring condi-
tions and movement of people in the home.
Automation didn’t start holistically, but, as homeowners demand
more functionality from their automated systems, having multiple
separate systems is becoming less realistic. As a result, vendors are
realigning their business model and product offerings accordingly.
In some cases, companies that initially specialized in lighting are now
leveraging their position to provide lighting automation, creating a more
universal system, said Greg Rhodes, director of marketing, Leviton. He
sees it as a natural evolution: as lighting switches became smarter, other
systems began to tie in with lighting technology—everything from water
pumps to security to the traditional lights.
In 2012, with the goal of taking a lead role in that evolution, Leviton
acquired Home Automation Inc. The company now provides open protocol
devices that enable installation and integration of a variety of systems.
That is becoming increasingly important as, in the past few years, the typical new home has expanded from three to five to about a dozen devices
tied into a single automation system.
“People are starting to see the benefit,” Rhodes said, adding that
most users are finding new ways to control remotely or automatically the
multiple devices in their home.
As more homes are equipped with varying forms of automation, do-it-yourself options also are emerging, but those have had limited success
with homeowners. As an alternative, Leviton is releasing a new hub this
year that will provide functionality not possible for do-it-yourself systems
and, yet, is easier to install that traditional systems, Rhodes said.
Once contractors are already providing electrical installation in a home,
there’s an opportunity to continue a sale. “You’re in there for a security system
and you add speakers for a sound system,” he said, adding that he expects
these kinds of solutions will become more ubiquitous and less expensive.
In addition, the company is offering products that will help homeowners
transition their lighting from incandescent to compact fluorescent or LED
lighting. Its product, Zipline, is intended to make that change seamless by
simply switching out one fixture for another. This lighting fixture retrofit
solution reduces installation time and is intended to eliminate wiring er-
rors. According to Rhodes, Zipline solutions require fewer pieces, fewer
connections and up to half the installation time.
Leviton’s system also comes with a touchscreen that can be installed to
make managing the system easier within the home and without requiring
use of the smaller devices such as phones and tablets.
Smart home control products company Control4 also offers a solution
in which a TV display could be used to manage the system. Control4 pro-
vides its own products as well as those from third-party manufacturers.