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Archive for Technology

Apr 08 2018

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Talking About and Getting Started with Smart Tech


Get Up to Speed

  1. Install a smart lock on your door. If you’re not handy with tools, bring in someone who is and experiment. I installed an August Smart Lock Pro, and I’m controlling it by voice from Siri on my iPhone. The cool thing about this device is that it only replaces the deadbolt and not the door knob, so you have two independent options for locking and unlocking your home.
  2. Contract with professionals who are already installing smart things in homes like the experts from the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA). You might include their proposal in your contract or suggest that your homeowner pay them directly. Either way, you will learn something and get involved in smart technology.
  3. Take a class online or in person to learn the basics about smart technology. If you already have a smartphone, you’re halfway there. If you have some mechanical aptitude and like figuring out how things work, then this a new opportunity for new expertise and income that’s worth considering.

 

Talking About Smart Technology
Technology gets new vocabulary and definitions often, so here are some of the frequently used words and definitions for discussing smart homes and smart kitchens with your clients.

  • Smart. Currently smart means online in the kitchen industry. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with artificial intelligence.
  • Local Network. Typically this is a single office or a home, where a smart device does not have to be online to operate. For example, a temperature or moisture sensor can let your clients know when conditions change in their home. The downside is they won’t know about those until they return home.
  • Hub. A hub is a machine that collects and distributes data to and from and between smart devices in the home.
  • Smart Speaker. This is a voice device that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to learn and communicate online via the cloud or built into a computer chip (local) like in a smartphone or even in an appliance.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI). The ability of a machine to do tasks that previously required human skill or human intelligence, including learning and problem solving. Examples: voice and image recognition.
  • IOT (Internet of Things). Smart things talking to smart things with no human involved. Example, a moisture sensor on the kitchen floor telling your client’s smartphone that there’s a leak in the house.
  • Machine Learning. Algorithms (computer code) that cause a machine, like a smartphone, to learn. Example, your smartphone voice assistant (Siri/Alexa) learns from input without being explicitly programmed by a human.

 

Voice Control in Smart Homes and Kitchens
Voice technology for home automation is evolving rapidly but not without some bumps in the road. Here are some things to consider.

1. Voice control of smart devices is top of mind for everyone, but home automation systems with manual switches can be voice enabled as an option that I would recommend to my clients.

2. Some smart devices are close to being voice controllable but are not quite ready yet. For example, an appliance manufacturer hasn’t been approved for use with Apple HomeKit but is working on it.

3. Some systems like Apple HomeKit are better at controlling many devices in multiple rooms and can automate actions among devices. For example, a system can automatically turn on a kitchen light when a smartlock is unlocked. Some systems like Amazon Alexa, for example, are better at ordering and buying food and scheduling deliveries to your client’s home. Voice systems have niches, and the concept of a unified ecosystem for all home automation may not be the best solution for every home.

Mar 23 2018

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Smart Home Transparency and Trust

If you have smart devices in your home like a speaker or an appliance, then you have given permission to a tech company to share your data. Consumers have given a level of trust to tech companies up until now, but that may all be changing. The loss of trust and lack of transparency by Facebook will likely have far-reaching effects – maybe none more than in the home automation and smart technology industry – which is just in its infancy.

Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Siri and Samsung Bixby smart assistants all share personal data with app developers; it’s part of their user agreements. Some user agreements like Houzz give ownership rights of your data to themselves – forever. Appliance companies like Samsung mine personal data from your smart devices like your refrigerator, washer/dryer and TV. In 2015, Samsung warned its SmartTV customers that every word they say in the same room as their SmartTV is being captured and sent over the Internet.

Facebook and Instagram and other social media companies pass your personal data on to other entities, such as app developers, and you agreed to this in the user agreement. In some cases, an honor system is in place between the software company and the app developer about sharing users’ data.

We now know that the self-monitoring system isn’t working out, and tech companies’ sharing of personal data needs to be regulated. Facebook and their “partner” Cambridge Analytica, a data mining company, have misused personal data of 50 million Facebook users. Facebook has known about this issue for a long time but didn’t share it until this past weekend. This lack of transparency has compounded the negativity of the misuse of personal data, and Facebook today is in crisis mode.

This Facebook debacle will hopefully shine a light on the need for a personal data bill of rights in the U.S. This is particularly important for home automation and smart kitchens, since this data is about our most personal and intimate details of home life.

Mark Zuckerberg is being asked to appear in the U.S. and the U.K. to answer for the misuse in sharing of the personal data of 50 million people. The European Union has a law on the books that will take effect on May 25, 2018. The U.S. has no one law – instead we have many laws, and some conflict others.

Without up-to-date laws in place to guarantee the rights of individuals regarding their own personal data, the home automation industry might find itself in a situation like the one Facebook finds itself in today. It’s time to open up dialogues about user rights and user agreements. It’s time to talk about and do something about trust and transparency in the home automation industry.

By Scott Koehler, Dream Kitchen Builders

Feb 22 2018

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Kitchen & Bath Tech Trends You Can’t Afford to Miss

A recent National Kitchen & Bath Association webinar gave insight into this important industry topic. As consumer expectations are increasing where technology is concerned, it is important than ever to stay on top of the trends.

Moderated by Ed Wenck, CEDIA content marketing manager, the panel included Jamie Briesemeister, CEDIA’s integration controls, sales & marketing director; Adam Gibson, CMKBD, Adam Gibson Kitchen & Bath Designs; and Christopher Wright, owner of WrightWorks, a remodeling contractor firm.

The panel covered four learning outcomes during the webinar.

Explore Current and Emerging Tech Trends and Their Application to Current and Future Projects
Briesemeister and her team attended the recent Kitchen & Bath Industry Show and were introduced to a plethora of connected appliances, as well as systems that allow users to access their homes remotely. She said voice control was huge, with many products including Alexa, and water leak detection products help homeowners save on their investment.

“We saw many ‘smart’ products, with smart meaning connected in some way to the internet or a mobile device – there is intelligence built in,” said Briesemeister. “I even saw a mirror with smart glass, which can display weather or a calendar and can also act as a touchscreen to control home devices and even email.”

KOHLER’s Verdera voice-lighted mirror with Amazon Alexa

She also said smart refrigerators add value by letting the homeowner view contents remotely (at a grocery store), and a smart stove can send alerts if it has been on too long. Gibson said the number one connected home need his clients specify is audio visual technology, followed by lighting, which can be controlled with a one-button press or a keypad.

Improve the Experience, Save Production Time, Gain Referrals
“I try to bring up the technology conversation early and ask what existing systems are in place,” said Wright. “I want to deliver options, not upselling or forcing anything on my clients, but rather adding to their quality of life. I find they are willing to pay more for the experience and the peace of mind.”

According to Gibson, every kitchen has some technological integration, but he recommends using an integration specialist to correctly do the install.

“I have learned not to be afraid because I have an integrator involved early,” he explained. “Really good electricians know their limits; they do not try anything they are not trained to do.”

The Bosch Built-in Coffee Machine with Home Connect features voice control through Amazon Alexa. 

Establish a Comfort Level with Emerging Technologies
“In the past, integrations were costly, and it was hard to make multiple systems work,” said Wright. “The early step for me was building relationships with tech pros at events and working with them on my projects.”

CEDIA also offers a database of integrators based on zip code. A good integrator is someone who will not slow down a project, who knows exactly what is out there and who does a great job.

“There are different types – those who do faster installations and those who work with a designer,” said Briesemeister. “Find out what kind you are talking to; you may need to know both.”

Tricks of the Trade
There are several advancements that can hide the technology you install in your client’s home, such as faceplates that match the surrounding material. You can also port a subwoofer through a heating and cooling vent to disguise it.

In terms of maintaining the overall project budget, Wright said there is no need to replace all the current technology in a client’s home.

“This alleviates the fear of having to start over from scratch,” he explained. “We want to present options so our clients have the power to decide what they want. Some will want the latest and greatest, and some only need the bare minimum.

Sep 11 2017

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Journeying into the Future

This past weekend I went down to San Diego to check out our newest sister show: CEDIA 2017. This show focused on smart tech and in particular, the smart home. Having just bought my first home recently, I was excited to see what the market had to offer now and what is coming next. There will be much more in products and trends in a news feature next week, but meanwhile here were some highlights I picked up on.

Multi-Tasking Decor. We are all about multi-tasking at home today, so it shouldn’t have surprised me to see a TV that turns into an art piece or a mirror, like this one from Electric Mirror. According to the exhibitor, no one wants just an ugly black box anymore when you can have a piece of art.

                                        Electric Mirror TV

Bigger, Better Entertainment. If the plethora of extremely high-definition, well-made speakers at the show is any indicator, consumers are all for an in-house entertainment experience. On top of that, not seeing the elements that create that experience makes it all the more luxurious to the homeowner. I saw this at Stealth Acoustics, which can simply hide the speaker behind a specially constructed ceiling panel.
                            Invisible Speakers from Stealth Acoustics

Virtual Reality. In a session I attended on misconceptions about the smart home, I learned that virtual reality (VR) might be going in a different direction than into the home. While it might work well for video games, it is unlikely to make much of an impact on daily life in the home. However, it will continue to evolve into a very efficient tool for designers and sales teams, as I saw myself at Modus VR. The demo showed how easy it would be to create a design inside VR itself, instead of having to set up the design separately and then create the VR scene in a different program. This would save designers a lot of time, and it would allow clients to have a bigger part in the design process.

                              Virtual Reality glasses (on me)


If you attended CEDIA as well, let us know your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter @KBBconnect.