Get smart about your home

Meera Siva | Updated on January 07, 2014 Published on January 07, 2014

Many builders offer smart features for free. If not, the cost ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 200 per square feet on an average.

Smart homes are the new buzz word in the property market, with a growing number of new projects offering these features. Home intelligence systems were initially offered in very high-end homes in the past, but the concept is increasingly seeing wider adoption. While sensors and automation may conjure science fiction images, you must be aware of the practical aspects of home automation systems before you sign up.

On offer

Adding smartness to any living space involves three main aspects, says Avinash Gautam, co-Founder of Silvan Innovation Labs, a provider of home automation solutions. First, is the entrance management, which includes a camera to monitor the person at the door and a security system to unlock the door. Additionally, many systems link the video phone to the cell phone so that you can monitor and control entry even remotely, say from your workplace.

Second, is security which involves detecting break-ins, fire or gas leaks. Typically, sensors are used to detect problems and concerned persons, such as the local security personnel, fire or police department, are informed. For added protection, multiple layers of redundant information systems are employed.

For instance, more than one authority may be sent a message and various modes, such as wireless, Internet and visual alerts are used to ensure that the message is delivered. Third, smart systems enable you to control multiple functions with a single setting, commonly referred to as ‘mood’.

For example, you can have a morning mood where the geyser is on, curtains are open and lights in the hallway are turned on. Bundling various settings that occur together makes it convenient to control the ambience. You may find that you do not have to pay anything to get the smart home system, as many builders are offering these features for free to home buyers to help differentiate their project.

But even if you have to pay, the price is quite reasonable. The cost ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 200 per square feet, depending on the utilities offered and the brand. So, for a 1,500-square feet apartment, it may work out to be around Rs 2-3 lakh.

What it costs

Most developers standard features as part of the solution and may allow customisation for an added cost. “Warranty for manufacturing defects and Annual Maintenance Contract for three years is included in the initial cost,” notes Shreekant P. Shastry, Vice-President – Business, Ozone Group, a Bangalore-based developer.

So, typically you may not pay anything extra for the first three years. Ongoing maintenance charges may range from Rs 3-5 per square feet per month after the initial period. This covers regular upkeep for any operational issues, but any new features or upgrades may involve additional costs.

Return on investment

You may be able to get a return on your investment as you may be able to save on your utility bill. Heating and cooling consumes most of the energy in a household and lighting may take up around 25 per cent of the power used.

R. Srinivas of Smart Cities Council, India, quotes a recent study conducted by the Centre for Sustainable Development and Bangalore Electricity Supply Company. The study shows that 13 to 20 per cent energy can be saved by efficient use of technology in the lighting segment. That said, while power saving may be a focus for home automation systems for commercial buildings, most home systems are primarily focused on convenience rather than on cost savings.

What to check

Before signing up for a system, check four things with your solutions provider. First, ask what happens in case of sensor failure or other local problems. Ideally, the system should ensure smooth functioning by disabling automation and allowing manual control.

Second, a home lasts much longer than most gadgets. So, the features and electronics will likely become obsolete in a few years. You should ask how the vendor plans to upgrade the system and how disruptive this is likely to be.

Third, you must ensure that the system provides the required flexibility to customise and expand, says J.C. Sharma, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Sobha Developers. For instance, you may want to tweak some features for your needs, such as making it suitable for seniors or small children. Find out the availability of after sales service to make any changes in the future.

Lastly, you must check the robustness of the smart home solution against break-ins. For example, someone may be able to hack into the system and cause a malfunction. Also, ask what safeguards are offered to protect against a stolen cell phone or a lost password.


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