Volume 16, Issue 1 - February 2015


Automated for the People
by Trey Barrineau

The new Schlage Sense keyless lock system lets you secure your door with a smartphone app.

In 1949, cartoonist Tex Avery poked fun at the concept of home automation with his famous MGM animated short The House of Tomorrow.

Today, many of the then-fanciful ideas Avery satirized are a reality, and hardware for doors and windows is on the leading edge of this ongoing revolution.

The technology behind automation has been part of commercial and industrial construction for years, but it’s now making big gains in the residential sector. A variety of advanced products are already available that allow you to do things like secure doors or windows remotely or open them using your smartphone. Many more are on the way as the fenestration industry responds to the public’s growing acceptance of the technology.

Americans are starting to view automated door and window hardware as inevitable. A recent survey of 2,000 U.S. adults commissioned by Schlage and conducted online by The Harris Poll in September found that 65 percent said they’d consider installing keyless electronic locks on their doors if it made accessing their homes easier. Additionally, 62 percent think we’ll eventually be living in a keyless society.

Automatic home hardware is also poised to be a huge – and hugely disruptive—business, as the “Internet of things” (IoT) grows into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Gartner Inc. forecasts 4.9 billion web-connected devices of all types will be in use in 2015, up 30 percent from 2014. By 2020, Gartner predicts the number will hit 20 billion. Consumer products, including home automation, represent the vast majority of those gadgets.

“The digital shift instigated by the Nexus of Forces (cloud, mobile, social and information), and boosted by IoT, threatens many existing businesses. They have no choice but to pursue IoT, like they’ve done with the consumerization of IT,” said Jim Tully, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, in a statement.

In other words, your local locksmith might be doing things very differently in the near future—if he still has a job.

Schlage Sense can manage up to 30 entry codes remotely, which gives homeowners plenty of personalization options.

‘On the Cusp’

In May 2013, DWM examined the state of home automation hardware. At that time, many in the industry said the trend hadn’t taken off yet, but has that changed?

Matt Taylor, product manager for Hoppe North America, thinks a tipping point is near.

“I think we’re definitely on the cusp of a more widespread acceptance of the technology,” he says. “The interest level has been unlike anything I’ve experienced so far. We’re getting calls from all different types of people. We have an interest level from a pretty broad spectrum.”

Kevin Anez, marketing director for AmesBuryTruth, says everyone already has a key component of home automation right in their hands.

“Smartphones have enabled people to do everything from take a phone call to successfully navigate from Point A to Point B, so why not design and develop a technology that can be integrated into your home?” he says. “The ability to turn your lights on or off, adjust your thermostat, or check to see if your doors and windows are locked or unlocked from a mobile device seems practical for many.”

As for costs, Taylor believes they’ll keep going down, like they have for so many other electronic devices and applications we now take for granted.

“Our typical product line is oriented toward a higher price point. Add electronic, and it’s a premium offering,” he says. “It’s expensive, but we’re finding that the clients want what they want. Will it evolve over time? Certainly.”
Anez also thinks costs will come down.

“Home automation is similar to other technologies that have evolved over time,” he says. “Initial costs can be high, but as more consumers adopt the technology, it will increase product volumes as well as entice more competitors to enter the space, which may cause prices to fall. We are already seeing home automation kits for sale by some of the big box stores that cater to the DIY segment. It’s likely home automation will continue to evolve, and the adoption rate will be highly dependent on manufacturers striking the right balance between cost, features and benefits.”

Chris Dimou, president and CEO of Roto Frank’s operations in North America, sees the products eventually becoming commonplace in homes.

“I believe over a time span of about five years these devices will trickle down to the average consumer, because of the urbanization as well as higher security requirements,” he says. “That said, though, the emphasis remains the commercial and institutional sector.”

Dimou also says North America has a long way to go to catch up with Europe in home automation.

“Northern Europeans spend three to four times as much on high-security locks in their homes as North Americans,” he says. “Automatic doors are much more common in Europe than in the USA.”

Hoppe’s Electronic Multipoint Lock and Control Module can be controlled by a wide variety of input devices.

The Future is Now

Home automation hardware was everywhere at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

For example, Schlage unveiled its Schlage Sense system. Designed to work with Apple’s HomeKit technology, it can manage up to 30 entry codes via an app for iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Codes can be easily created or deleted, and users can check lock status and view activity without accessing an existing home automation system or paying a subscription fee for a security service.

Pella also raised the curtain on its entry into home automation under its Insynctive brand at January’s Consumer Electronics Show—literally, in the case of window coverings. The door and window manufacturer showed off motorized shades that can be remotely controlled via a wireless switch or keyfob, a proprietary radio frequency or through established home automation apps such as Wink, Nexia, Home Intelligence, Crestron and Savant.

Pella is also adding automation to its doors, windows, deadbolts and garage doors that will help homeowners monitor security and energy consumption.

The new Pella products eliminate a major aesthetic problem for home automation devices—those big, bulgy boxes housing the electronic sensors that make the systems work. Now, they’re built right into the hardware, and Pella will also offer add-on sensors that can fit on any door or window.

“We know home automation is still an intimidating concept for most homeowners,” says Larry Ehlinger, general manager of Pella’s Insynctive business unit. “Incorporating Insynctive products as they are purchasing their windows or doors gives us the opportunity to help them through the entire process and simplify home automation.”

As Products Shrink, So Do Prices

We all know that advanced electronic products such as computers and cellphones aren’t nearly as big—or expensive—as their early predecessors.

The same thing is happening with home automation devices.

A case in point: Guardoor, a motion detector from San Francisco start-up Kiktec that bills itself as “The World’s Cheapest Home Security System.”

Here’s how it works: Small triangular motion detectors (about 1 ½ by 5 ½ inches) are attached to any door or window in a residence. When activated by movement, the sensors send an alert to an app on your smartphone or tablet, where you’ll have to option to call the police, send a message to friends, family or neighbors, or cancel the alert.

Guardoor is currently seeking funding on IndieGogo. A pledge of $59 will get you a “super early bird” unit that could be in your home by April.

Guardoor hopes to sell a basic home security kit for $79. That’s significantly less expensive than traditional home security systems, which can cost up to $1,200 for installation and come with monthly subscription fees, according to a September 2013 article from U.S. News.

Trey Barrineau
is the editor of DWM magazine.


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