Thursday 12 February 2015

Home Automation Set To Rise Significantly In The South African Consumer Market

By Belinda Cooper
Issued by Lion’s Wing Brand Communications on behalf of Sphere Custom Design

One of the most exciting aspects of living in the modern age of technology is that the gadgets and developments that are only available to the very high-end consumers today soon trickle down to the financial reach of the general populace. It is therefore insightful to notice trends in the higher end of the tech market to gain a glimpse on what will dominate the market in the future. One such emerging trend is the move towards home automation.

Christiaan Beukes, managing director of Sphere Custom Design, a Cape Town-based home and office technology automation specialist, states that three crucial trends in the consumer technology industry has meant that affluent consumers are adopting smart technology to bring their homes and lives online to a greater degree than ever before.

Says Beukes, “Over the past three years South Africa has seen significant development in bringing more people online, either through Wi-Fi, ADSL or mobile connectivity. This access has meant that more people are exploring exactly what this access to information and connectivity can mean to their lives. In addition to this, the cost of this connectivity has been driven lower and lower, meaning more people are able to adopt data-intensive services, such as data streaming and downloads. The most significant trend supporting this was the introduction of ISPs charging for speed rather than data usage. The third trend we have seen is the lowering of the price of technology gadgets, primarily in the mobile market, but also in the mobile accessory market, including those products associated with the security, home utility and entertainment industries.”

This combination of increased access, lower cost of connectivity and lower cost of devices means that home automation is becoming increasingly possible. For lower-end consumers, there is the advantage that they do not need to automate their home in one fell swoop, they can add components of the technology as these products fall to within their price range.

Companies such as Phillips, Belkin, and Parrot have all developed products that link the home to the smart phone through applications that sync with home gadgets. These range from the Belkin NetCam series which provides direct access to live streaming of cameras installed in your home and linked to your home Wi-Fi, to a series of drones also controlled by mobile applications and which record and store data in the cloud. In addition, both Phillips and Parrot have developed home utility gadgets that allow for the remote control of lights, audio systems and other home appliances.

“At the top end of the market, we are also seeing a significant adoption of more integrated home automation systems,” says Beukes, “While these three trends may be influencing the gradual adoption of basic home automation services, the higher end of the market has already adopted this full integration of home installations during the design and build phase of properties. The spend at the higher end of the market is significantly more, often running into the millions of rands. These consumers demand the best in the market, viewing the integrated automation of the property as more of an investment than a luxury. Higher-end consumers have seen that globally, properties on the top end of the scale are increasingly being marketed as fully-automated and that this feature is becoming a standard for property buyers in the highest brackets.”

High-end realtors are also starting to find that their customers are waking up to the possibilities of home automation.

“A new trend is emerging where people are starting to ask about home automation, either in terms of it already existing in the property or the possibility to retrofit it where the previous owners have not installed it already,” says Andrew King, owner of Kings Estates, which operates in the affluent Parks areas of Johannesburg. “Most queries around tech centre around whether there is ADSL, fibre to the home and decent mobile phone reception.

“General consumers are not that interested in home automation as yet, because they are still on a learning curve with regards to its functionality and costs. However, those who are tech savvy, or have experienced home automation on their travels to the northern hemisphere, are asking for it. I foresee a lot more homebuyers enquiring about this technology in the near future as it starts to trickle down. Currently, it is restricted to the very top end of the market, where homeowners spend between R500 000 and R1 million on a kitchen renovation. As the houses in these affluent areas are already established, home automation is currently focused on retrofitting rather than building a new home with automation front of mind.”

Cape Town based Mariel Burger, Emerald Circle Realtor at Pam Golding Properties also states that home automation in the property sector is starting to be of interest, but within a small tech-savvy group of home buyers. He states that, “the property will sell for a certain price regardless if it had the tech in it or not. This feature would just be a nice-to-have. However, security, privacy and entertainment space are the three main concerns for home buyers, and home automation technology certainly has a role to play in this area, which could enhance the sales appeal of the house.”

Beukes concludes, “As the cost of internet access decreases and more products that automate our lives reach the consumer, South Africans will appreciate the ease and comfort technology brings to their lives, increasing their overall sense of security and catering for the ever increasing want of personal entertainment experiences. It will not be long before we see more South African consumers adopt higher degrees of automated lifestyles”.

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