Never Stop Learning: One Guest’s Takeaways From TecHomeX East

Duane Barney, president of DCBuilds Construction, wrote a LinkedIn article about the highlights of his experience at TecHomeX East, which include the need to plan for the smart home and the ease of creating one.

I attended the TecHomeX East conference this week and would like to start by thanking AE Ventures for producing a wonderful event; well managed, informative and enjoyable. My tech knowledge is about average, though I enjoy learning how it works, my interest focused on the planning and integration of this work into the building process.

I had two major takeaways from the conference I would like to share. My objective was continuing my education, especially into the changing world of technology and how it is impacting the home construction business. I was not disappointed. Smart home is the buzzword as we endeavor not just to live in our homes, but to have our homes assist us in living. Tech is in our homes, we live with it every day and the keys are to make it effective and efficient.

DCBuilds president Duane Barney
DCBuilds president Duane Barney

My first takeaway is we need to start planning for the smart home in the construction process early, and much earlier than we have in the past. Back in the day, whenever that was, the major influence in the smart home was lighting and entertainment with a touch on security. These were mainly back-end aspects to living and were not really addressed until a discussion on lighting and switching was reached. At that point, an AV contractor was many times introduced and may even have been a contractor under direct hire by the owner outside of the GC’s responsibility. Now, that planning is way too late in the schedule. With controls now integrated into the usual lighting and entertainment, security, environmental controls, appliances and even the garage doors have entered the realm of the smart home. Whole-house integration and planning are required. Operating platforms must be determined, so compatible equipment is selected. Is the front door lock available on the same platform as the controls for the hot tub? If not, it will be death by multiple apps, back to the days of seven remotes to watch a movie. It does not have to, nor should it be that way. It takes planning, and the earlier the better.

Quick example: you ask your digital assistant to wake you at 7 a.m. As a result, the bath floor heat turns on with sufficient time to come up to temperature, based on the room temp, for your arrival. The shower adjusts to your preferred temp, lights turn on and your favorite morning news is on the bathroom TV for your morning update. Are all the devices compatible and were they selected with the plan for integration?

Barney (left) talks with INMOTION’s John Kessler during the Connections Reception.
Barney (left) talks with INMOTION’s John Kessler during the Connections Reception.

The second takeaway, having spent years in remodeling, is the ease at which existing homes can now be made smart. The older systems required a specific electrical wiring plan to control each device, create scenes or manage security. Existing homes had no potential to even come close to this level of control without a complete rewiring, a prospect far beyond the cost for a reasonable ROI. We all know we can buy a smart switch or thermostat, so they can be voice-controlled or adjusted remotely by an app. Now, for a reasonable cost, almost every device can be controlled and integrated — door locks, lights, security panels all working together for your benefit. It takes planning as integration compatibility issues still exist, but it no longer requires the rewiring of your entire home to achieve the seamless integration you are looking for.

Of course, as a construction geek, I enjoyed learning about new bath exhaust fans on the market, automated doors and windows, changes in LED lighting and HVAC equipment among other things I won’t bore you with. Suffice it to say, the smart home will change the way we live in our home and ease the way in which we can stay there as we grow older.

It was a great event and I look forward to next year in Orlando to see what changes in smart home technology have been made in the past 12 months. It is changing fast.