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Over the past few decades, technology has gradually developed and become more integrated into the built environment, influencing the way we live and work in our buildings. “Smart Home” is the term commonly used to define a residence that has installations such as lighting, air conditioning, audio, video and security systems that are capable of communicating with one another. These appliances can be controlled from any room in the home, as well as remotely from any location in the world via an internet connected mobile device or universal remote.
The vast majority of high-rise residential buildings within the UAE have Building Management Systems (BMS) which enable monitoring and control of the building’s mechanical and electrical installations, using a series of sensors and controls. These systems are largely installed to monitor the operation of the common assets within the building. However, within individual residential units of high-rise developments, there are very few smart systems installed to benefit the individual homeowner and positively influence their user experience.
The same can be said of the residential villa market in the Dubai. The upfront cost of buying a property in Dubai has typically been expensive, but lower priced units have started to enter the market this year. We are finding that achieving the reduced prices is creating a new challenge for developers in the market, balancing their costs against sales prices. The effect may be that the wider implementation of smart systems will take some time in this region, being viewed as a non-essential ‘luxury’ item. Alternatively, due to the high volume of upcoming units expected to enter the market in the next three years, there is a great deal of competition for developers who will look to differentiate their product from others. This need to differentiate, the rise in a more knowledgeable buyer profile and the dedication of the Dubai government to become a smarter and more sustainable Emirate, may influence developers to introduce smart homes to their portfolios.
Owners may also take it upon themselves to make their homes smarter as we see more and more retro-fit and plug-in devices become available. Ecobee, a home automation company, has introduced a thermostat which can control heating and cooling systems remotely, and claims that its device has managed to save the owners an average of 23% on heating and cooling costs. Lifestyle devices have also entered the market in recent years with products such as Google, Home and Amazon Echo. These devices present the other side of the potential for smart homes, one that provides users with the ability to control supported smart home appliances with voice command. The introduction of such devices will not only benefit owners through energy cost savings, but will also provide them with convenience, flexibility and overall an enhanced home experience.
The future of smart homes is intrinsically linked with our development of artificial intelligence (AI). As technological advancements in AI continue, along with the establishment of the Internet of Things (IoT), the potential for integration and communication of smart systems within our built environment increases exponentially. Integration and the ability for our building systems to communicate with one another has been one of the chief stumbling blocks in the wider implementation of smart systems. With AI and the IoT, however, we will start to see smart homes continuously collecting data to provide the user with optimal and efficient living conditions. The systems will learn to automatically react in a favourable way to scenarios they are presented with. For example, they will monitor the weather forecast and detect if a heatwave is on the way and adjust the temperature of the property.
Whilst advancements in smart homes are progressing, there is still a substantial requirement for developers to get on board with the latest advancements in technology and fully integrate smart homes into their projects. With Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, and the Dubai government’s vision for Dubai to become the smartest city by 2021, it will come as no surprise if we begin to see developers and owners embracing these systems and integrating them into their homes in the near future.
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