the scene. I am sitting in a café in Prague enjoying a coffee with my wife. I
receive a call from a tradesperson who is at the gates of my manor wanting to
enter to rectify an issue at the house. No-one is home. Normally the response
would be a cry of frustration at finally having a tradesperson turn up – only
to turn them away because the house is empty.

in the world we live in today.

put the tradesperson on speakerphone while my technology-widowed wife rolls her
eyes. I open an app that I use to control my house. I open the gates for the
tradesperson. I turn off the alarm system. I open the garage door. I unlock the
door that leads from the garage to the house. I turn on the lights and then
open my camera app that allows me to view the cameras around my house to direct
the tradesperson to the specific issue. The job is completed and I reverse the
process to leave the house secure and continue my coffee with my wife – who by
this time has disappeared to a nearby shoe shop.

is not something from a James Bond movie or science fiction. This is reality in
our world today. In building my home over seventeen years ago, I had it wired
specifically to a home automation standard that Clipsal had designed. It was in
the very early days of home automation so the programming of the devices was
quite clumsy and the interface left a lot to be desired. At the time, there was
really only HPM dabbling and Clipsal fiddling in the home automation space. One
of the major downsides to both systems was the fact that it was difficult to
retrofit a house so they were largely relying on new builds to increase their
market. Despite the forward-thinking ideas from these companies designing these
systems last century, home automation really hasn’t taken off and I know when
my kids have visitors they still find some of the devices in our house a

are about to change though.

Apple released iOS 10 a new icon appeared on the screens of iPhone users across
the world. It can be confusing. iPhones have a Home button (or pressure
sensitive pad on the 7) and they now have a Home icon. The Home icon is Apple’s
foray into the home automation market. When an iconic Aussie brand in Clipsal
entered the home automation market, a few progressive sparkies took notice.
When the world’s highest valued company enters home automation, the world takes

major focus of the modern take on home automation is that the devices now
increasingly becoming available are designed to plug into your existing
infrastructure. You don’t need to re-wire your house or pull out all of your
existing cabling. If I was building a house tomorrow, I would still use a
Clipsal system and design the cabling from the ground up – but that is not
practical for all of the houses that are already wired. Retro-fitting is the
only logical way that home automation is going to be accepted into the

can hear you asking already. What devices are available now and what are the
compelling reasons that you would want to add some of these devices? My number
one test for new technology is easy. Is it cool? I accept that most people
might need a little more than that.

some of these devices.

have written before about the cost of devices sitting on standby being in in
the vicinity of eighty dollars per year. The Belkin WeMo Insight switch plugs
into a power point and allows you to toggle the switch via your phone or
program it to turn off at certain times. I can see a great use for these
plugged into all of the TVs in your home to save hundreds of dollars each year.
The August Smart Lock allows you to lock (and unlock) your front door from the
convenience of your phone and you can combine it with a device such as the
SkyBell Video Doorbell which allows you to see who is at your door from your
iPhone – and then unlock the door if you want to allow the person in. This can
be from the convenience of your couch or from a café in Prague. The Nest
thermostat has already gained a reputation for being able to dramatically
reduce your power bills by using a thermostat and combining learning algorithms
and the location of your phone to only change the temperature of your home when
necessary. The Schlage Sense deadbolt will sense when your phone is within a
certain range and automatically unlock your front door to give you the
convenience of entering your home with your hands full. I particularly enjoy my
‘All Off’ button I have programmed into several locations in my house and in my
phone that allows me to turn off every light and standby device with the touch
of a button. No more running around the house to make sure every light is
turned off before I leave in the morning.

are a number of brands on the market that you will start to hear more from –
and I am sure more players will be constantly entering the market. Brands such
as Nest; SmartThings (now owned by Samsung); Philips Hue; Ecobee; Belkin; Sonos;
Lutron and iRobot are increasing their presence in the market and the Apple
Home icon will encourage an entirely new range of compatible products. Keep an
eye out for those compelling products and start to make your home ‘smarter’.

Mathew Dickerson

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