Intelligent Products for Smart Contractors
Connected devices HVAC contractors should consider adding to their inventories
According to Statista’s Digital Market Outlook, the U.S. has 4.6 million smart homes, making it the leading market for smart home technology, followed by Japan, Germany, China, and the U.K.
Statista expects the number of smart homes to increase fivefold by 2020.
Over the past few years, the smart home market has spawned a plethora of new lighting, cameras, smoke detectors, and more, thanks to advances in technology.
These new products are fully automated and able to be controlled anywhere in the world via smartphones or tablets. They offer consumers convenience, accessibility, comfort, and security.
In fact, safety and security are the primary drivers for smart home adoption among U.S. consumers, according to ON World. The global research firm recently completed a survey with 1,000 U.S. online adults and found that 46 percent selected safety and security as the primary reasons they would adopt a smart home system. This is nearly two times more than other adoption considerations, such as energy savings, remote Web access, and smart lighting.
According to ON World, safety and security products currently make up 30 percent of smart home devices. The fastest-growing product segments include video security cameras, smart doorbells, and smart smoke detectors, which together boast 162 percent sales increases when compared to 2014.
HVAC contractors can widen their appeal by embracing non-HVAC products. Here are a few of the connected smart home devices mechanical professionals should consider adding to their repertoires.
This past summer, Nest Labs Inc. announced a refresh of its entire product line, including the Nest Cam. The new design includes a magnetic base that can stick to metal, mount to a wall, or screw into a universal tripod. It also features 1080p high-definition (HD)-quality video over Wi-Fi, secure streaming, advanced motion-sensing, improved night vision, and more.
“Nest Cam is a Wi-Fi camera that lets you keep an eye on your home from anywhere,” said Gene LaNois, head of professional channel, Nest. “You can access and control it from anywhere through the Nest app. It also works with other Nest products. For example, if Nest Protect detects smoke or CO, Nest Cam can automatically start recording to capture the event.
“With Nest, contractors can offer customers products that are known to provide a best-in-class customer experience,” he continued. “And, the products only get better and can do more over time with regular, over-the-air software updates in addition to a growing list of third-party products that work with Nest.”
Another security product in the smart home sector is the SkyBell HD, a Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell with an HD video camera, speaker, microphone, and motion sensor. When a visitor presses the button, a live video is sent to a mobile device so a homeowner can see, hear, and speak to the visitor at the door. SkyBell HD also has a motion sensor that sends an alert even if a visitor doesn’t press the doorbell.
“SkyBell is an affordable, easy-to-use product that brings real security to a home,” said Andrew Thomas, cofounder of SkyBell. “SkyBell users love that they no longer have to worry about who’s at the door — whether they’re home or not. They also have the convenience of never missing a UPS package or having a solicitor interrupt a family dinner. We’re constantly hearing from customers about how SkyBell is freeing them from crime, inconvenience, and a lack of control over their front door. One example of this was when a SkyBell user was on vacation in Paris when she received a SkyBell alert and the video started. She and her husband convinced a suspicious man that they were in the kitchen cooking dinner and couldn’t come to the door. So, instead of entering their home, he walked across the street and, unfortunately, robbed their neighbor.”
Skybell connects to a home’s Wi-Fi network, just like a smartphone. And, if the Wi-Fi goes out, Skybell will still ring the doorbell; however, homeowners will not receive a push notification on their smartphones.
Installing the Skybell HD is simple, according to Thomas, taking only about 15-20 minutes.
“It’s a great upsell for HVAC contractors that want to add a home security device that is easy to use and install,” Thomas noted. “SkyBell HD is also part of home automation ecosystems, like Works with Nest, which allows it to work with other smart home products they may sell.”
AUGUST SMART LOCK
In addition to smart, connected cameras, smart door locks are also gaining awareness from smart home adopters. August Home Inc.’s Smart Lock allows customers to manage entry into their homes from anywhere by sending virtual keys for specific time intervals to guests, friends, family members, or service providers and also monitor all activity through a real-time log in the smartphone app.
Chris Kim, head of product for August Home Inc., said the product “eliminates the timely process of duplicating and exchanging keys and can save customers a great deal of time, energy, and money, as they no longer need to be home to receive deliveries. August also automatically locks and unlocks a door as user comes and goes, making the process completely hands-free so he or she will never have to fumble for keys.”
August Smart Lock uses a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-enabled locking device and a mobile app. If a person loses his or her phone, it can be reported on August’s website, and the device will be logged out immediately. To get into the house, an individual may download the app on a friend’s phone, login, unlock the door, and then logout. Additionally, since the smart lock is a retrofit solution that installs on top of a deadbolt on the inside of the house, leaving the external locking mechanism untouched, traditional keys will continue to work, allowing the door to be manually locked or unlocked by hand, as well.
“Right now, the August Smart Lock is primarily sold through direct-to-consumer retailers, including August’s own website,” Kim said. “As we continue to build more features and connect with more service providers, we look forward to expanding distribution beyond traditional retailers.”
ROOST SMART BATTERY
The Roost Smart Battery addresses the realities of fire damage and loss by helping improve home safety in a simple, yet affordable way, according to Roel Peeters, CEO of Roost Inc. The Roost Smart Battery transforms existing smoke and CO alarms into smart alarms and sends customers notifications on their smartphones whenever their smoke alarms sound.
“In addition to its core functionality, the Roost Smart Battery offers a convenient snooze feature and also features ‘Home Circle Monitoring,’ enabling trusted friends and family to receive notifications by inviting them to download the Roost app,” Peeters said. “This helps to provide further peace of mind, even when you’re away on business or on vacation.”
Setup takes less than five minutes, and the unit boasts a five-year battery shelf life. Additionally, if the power goes out and Wi-Fi goes down, the Roost Smart Battery will still operate as a battery, so the alarm will sound, if it’s triggered. The smartphone notification will not work without Wi-Fi.
The second-generation Nest Protect is 11 percent smaller and sits more flush against the ceiling or wall than its predecessor. It has a stainless steel screen with tiny hexagonal holes designed to let smoke in for assessment while keeping everything else out. Additionally, the light ring now shines even brighter for a better pathlight. It also features a Split-Spectrum Sensor inside the new smoke chamber, which uses two wavelengths of light to look for both fast- and slow-burning fires.
“With Nest Protect, you receive warnings when there’s danger, but, if nothing is there, you can hush the warning from the app before the alarm goes off,” said LaNois. “Nest Protect also connects and works intelligently with other Nest products. For example, if Nest Protect detects smoke or CO, the Nest Thermostat can automatically shut down the furnace, a potential source of dangerous CO.”
The Nest Protect also features a safety checkup. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends testing alarms once a month. Now, customers can test the sensors, power, Wi-Fi connection, horn, and speaker on all alarms, right from their phones.
Philips Hue is a connected light bulb that allows customers to control their home lighting from a smartphone or tablet. With more than 16 million color options, Hue can create the perfect tone to match a mood, décor, or party theme.
The device can be personalized with custom settings, such as lighting for reading, relaxing, or energizing; visual timers to manage busy schedules; and it can help customers wake up or fall asleep.
Philips Hue also allows away-from-home control, letting customers make it seem like they are home when they’re not. With geofencing technology, lights can also welcome customers home, or switch off automatically, when a customer leaves the home. Additionally, it syncs with nearly 450 third-party apps, ultimately simplifying life and giving customers peace of mind in smart and useful ways.
BIG ASS FANS HAIKU
Big Ass Fans’ Haiku with SenseME smart ceiling fan detects motion, monitors conditions, and changes speeds automatically to keep occupants comfortable.
“SenseME has built-in temperature and humidity sensors that automatically indicate when a fan needs to speed up or slow down as conditions change throughout the day,” said Emily Tanczyn, vice president, residential sales and marketing, Big Ass Fans. “As the room gets a little warmer in the afternoon with the sun coming in, Haiku with SenseME automatically speeds up to help keep an area cool. On the other side, it will automatically reduce the fan’s speed as the temperature drops. The smart technology can really anticipate a user’s needs and continues to learn his or her preferences over time. This can save about 30 percent on air conditioning and about 25 percent on heating as it reduces the load on your HVAC system. It also includes occupancy sensors that will turn SenseME on and off automatically, which is convenient for energy savings. You only pay when someone is in the room.”
Customers can use their smartphones to control Haiku’s seven speeds, LED, and unique modes, including Gradual Awake, Sleep, and Whoosh®.
“The Haiku really focuses on total thermal comfort,” Tanczyn said. “It’s a great complement to HVAC because it works collaboratively in the connected home.”
Publication date: 12/14/2015