Currently 4,500 out of a possible 150,000 new houses take on some form of automation, according to Switch Automation General Manager Deb Noller.While the take-up may be slow Noller is positive the potential for growth is huge, but there is no fundamental research on the market, which needs addressing. “I think we will see a ten-fold increase in take up in less than 8 years and the driving factors in this will be energy management and the cost savings that we can deliver to developers in cabling and in integrating standalone devices into one interface,” said Noller.
However the key to this growth is educating people, according to Noller. “The number of times I’m at a sports event or in a social setting and people ask me what I do, I sometimes think to myself “why go there?” because people just do not know what home automation entails,” she says.
One of the problems is one of perception. In the survey carried out by Connection Research, people identified Sony, LG and Harvey Norman as providers of home automation products ahead of real providers such as Clipsal and specialist providers. Only 0.7 percent mentioned Clipsal, while 0.3 indicated specialist providers, for a grand total of one percent. As for the overall knowledge of the market, almost 70 percent knew nothing about the home automation.
Another perception is that automation can be expensive, however the benefits are sometimes undersold. The savings on energy efficiencies is just one area that, in the long run, can save money. Switch showcased a system that can actually highlight how much energy an individual lamp is putting out, through to automatically switching off lights in a part of a home where a motion detector can tell that nobody has been in the room for 15 minutes.
“People also say “why not just get up and switch off the light”, which is fair enough,” says Noller. “However, this is not about being lazy, it’s about finding solutions to lighting problems and energy efficiencies.”
Like any technology, the more people who are on the uptake, the more economies of scale kick in, and it suddenly becomes cheaper. Switch believes that mid-range market is one of huge potential. “[Other providers] can go after that high-end market,” says Noller, “but we are after that lower to mid end. People would be surprised how affordable it is.”
One avenue that can help is if Cedia starts commissioning research on the market, something that is sorely lacking at the moment. Noller hopes in the near future that all the members will support some sort of comprehensive research, which will give vendors and installers a gauge as to where they are heading.