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Smart Thinking and Home Automation with Legrand

Legrand Arteor MMPWiring devices are part and parcel of any new development’s interior style, but today’s manufacturer doesn’t just need to contend with aesthetic demands – they also have to be smart in their thinking.

Richard Hayward of Legrand talks about the way in which wiring device manufacturers are adapting to deal with the widespread adoption of smart home automation technology.

“People have been talking about smart technology and home automation for more years than most of us care to remember, but it is only now that the gap between it being a much talked about concept and a key feature in new homes is being bridged.

The reasons for this are relatively straightforward. The technology simply wasn’t affordable and as a result the demand wasn’t there amongst homeowners for it to be installed. As a result, the technology has developed in the kind of homes you tend to associate with glossy magazines rather than day-to-day life.

Everything is now changing. The technology has developed to such an extent that price is no longer a stumbling block against widespread uptake. Touch screen technology in the form of tablet PCs and smart phones is now used by millions across the country, which means control of smart systems is already in people’s hands. Additionally, home automation will play a key role in helping deliver the zero carbon targets demanded for all new homes in the UK by 2016, and is also of great importance in the field of assisted living – a technology driven concept that is aimed at preserving an individual’s comfort and autonomy within their own homes for longer.

But what of wiring devices? Where do they sit in this brave new world of smart technology, zero carbon targets and assisted living solutions?

Simplistically, the devices utilised to provide these smart solutions need power; equally they need a switch or interface to turn them on and off – this, of course being the obvious function provided by any wiring device.

But simplistic isn’t really a word that should be bandied about when it comes to today’s smart technology. Its scope is phenomenal, the means of programming far easier than many would imagine, the plug and play benefits enormous, its control simple and what’s more, there are entry level options that can be fitted with ease.

The scale of this transformation can easily be gauged when you look at the latest generation of products, which deliver access to smart technology from what traditionally would have been a dedicated wiring device platform.

Take our Arteor range. Its home automation element is offered in two formats, BUS (SCS) and radio (Zigbee) frequency solutions. The BUS technology operates on a 2 wire network, is suitable for all smart technology applications, and is ideal for new buildings and major refurbishments. The wireless ZigBee radio option operates on the 2.4 GHz frequency band and uses the principle of mesh networking, which means that if a direct link between two devices is not possible the network will automatically search for another channel to keep the installation running.

The key difference between the two is that BUS products only communicate with products that are physically connected by cables, while ZigBee radio products are installed on the conventional electrical infrastructure and configured directly from the product through a push and learn sequence.

This flexibility of installation, which extends to retrofit projects, means ZigBee, and other wireless solutions are ideal for those who want to automate simple individual functions and for those wishing to extend existing home automation systems using BUS technology with the SCS protocol.

The benefit of the wireless offer is twofold. Firstly, a standard electrician can now offer their customers what in essence is entry level access to smart home technology. Secondly, it brings the systems more in line with the average family’s requirements and hence within the budgetary reach of a much larger section of the population at a time when more and more are opting to refurbish their existing home rather than move.

What all of this means is that the wiring device will take on an even more prominent role as a result of it being the key interface with this smart new world. This, of course, will lead to changes. The key alterations will be in the types of controls that will need to develop in order to meet the increased requirement for intelligent switches that are able to send signals to remote control devices across the circuit. As such contractors, specifiers and designers will see a need to modify the way systems are planned and installed.

The manufacturers are though paying particular heed to the installer and the most significant change is an overwhelmingly positive one, with the new generation of smart home components being designed to require a lot less specialist knowledge to install than previously needed. In fact, the majority of recent devices have incorporated self-diagnostic tools and, in many cases, self-installation processes. In addition, much of the programming in these systems is delivered by a combination of ‘plug and play’ and simple ‘learn’ facilities. All of this combines to enable them to install functions that are a great deal more advanced than the products and systems they have previously worked on with very little additional training.

Smart technology will soon be commonplace in all new build homes and will quickly become as much a part of daily life as the humble old wiring device – it’s just that the wiring device will no longer be humble or old. Instead, thanks to the integration and development of the two technologies, the wiring device will be smart, new and in control of a new generation of functions.


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