The predicted growth in smart home technology

The electrical industry has been seriously aligning itself to the increasing demand for ‘smart’ technology for about five years now and this process is speeding up. Allan Burns, Founder and Director of Telemental– who has written the IET’s Guide to

Smart Homes for Electrical Installers – looks at what wholesalers should be asking their customers.


ome 20 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices are predicted to be active by 2020 – and while these are not the only

solution for smart homes, its uptake is a key indicator of the trend. Proof of this is seeing manufacturers racing to

create app-based controls for anything that conceivably needs a user-interface. The smart technology challenges, risks and

opportunities for wholesalers are similar to those of the contractor. Duck the challenge, and you are likely to lose customers to competitors. Here are some ideas on how to grasp the sales opportunities with two safe hands.

Understanding the technology and what installers need The definition of ‘smart’ is very much up for grabs so contractors and wholesalers need to get on the same page and use the same terms. An important distinction to make is between a smart home and in-home smart devices. The former is a designed whole-house, IT-integrated system that needs the involvement of an electrical installer. The latter could be a collection of anything that has some software embedded in it that the manufacturer has labelled ‘smart’. In-home smart devices, also referred to as

‘consumer-tech’, typically use proprietary wireless or Wi-Fi and some whole house smart homes rely on wireless too. This might sound like a dead-end for traditional electrics but remember we’re not just about amps; we do data too! Structured cabling to ensure wireless coverage will be needed – so keep a good stock of CAT6.

44 | electrical wholesalerSeptember 2018 The detail of smart home technology lies in the

IT, the software, the connectivity. Consumer-tech manufacturers are striving to make all their devices operable by anyone capable of pairing a phone to Wi-Fi. Where more knowledge is needed, it should probably come from the manufacturer. The enabler for the electrical installer who

wants to do smart homes is understanding how things need to be laid-out and connected. My recommendation is to focus on the enabler, not the detail. Most homes in the market for smart are going to have at least one person, probably a child, who is a lot better at IT than you, so pick your battles.

Get familiar with systems that need cables and installers, be it access points for Wi-Fi or more sophisticated whole-house packages. Learn how they stack up and what advantages they have over consumer-tech. When cables are needed you’ll be poised to supply them to an installer to put them in the right place if you have done the right homework. As a route to familiarity consider incentivising your staff and customers to put new things in their own homes – keep a conversation going about how it went! There is an endless list of cautions but you should always test any new products for inter- operability before recommending them to customers. Don’t assume things will work

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