Belman Homes president and host of the Home Building Hero podcast, David Belman, shares some observations from the International Builders Show and keen insights into integrated home technology trends. There has not been a lot of technological advancement in this arena in the past year or two, Belman explains, but there has been substantial innovation in the realm of integrated and automated home solutions.
Ready To Buy
While some of the new technology on demonstration at shows like the International Builders Show is still in early prototype phase, much is already commercially available and ready to buy and integrate into your home systems. Overall, there is a big move toward Google and Amazon Alexa integration where everything is capable of being automated and voice controlled, and home systems are seeing some major makeovers in this area.
One of the biggest tech revelations in 2019 is a smart system from Kohler, called the Kohler Konnect. It enables a fully integrated solution for your bathroom vanity that connects your plumbing and lighting to your smartphone. Kohler’s Veil Collection is bathroom vanity setup that has several advanced features, including a base sensor where you activate the vanity’s lighting by moving your foot under the front of the base. The vanity has different ‘levels’ of lighting, including LEDs in the sink, mirror, and inside the vanity itself, all controlled by the movement of your foot. The different levels of lighting enable strong, clean lighting for applying makeup or inspecting one’s appearance and a seamless transition to a softer vanity lighting that is subtle enough for sleeping, like a modern industrial nightlight.
The Numi toilet is a smart toilet with built-in Amazon Alexa, personal cleansing, and an option to connect your smartphone so you can listen to music or catch up on talk radio while using the bathroom. It works with the Kohler Veil smart vanity and all synchronizes with your smartphone and all your other smart home features. For those looking to ease into the smart bathroom system, the Verdera is a voice-operated light-up mirror that works by simply speaking “Hey, lights on” or an equivalent command. Like magic, the Verdera lights up! This mirror can be used independently or integrated with other Kohler smart vanity components.
The DVT Plus shower also works through the Kohler Konnect system and can be controlled via smartphone. You can control the electronic digital shower by setting the temperature to a specific degree, programming the speakers to play music or other media from your smartphone.
The Sensate faucet works with the Konnect system and Amazon Alexa to respond to voice commands, such as “Hey Alexa, pour me eight ounces of water.” It takes the human error out of measuring water for recipes and reduces the use of measuring cups. The ability to control the temperature or pressure with one’s voice reduces the risk of scalding or splashing when washing the dishes or otherwise using the sink where one’s hands are soapy or occupied. It is even customizable for an individual’s everyday water needs. For example, you can tell the faucet you are filling the dog’s water bowl, and the faucet will self-measure and remember the precise amount of water used to fill the bowl. The next time the dog needs water, you can simply place the bowl under the faucet and tell it to “fill the dog’s water bowl.”
Perfect Fill technology enables you to ‘teach’ your smart bathtub to fill itself to your preferred level or even for the preferred level of each member of the house. For example, a busy mom can tell her tub to fill for a certain child’s bath, and the tub will fill to pre-set level and temperature suitable for, say, bathing a toddler. On her way to putting the kids to bed, the same mom can tell her tub to run her a bath, and the tub will fill to her ideal water level and temperature. Even if the mom gets held up reading an extra bedtime story, she doesn’t have to worry about the tub overflowing or wasting water unnecessarily because her Perfect Fill smart bathtub shuts itself off.
Even the most tried and true in-house appliances. Smart appliances are trending, especially with the upswing in popularity of induction cooking surfaces where the cooking surface itself does not heat up. For such systems that are electricity-dependent or that use electromagnetism, digitization is straightforward, and digital devices can be easily integrated into a universal local or remote control system.
Outdoor home design has not been neglected in this movement and neither has home security. Smart recessed lighting, outdoor flood lighting, and dimmers can all be controlled by bluetooth and smartphone or tablet. Smart lock sets for locking and unlocking doors remotely are no different. The ability to remotely secure the home is priceless to one’s peace of mind, especially when feeling absent minded about whether the front door or garage was properly closed and locked or when one needs to control and monitor access, such as when the dog walker pops in. The Knock, for example, is a sleek video doorbell where you can see who is at the door and speak to them remotely. It is simple to install and use and doesn’t require hardwiring (i.e., good for retrofitting). These features are not only convenient but will also be necessary to comply with evolving fire safety laws in some parts of the country. Fortunately, these more practical, safety-focused smart home features are among the easiest to integrate into existing structures and tend to be reasonably priced.