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Industry experts discuss how interior automation is the next big thing in the field of interior design
It is a modern fact that technology has been affecting major aspects of our lives and, according to experts, is now a dominant part of our living space and interiors. The word ‘automated’ itself suggests converting regular actions into automatic operations. This is exactly what is happening indoors, be it residential houses or commercial areas. Slowly, the spaces we choose to inhabit and surround us are turning into techno rooms.
With convenience being something most address when speaking of interior automation, everyday tasks such as closing the blinds or switching on the television are undergone with the click of a single remote.
“[Interior automation] gives the end-user a convenience and flexibility in placement and use of products,” affirms Brian Bjørn Hansen, senior manager, R&D, Bang & Olufsen.
However, designers are taking further precaution to ensure that new technology systems blend in well with the overall design.
“Technology should always respect and complement the vision and concept created by designers,“ explains Amir Anwar, director at Dubai Audio. He continues: “It is critical that technology maintains the harmony between design and convenience.”
Omar Hikal, CEO, Archimedia agrees: “The beauty of technology is often in how it can be invisible. The most significant innovations in technology are those that allow the aesthetic to take centre stage and yet are able to deliver high performance when needed.”
The invisibility of electronics is a major part of automated interiors, making it easier to “set the scene and pull out the products that you like to use at a given time,” describes Hansen.
Lighting, being a crucial mediator of any space, can also be influenced by the subtle uses of interior electronics.
“The fact that both artificial and natural light can be controlled through various dimming settings or electrical curtains or blinds makes it possible to use light combined with the A/V products as an ambiance creator,” Hansen thoroughly suggests.
Dilip Sirha, business leader of environmental and combustion controls at Honeywell, Middle East believes that interior automation is not only about concealing televisions and speakers but can be applied across all areas of a living space.
“It is obvious that interior design is entering a new age, as architects and developers emerge from the downturn looking for differentiation. Electrical accessories must rise to the challenge,” he says.
Sirha adds: “Imagine a room where the dimmers, switches and sockets are as beautiful as the wall coverings, responding and adding to the interior design. Imagine silent switching and dimming at the touch of a finger. This is the new Elements Collection from MK.”
The Elements Collection departs from the conventional ON/OFF switch, and replaces it with a touch dimmer offering, presenting another advancement in interior technology.
As more technological solutions are designed for interior spaces, the more popular they become in the market.
“Home automation has become more affordable and obtainable,” says Hansen. “It is no longer for the few but is thought into most new home constructions,” he adds.
Yet it is not only residential spaces where technology is booming, the commercial sector is increasing its demand as well.
Yashdeep Sule, strategic marketing leader of ECC, Honeywell explains how Honeywell has developed a Guest Room Management system which combines technology with pleasant aesthetics in order to enhance guest experience in hotel rooms.
“This solution is a well-accepted standard across major hotel chains in the Middle East region,” he states, adding that “Middle East customers are quite in tune with the global trends in interior automation.”
Hikal also states that Archimedia operates throughout the Middle East with showrooms in Dubai, Riyadh, Casablanca, Beirut and Cairo where the company is introducing many of the aforementioned technologies.
Currently involved in 75 regional projects, Archimedia’s most popular solution in the Middle East involves a fully automated platform, now with iPhone and iPod controls, Hikal adds.
And since interior automation is an emerging trend in itself, certain trends within the sector can be observed and applied in both residential and commercial spaces.
Sule states that high-technology functionality with instinctive qualities is a winning concept within the industry with Hikal adding how automation is becoming “completely human centric in its design.”
“Spaces need to be designed to be attractive, comfortable and welcoming. Our focus is on designing automation solutions that are not too complicated to use although they may involve complex engineering. Our clients don’t want to spend time figuring out how to use automation, they want to simply enjoy what they’re doing.”
In terms of Audio/ Video, Hansen explains that creating environment rooms is becoming a major hit, with an ability to be transformed into different scenes be it gaming, cinema, relaxation or simply socialising.
Speaking of the actual technology, Anwar confirms: “Gone are the touch panels that were a fixture a few years back. It is now about control through a tablet that offers the same functionality if required.”
Commenting on this Hansen adds: “There has over the past few years been a tendency to move away from traditional remote controls to applications via personal smart devices. We now experience an increased need from customers for a central hub for the primary control of their automated devices in their homes.”
Ultimately, reasons for the growing popularity of interior automation lie in its many advantages.
“Our ability to control the environment in a precise, repeatable and thoughtful way is foremost among these advantages,” says Hikal. “Controlling lighting, shades and a high performance entertainment system provides a level of convenience and comfort that makes spaces more livable.”
Hasen, on the other hand, focuses on the advantage of interior automation for designers: “A more automated interior gives freedom to architects and interior designers to be scene setters. Technology with its multiple functions makes it possible to re-configure the roles of the automated interior.”
And although Anwar agrees that there are many returns in incorporating automated interiors in both residential and commercial settings, he is still aware of its shortcomings.
“Some drawbacks associated with automation could be the high costs involved in implementing a suitable automation solution,” he explains, adding that another disadvantage would be “if the system isn’t handled and installed safely, it could lead to damage.”
“Without adequate advance planning, automation systems can become outdated,” he warns.
However, even with the aforementioned inconveniences, interior automation provides the one thing that cannot be taken for granted: safety. Homes and work places can now be kept safer and more secure by installing high quality monitoring security systems with a simple use of a remote control.
“The trick,” Sule concludes, “is to provide intuitive and easy to use interfaces with top state-of-the-art technologies buried underneath.”