20/03/2018 - 15:05

Smart tech to shape future builds

20/03/2018 - 15:05

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Local builder Gemmill Homes is aiming to gain a larger share in the residential market by leveraging the latest in automation technology.

Smart tech to shape future builds
Craig Gemmill (left) and Mike Temple say iZone’s smart plugs offer a cheaper alternative to traditional cable-based home automation installation. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Local builder Gemmill Homes is aiming to gain a larger share in the residential market by leveraging the latest in automation technology.

A feature of Hollywood’s futuristic and sci-fi movie genres for many years, home automation technologies are now demonstrating their real-world applications across a range of affordable, practical products.  

Whether it’s dimming the lights, watering the garden, setting the air-conditioner or turning the kettle on, numerous mundane domestic activities can now be controlled with the touch of a button on a smart device, from anywhere.

That’s the reality created by Bibra Lake-based business Airstream Components with the application of its iZone automation technology, which uses wireless receivers in light globes, air-conditioners and electrical plugs to communicate with its WiFi and 4G-paired app that remotely controls everyday household items.

Airstream started out with a focus on air-conditioning seven years ago, but co-founder Mike Temple said the scope had since expanded into activating the entire home, after the business explored ways to minimise the cost associated with the standard cable-based automation systems widely available. 

“You can install most of those systems for about $25,000, but we can do a complete home automation for under $5,000 because we’re wireless and use the existing set up in the home,” Mr Temple told Business News.

“Anything in the house that requires a plug we can plug that up to our system on a smart device, turn on the iZone app and also start to schedule (when things turn on or off).”

Mr Temple said the business had joined the platform of US web-based service If This Then That, which enabled more than 400 other devices and internet services to communicate with each other, allowing iZone to integrate with other apps and brands such as Google Home.

“If it is going to rain we can link to an app that’s a weather channel – then the reticulation won’t run,” he said.

Other energy efficiency benefits include lowering running costs of air-conditioning or lighting through iZone sensor technology’s ability to detect if a room is unoccupied.

While Airstream has previously distributed its iLight (long-life light bulbs) and air-conditioning systems Australia-wide, Mr Temple said the business had decided to partner first with builders for its smart plugs, which retailed at about $80 per plug.

“We’ve looked at consumer channels and at this stage we’re just getting involved with builders,” he said.

“We see the first home buyer, due to the price point and ease of installation, as the best space to start.”

Gemmill Homes, which is the state's 12th largest builder according to the BNiQ search engine, is one of the first builders to integrate the technology into its packages, exhibiting the iZone system at this weekend’s Housing Industry Association’s Home Show held at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Managing director Craig Gemmill said he came across iZone last year in search of an alternative to traditional cabling options, which he said were expensive in materials and labour.

“There was demand from consumers but the cost was prohibitive unless they had huge budgets,” Mr Gemmill told Business News.

“iZone is very accessible for first home buyers right up the line, and they can customise – they can just do a theatre room, or a few lights and it won’t cost them a fortune.

“People call our industry the industry that technology forgets about because we still build houses in traditional methods and materials, but we’ve got to embrace new technology.”

Mr Gemmill said the team was in the process of firming up pricing, currently offering iZone systems as a provisional sum amount, with plans to fit out new homes, as well as display homes, with the technology by spring.

“I think this will become a standard in all new homes moving forward,” Mr Gemmill said.

“The technology is there and will continue to grow, and if you don’t have that available, people won’t buy your homes.”

Mr Gemmill said although the state’s 2017 home starts were down to about half on boom-time levels, the residential market was showing signs of moving back into a demand cycle.

He suggested a land shortage was possible in the near future, given developers’ response to the slowing market over the previous years.

“The statistic people forget is we have 1.8 per cent growth, that’s 18,000 people. That equals housing demand,” Mr Gemmill said.

“There’s been a lot of talk from real estate and new housing about green shoots – what everyone’s looking for now is to see those green shoots materialise into a full grown lawn.”

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