I’ve just returned from the Smart Home Show (22-25 March 2007) and in this, its third incarnation at the NEC in Birmingham, the public was treated to the best show yet!
The first thing that struck me as I entered Hall 9 were the crowds, and indeed every exhibitor I spoke to, without exception, confirmed a very healthy increase in visitors numbers to their stands this year. It’s encouraging to see the interest in home automation grow amongst the general public. The other thing I noticed within a few minutes was the quality of the stands themselves. There were over 60 exhibitors this year and they were the most professional I have seen yet. Here’s a taster of some of our personal highlights…
A prime example of a great stand was Schneider Electrical who brought their Clipsal brand to the show for the first time. The Schneider stand was awash with Home Automation goodies, from the ubiquitous colour touch screens, the new Delta8 Phone/Data/TV distribution system, CCTV cameras, the wireless Ulti range and of course the highly regarded C- Bus products. Still no sign of the MRA (multi-room audio) range, although we hear the UK will probably now start off with the Mk2 range sometime in the near future, bypassing the Mk1’s that were released in Australia. Other interesting news was the possibility of the addition of an IR receiver to some other C-Bus switch ranges in the future (an IR receiver is currently only built into the Neo range).
T3 Magazine’s stand had a lively Viiv Media Centre presentation in association with Intel. It tried to convey the power of a media server as the hub for home entertainment. For the man (or woman) in the street, a basic demonstration like this that actually shows what a media PC can do is invaluable. Personally I really want to be able to buy a simple silent media center extender. Ideally I am looking for an inexpensive FreeView sized, fan-less box that I can put in each bedroom and reception room in our home and allow everyone to stream their own recordings from the Vista Media Center box. Surely this can’t be far off? We live in hope.
The H2M8 stand (formerly O2M8) was displaying their WebBrick product in a variety of applications. Their little Lego house was a nice focal point on the stand, and it gave a good visual indication of how parts of the house reacted to inputs from various touchscreens, switches, sensors and even macros fired from phones. Andy showed us their new Windows Media Center interface to the WebBrick too, allowing users to trigger any WebBrick event from the comfort of your sofa.
Dave from Sensible heat showed us some new touchscreen devices which have recently been integrated into their Honeywell HomeTronic heating control products. Zone controlled heating with options for control via the web and/or the telephone, in addition to controlling lights, blinds and other ancillaries. You could, for example, phone your holiday home and launch a macro that would bring on the heat, lights and retract the blinds.
www.ivoryegg.co.uk – www.enoceanshop.co.uk
Colin and Laurence from Ivory Egg showed me the exciting and innovative EnOcean range of modules. These wireless devices do not require any external power, mains or battery, as they generate their own electricity from the action of the switch being pressed! With a range of 30 metres without a repeater, their retro-fit-friendly wireless nature and a cost of around £100 per circuit (switch and actuator) these devices are sure to create a lot of interest. Laurence confirmed there is a PC gateway on the way, which will be available with a USB, RS-232 or RS-485 interface. Other gateways will enable interoperability with Ethernet, LON and EIB networks too.
Long time friends of the UKHA community, Intamac, were selling their BT branded, home security product direct from the stand. This is an easy to fit DIY system that, in conjunction with Intamac’s monitoring system and inexpensive webcams, can send an MMS message to your phone, complete with picture, when there’s an alarm event at your home, or even just when the alarm is disarmed.
Cytech had lots of new additions for their Comfort Intelligent home security panel at the show. New switches that incorporate temperature sensors and an entirely new .Net application for controlling Comfort through Windows Media Center Edition. Now you can arm the house to night mode right from your TV screen for example. You can also control any Comfort event from the Smartphone/PDA interface too. Lying on a beach and controlling your home is always a winning concept. Nigel Harding will be running some more Comfort training sessions around the UK & Ireland soon, and you now get to take away lots of Comfort hardware included in the price of the training – ideal for self builders and DIY installers.
As usual there were quite a few AV installation specialists at the show. The ever popular Home Cinema room is often the first thing that introduces the public to the concept of home automation. There were plenty of integrator stands, and companies like Brilliant Living who were showing the DF Solutions multi-room media server. Iain Shaw demonstrated this is a highly robust PC based system which can serve 6 DVD streams simultaneous over a 100mb LAN. Look out for the beautiful AMX touchscreen in our video of his demo too.
While “future proof” was the most over used phrase at the show, in the main CAT5 still seemed to be king. However a few companies showed CAT6 and CAT7 cables and SinglePoint Networks showed their “CAT8” cable. With 1.2Ghz of bandwidth they promise to deliver anything you could ever need over one cable. Their unique faceplate design allows the various baluns to be attached such as Ethernet, Phone, RF, Component and SCART.
There was a lot of buzz round the InvisionUK stand, particularly because of the new Harmony 1000 universal remote. A similar form factor to the Philips TSU9600, the 1000 is one of the new breed of “two-handed” remotes. You can control up to 15 devices and along with the usual Harmony activity based setup, and a price of around £275, the 1000 looks like a potential winner.
As in previous years the free seminars were a big hit with the public, packing in the audiences up to six times a day and covering a range of subjects from multi-room audio, to cabling and Ecological issues. I heard the good old “2 CAT5’s and 2 CT100’s minimum to each room” in one of the lectures and this is still good advice to anyone considering a new build or renovation.
Green issues were to the fore for the first time this year. The reducing the “carbon footprint” of our homes seems to be something the industry has latched onto, which makes sense as efficient home energy management is an ideal application for home automation. I imagine this will be a major driver for the industry in coming years.
TIll Next Year… Automated Home is delighted to be associated with the Smart Home Show. If you are considering smart home technologies or even just a multi-room AV installation, then there’s no better place to research your project and to meet professional companies that can supply the equipment and carry out the work. Now, can I have my Media Center extenders before next years show please?