Nothing changes faster than technology. No sooner do we master one platform or application than something new comes along to keep up us on our toes. To stay abreast of this ever-evolving industry, Home & Design asked Bethesda Systems’ Mike Wilson and Eddie Shapiro of SmartTouch in Columbia, Maryland, to discuss what’s on the horizon and what’s already here.
H&D: What is the biggest trend on the home technology front right now?
Mike Wilson: People are listening to music again in their homes. For a while, people seemed to be listening on their portable devices with headphones or using Pandora. Now there’s a trend towards streaming music and manufacturers are creating wireless bridges so music can go from the portable device throughout the house. Sonos’s MyDevice and Bose’s Soundlink Mini Bluetooth speaker both are new products for this purpose.
H&D: How does touch technology factor into your clients’ preferences?
Mike Wilson: It’s certainly popular and a big part of our industry now is about using your own device for many purposes. But when it comes to watching TV or movies, we’re finding the remote still works best. People like to be able to press those buttons.
H&D: How do you bridge the gap between the remote and the touch screen then?
Mike Wilson: Products like the Savant Select hand-held remote marry both in one device. The top has an iTouch interface while the bottom has hard buttons.
H&D: What other trends are you seeing?
Mike Wilson: People are really going into green technology now. The Nest Learning Thermostat is self-programming for energy efficiency and can be controlled via smart technology. The company now has a smoke and CO2 detector too. Other trends are towards LED lighting now that the bulbs look like incandescent. Also, big manufacturers such as Lutron and Hunter Douglas are making really high-quality, battery-powered motorized shades that you can control by touch screen.
H&D: Do you see a big shift towards touch technology?
Eddie Shapiro: Absolutely. People are moving to Apple iPads, iPhones, any kind of smart device, for everything. Lighting, climate, shades, camera alarms, home security, audio and video—all controlled from one touch screen.
H&D: Is there an integration program you like best?
Eddie Shapiro: Savant—it’s super powerful but really easy to use. All users tend to be skittish about technology, but it’s Apple-based so they already have the interface down when they get it.
H&D: What other home-tech trends are you seeing?
Eddie Shapiro: The Ultra HD flat screen TVs should be the next big thing. They have so much computer power, they can scale images on the screen up to four times the resolution of current super-slim TVs. Connect a TV like that with Apple TV for streaming content and the viewing experience is amazing. DVDs and Blu-ray are falling away quickly. Also, the price of electronic shades is dropping quickly. Homeowners can buy through AV integrators like SmartTouch and get high-quality products.