Sometime in the early 1990s, the word smart became a favourite catch-all for marketing executives. We have smartphones, smart water, smart vitamins and it wasn’t long before the term was used to describe houses. A smart house was deemed to be the ultimate in technological luxury. Unfortunately, the reality took a while to catch up to the marketing. But after a couple of decades of user frustration and lighting systems seemingly possessed by poltergeists, the tech has advanced to the point where domotics, as they’re called, are almost a standard element in modern urban design. The trick to getting domotics right is not to overdo it and to plan your smart house from the start.
Almost anything can be automated these days but the four areas where domotic technology can make your life more liveable are lighting, temperature, security and music. “You can control all of those elements from your phone or tablet,” explains Blakstad architect and project manager Xavier Blesa. “But it must be designed well. The system needs to be intuitive. You still need to be able to come home and know how to turn on the lights.”
Successfully designed domotics are not just about turning lights on or off but also about setting the mood for your lifestyle. Sequences can be easily programmed for different times of the day. Want the kids to start winding down in the early evening? In that case, you’d set the lights in their rooms to dim gradually over a few hours, after which you might choose a more romantic program for mum and dad to enjoy once the kids are in bed. Best of all, if you’ve gone to bed yourself and forgotten to turn off the hall light, all you need to do is choose the option from your phone.
Domotics can be especially useful for those who travel frequently or have second homes in Ibiza. “Say you live in Germany and you are travelling to your home in Ibiza,” says Xavier. “You can use your phone to schedule the curtains to open and the air-conditioning to be on by the time you arrive.” Convenience goes hand-in-hand with efficiency too. “You can design a system that senses when a door or window is left open. The air conditioning or heating will either switch to a lower output or turn off completely until the space is enclosed again. It can save a lot of energy.”
Coming home in winter to a pre-heated home or in summer to a pre-cooled one is a delight that once experienced, becomes a necessity. However, automated temperature control can be even more individualised. Some like it hot, so in their part of the house the temperature can be automatically set to their preferred levels while other members of the family can enjoy their own icy spaces. The best part is, all of it can be set to gently turn itself off by the time everyone is asleep.
Music is the essence of life in Ibiza, but not everyone’s tastes are compatible. Your playlists can be organised so that you never have to listen to what your kids are into and vice versa. An easy click of an electronic button on the home’s iPad can set the tonal mood of the house, be it a dinner party or home disco playlist the volume, content and location is completely automated to your personal liking. Of course, everything can be overridden manually for those nights when you decide to become the house DJ and want access to every song in your repertoire. We’ve all been there.
Domotic usage within the world of home security is a big part of recent technological advancements. Homeowners can monitor their security systems from wherever they are in the world. Every time someone rings your doorbell, you can see who it is at the click of a button and even let them into your house. Not sure if you put the alarm on when you left the house? Never mind, you can program your smart house to activate security systems at certain times of the day and even use your phone or table to check up on cameras.
Domotics are increasingly being integrated early in the design process and are built to be easily reconfigured. “It means you can make changes to the home environment without having to do any major construction work,” says Xavier. From a design perspective, one of the benefits of domotics is the ability to hide all cabling and electronics within the walls, leaving your space free of that pesky electronic clutter that has started to take over our lives.
You don’t need a computer engineering degree to understand all the capabilities of your smart house. “The degree between function and confusion is very close, which is why we make sure to keep domotics an intuitive process,” says Xavier. Fanatics can completely automate all aspects of their home, from smart fridges that electronically order milk when you run out to Mark Zuckerberg’s Jarvis, a talking home system that sounds disturbingly like Morgan Freeman (Jarvis can turn the toaster on but has yet to master buttering). For the rest of us normal people, domotics are a chance to streamline our home life from the push of a (smart) button, no matter where we are in the world.