Home automation takes off in NZ

Automation can make a home more efficient and secure, but it is also not cheap.
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Automation can make a home more efficient and secure, but it is also not cheap.

Sick of having to stay home to let the plumber in?

Growing numbers of New Zealanders are choosing to automate their homes so such problems are a thing of the past.

Professor Hans Guegsen, chair in computer science at Massey University, said automation was a growing trend in New Zealand homes – and many people were automating without even realising it.

He pointed to heat pumps that can be controlled from a smartphone, and plugs that turn on and off at the touch of an app. 

Contact Energy is giving away two free Efergy smart sockets to people who sign up to one of its plans.

Spark has launched Morepork, a home security system that allows customers to monitor cameras and sensors from their phones via an app. Prices start at just under $30 a month plus about $1000 for the Security Starter Kit.

Other add-ons are available, such as a smoke alarm and garage door sensor.

Spark general manager of smart living Gemma Croombs said the company was expecting strong growth in home automation. 

In future, customers would be able to add other features such as lights and heating to the same Morepork control panel, she said.

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A new survey by home automation and security company Vivint found a third of New Zealanders had added some form of home technology that allowed them to remotely control appliances, security or lighting from their smartphones. 

More than a fifth said they would consider installing smart home technology in their home before selling to make it more appealing to buyers, and 15 per cent said it was an important feature they will look for in their next home.

Guegsen said for a lot of homes, the switch to automation was happening almost without them realising. "You see a commercial that says 'by the way, this washing machine or air conditioning has wifi'. People are taking it as the next step in development without saying 'this is home automation'."

Vivint general manager Marsden Hulme said growing demand had prompted his company to look to double its workforce.

"Whether people are at home and want to ensure the areas they are not in remain secure, or they want to keep their home safe while they are out at work or away on holiday, these systems make it easy and ensure that if anything happens the appropriate authorities are notified immediately."

The ability to control lights in a home and open locks remotely was particularly popular, Hulme said.

"If a tradesman is coming to service an appliance in your home, or a courier is turning with an important parcel, rather than having it on the doorstep all day long you can open the door from your mobile phone see that individual come into the home do what they need to do and when they leave you can remotely lock the door from the app.

"Whether you're across the road or across the world, it doesn't matter."

University of Auckland computer science lecturer Paul Ralph said it was important for homeowners to consider whether automated systems would deliver what they wanted.

He said spending a lot of money on a system that turned lights or heating on and off to save money on power, for example, could be a false economy.

"You might spend more on the system than you save in energy costs."

 - Stuff

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