Riverview Contracting

Home Design

How Apple is Playing in the Home Automation Space

Here at Riverview Contracting, we are always looking for innovative ideas for home construction and remodeling. The trend nowadays is toward home automation with many areas in the home controlled from smart devices.

Home has always been where the heart is, but now more than ever before, it’s where the brain resides too. The popularity of “smart” technology continues to pick up – with each passing year, more of our analog appliances are able to communicate, share data and analyze information gathered from our daily routines. Today it’s possible to lock doors and windows, adjust thermostat settings and even check on the contents of the fridge from the smartphone in the palm of your hand.   

This type of intelligent technology has already begun to revolutionize the way we manage and interact with our homes. Operating in and around the Internet of Things, connected home products have opened the door to a myriad of never-before-seen conveniences. Mobile phones operate as remote controls or command centers, bridging the gap between our everyday demands and the services provided by smart toasters, light bulbs and security systems.

Apple, the world’s largest seller of smartphone devices, made its official debut into the dynamic smart home market last year. With the release of the Home app, and critical improvements to the existing HomeKitplatform, Apple reminded consumers that it still knows how to really work a room.

Connection and Control with HomeKit

Apple’s HomeKit platform seeks to provide a single overarching ecosystem within which all sorts of smart devices can coexist in harmony. Provided a device was made HomeKit-compatible by its manufacturer, it’s ready to integrate with the existing HomeKit hub setup. After this, users can simply begin interacting with the Home app or by talking to Apple’s digital voice assistant, Siri, to enact precise control over every room in the house. There’s no need for hubs to wrangle half a dozen different communication standards, no juggling multiple apps and no hoping that the newest smart device will play nicely with everything else.

Using home automation, it’s crucial to know which products are compatible with one another. In the world of smart home systems, gadgets can only communicate if they speak using the same language or “standard.” Users typically require a separate app for each system, and separate hardware too. And in this still early market, tech firms still tend to see the most profitable business model as one that acts as a walled garden. However, manufacturers are becoming aware that more compatibility is important – soon we hope to see devices that support Apple’s HomeKit, and Google’s Weave, as well as the other systems still on the horizon.

A Secure Investment

Though home automation systems are seldom considered among the best investments for homeowners, their installation can boost both the ease-of-use and the comfort of your home – benefiting you and your family in both the short and long term. Automated and remote control over lighting and HVAC systems can improve energy efficiency, lower overall consumption and help save money on utility bills. Smart security systems enable the remote monitoring of your property, giving additional control and protection over your home even when you are away. Looking toward the future of home selling, having a smart home systemalready installed and integrated is a major advantage.

HomeKit and the Competition

While there is a lot to like about the HomeKit and Home app from Apple, this tech giant isn’t the only player in this long game. Amazon’s Echo has been wildly successful since its introduction thanks to its ability to control a wide selection of smart products via a demure speaker hub. The hub is powered by Alexa, Amazon’s intelligent digital assistant and cohort of Apple’s Siri. With far-field microphones and a sophisticated artificial intelligence, the Echo system has captivated many consumers attention.

The Samsung SmartThings platform, while missing the charm of an Alexa or Siri-like voice assistant, is perhaps the most reliable and widely supported home automation system currently available. It works with a whole host of communication standards, making it an excellent choice if anyone who intends to piece together their smart home systems from an assortment of vendors and devices.

Home Automation is the Future

The connected home sector is still open to transformation. Today the technology firms above and many other product manufacturers continue to jostle for a bigger slice of the pie. For consumers who feel that their homes are no less “smart” for all the Internet-enabled devices they buy, the move towards these types of systems has been more gradual. To ensure home automation takes off, improved data security and more streamlined communication standards are imperative.   

In Apple’s case, because smart products need to be specifically made HomeKit-compatible, the list of supported devices is currently smaller than for other smart home systems. The HomeKit also requires that an Apple TV or other supported device be left at home in order to communicate with the system while users are away, which may be a deterrent for some. Nonetheless, the HomeKit system is already becoming more established, and the list of compatible devices continues to grow rapidly. With deep integration into the recently released iOS 10 and a continued focus on security and protection of privacy, the HomeKit offer compelling advantages over similar cloud-based competitors.

While it’s still a growing field, home automation devices and the ever-widening Internet of Things hold tremendous potential. A smart home can be a safer, more convenient and more efficient home, and automation strikes an excellent balance between short-term gratification and long-term investment value for homeowners. There’s no telling what the future of smart technology holds, but by providing all these advantages without sacrificing security and privacy, the Apple HomeKit is poised to remain a powerful player for years to come.

The newest must-have amenities for kitchens, closets, game spaces, privacy, and security in residences

In today’s luxury real estate marketplace, homebuyers’ lifestyles, hobbies, and collecting habits are defining their home life and shaping the features and amenities within . As part of its annual 2017 report on the state of the residential property market, Christie’s International Real Estate polled real estate executives and agents in the field and asked them which amenities and home features stood out in the current luxury real estate landscape. Here are some of their insights.

Kitchens as Theater and à Votre Santé

Anyone watching a master chef in action soon realizes that cooking is a dance and a kitchen is the stage. Counter space, considered prime real estate even more so than stoves or appliances, is expanding exponentially and also allowing a household’s multiple cooks to create in tandem. Precision, efficiency of movement, command of space defines a chef— which so many of us now aspire to be.

When entertaining, guests want to watch their hosts in action. As a result, they tend to congregate in the kitchen, which then grows in stature with “spectator” seating and elegant design. 

Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina

Kitchens are further evolving into the hearth and hub of the family. A great kitchen is said to fuel a healthier lifestyle with more sit-down dinners, conversation opportunities and healthier dining choices than food on the fly. Elaborate indoor herb gardens continue to crop up, so to speak. More elaborate “farm-to-table” garden options in luxury households are taking root, as well.

The 2017 season of Top Chef, the long-running foodie television show, recently wrapped up in Charleston, South Carolina. Helen Geer of local area Affiliate William Means Real Estate explains the importance of a kitchen in selling a home: “The kitchen has become a major entertaining space. Instead of a utilitarian area for someone other than the owner to prepare food, buyers today like to cook and take enormous pride in the meals they prepare themselves. Even if they don’t cook, people still like to entertain in the kitchen with hors d’oeuvres or small plates. It is more intimate and welcoming.”

Closets: Go Big… No, Go Bigger

Just as your art and your home are the image you project to the world, so are the clothes you wear. That is certainly the reason that closets continue to grow in size and opulence. Across our 101 surveyed markets, numerous brokers across the globe reported that large closets continue to be a highly desirable amenity for luxury home buyers.

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It would be difficult to find a closet that can rival the square footage of space once devoted to clothes at “Ocean Lawn” in Newport, Rhode Island, which sold this March for $11.65 million by Melanie Delman of Lila Delman Real Estate. The estate was the longtime residence of Elizabeth Park Firestone, also remembered as a turn-of-the-20th-century fashion icon who amassed so many gowns, dresses and outfits, she once commented that she never had to wear the same thing twice.

Closets are no longer confined spaces. The closet is really another room, not a storage center, and has become almost recreational.

The original closet at “Ocean Lawn” was expanded, swallowing two guest bedrooms and three servants’ quarters. When that, too, proved inadequate, she set her sights on the floor above and converted all the rooms overhead to create a massive two-story closet. For her out-of-season wardrobe, she constructed a separate outbuilding on the property.

When the home changed hands in 2000 after the death of Mrs. Firestone, the new owners downsized the closet, reclaiming three bedrooms and a library before selling the estate in 2017.

Raising Your Game

Luxury real estate specialists surveyed report that the passion for recreation at home is only getting more expansive. This year we have seen ice-hockey rinks with Zambonis and warming areas, a BMX pump course, and an irrigated regulation soccer field. One noteworthy home had a slide directly from the master suite to the backyard pool.

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While indoor basketball courts have been a staple of luxury homes for some time, there is one in Portland that comes with an ingenious twist; it transforms into a formal ball room-complete with chandeliers and sound systems for grand-scale entertaining. When it is time once more for a game of hoops, the high-brow accoutrements are stored in giant lockers built specifically for that purpose.

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Sports continue to play a major role in the amenities on offer at many high-value homes across the globe, with homeowners integrating their preferred sports into properties in new and creative ways.

Bill Hamm of Christie’s International Real Estate says “We continue to be amazed at how many homeowners are creatively integrating sports amenities in their home while maintaining the high-end integrity of their luxury property.”

Privacy and Security

Beginning with the castle moat, security has been a salient feature of important homes for centuries. What started as basic in-home security systems like ADT have evolved radically for today’s most sophisticated residences.

Lulu Egerton of Strutt & Parker, notes, “on a micro level, I think security will be front of mind for many buyers. Fingerprint recognition and other sophisticated security systems—technology will continue to move forward and London will not relax on this front.”

Recent security innovations are wonders of technology, and are not surprisingly designed by former military masterminds: outdoor surveillance cameras with night vision to protect a home’s perimeters; safe rooms with oxygen scrubbers, back-up generators and Kevlar®-reinforced doors; blast films on windows to make them virtually impenetrable; and ceiling devices that when tripped, fire pepper spray or a fog laced with ingredients to temporarily debilitate unwanted intruders.

This Cayman Islands estate features a high-tech security system throughout the property

Design and Construction Trends

Design and Construction Trends

More and more, women are being recognized as the final decision makers regarding new home design and construction. Translated, this can mean more storage space in bedrooms, an oversized garage, larger laundry rooms, security systems and a higher quality of construction; while men are looking for things such as larger garages as well, home theater systems, space for large screen TV’s and separate shower stalls and tubs.

Builders and engineers are becoming increasingly aware of other factors that new home owners are looking for. At the core of these trends are safety and energy conservation, both in manufacture and construction activities, as well as being resistant to storms, earthquakes, and fire. Designs that take into account the health needs of consumers and decrease the use of materials that leak gases after the home has been completed and can literally make you sick. Other interesting trends are flexible floor plans, access by older consumers who want to avoid climbing stairs, etc., outdoor rooms, more storage and the utilization of some eastern beliefs such as Feng Shui and others are becoming recognized by builders and consumers alike.

Technology is making its way more and more into the home and to be more effective, it is best to take into consideration the design of the home before it is build. The truly wired home incorporating security systems with video pickups, as well as sound, music systems with surround sound, home theaters, homes fully wired for phone, cable and satellite TV options and high speed data are becoming common. Controls that allow you to close the drapes to accessing your homes security system remotely are also being added.

Finally, regional trends are also a significant factor and continue to affect trends in various parts of the country.

Useful Web Links

Top 10 Designs in Home Trends

Home Building Trends

Home Theaters

Regional Trends

Home Ethernet

Wiring Your Home for the Net

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