Future proof, does it exist and is it possible?

When renovating or building a home is it really possible to design and install a  future proof  home or building?

Firstly, let’s try to establish what people mean when they ask us to future proof their home or building.  We believe they essentially want the best return on their financial investment which is understandable. So after spending ‘000s on equipment they do not want it to be redundant or useless in period of time.

It’s this “period of time” which is the point which actually needs clarifying by asking the question, how long should a piece of technology last?  It would be unreasonable to answer this as “forever” simply because it is the very core nature of human existence is to continually evolve through developments and application of technology.  Technology has been developing ever since the first caveman made his first weapon for hunting in order to survive… and man’s development of technology hasn’t stopped since.

So realistically, how long should a piece of technology last?  In terms of Smart Home technology, our view on future proof timescales is that systems we install should work for 10, 20 or even more years but only if they are installed correctly, electrically protected and regularly maintained.

We find that it’s not that systems stop working which drives why smart homes systems are replaced but because we all want the “latest and greatest” and choose to upgrade.  Just as we do for all other large purchases we make in our lives.  If you contacted the owner of the first car you bought, they will probably say it still “works” but you exchanged it when a newer model became popular, better or your requirements changed.

Let’s agree, for now at least, it’s normally your preferences which drive your system upgrade rather than the technology hardware not working, can we extend this period of time?

Choosing components which allow for new features to be added through software and firmware updates is an important feature of any smart home system as this will extend the systems usefulness and meet your changing requirements.

We need to be honest and we will openly admit our technology does fail, it’s complex technology and even with billions spent on space exploration, technology still fails.  However, it is nearly always through incorrect use, improper installation or lack of additional protection but it can also be just simply wear and tear, it happens.

It is therefore important to consider before selecting a particular manufacturer, the proprietary nature of their system in order to give you the greatest change for a future proof system. Consider, what if a manufacturer ceases production and replacement components become difficult to get or a limited number of skilled professionals are available to maintain a non-current product.  This is where we believe a system based on the KNX standard is key to a “future proof” smart home system.  Please read our article on our KNX Partner status or visit www.knx.org for more information on the Worldwide STANDARD for Home and Building Control.

Say, for example, a lighting dimmer module failed.  The lighting dimmer module forms part of the lighting system and usually will only “talk” to components from of the same lighting system from the same manufacturer.  KNX differs in that for a KNX lighting dimmer to be KNX Certified it needs to “talk” the same language as a Certified KNX dimmer from another manufacturer.  So even if manufacturer A stops manufacturing lighting dimmers (or all together), we can use the lighting dimmer from manufacturer B.  Equally, KNX products from different manufacturers are commissioned using the same Engineering Tool Software (ETS).

KNX is not the answer to everything future proof, if only it were that simple!  KNX is very good at the core building’s functions such as lighting and heating control.  KNX is not, however, an answer to most audio/visual requirements.  So there is always a level of integration and our post on Which Smart Home Systems should I use, explains the complexity of Integration further.

Replacing hardware either through choice or need is one thing, changing the Smart Home cabling infrastructure which is buried in walls and under floors is another!  Our advice is to contact us or another CEDIA Certified Smart Home Designer to ensure your cabling infrastructure is designed to be as future proof as possible.