Home automation is the next big thing to hit the B2C market for automation.  Thanik B, Director Strategy & Business Development, Buildings Business, Schneider Electric India, shares his views on current trends and what’s new in the segment.

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American media website CNET has predicted ‘2017 is going to be a big year for smart homes’. What contribution does Schneider have in this trend?

A few years ago, home automation was unheard of in India, at a time when smart solutions became the order of the day in many developed countries. But with increasing smart phone penetration and larger broadband connectivity, the home automation industry in the country is now witnessing a never-before growth.  Schneider Electric launched its full suite of integrated Smart Home Solutions to provide end-to-end solutions for multi-dwelling independent home owners in the year 2015. These Smart Home Solutions encompass home automation, wiring devices, final distribution, safety energy management technologies, that capture massive efficiencies across the value chain. The comprehensive Smart Homes suite offer includes Lighting Room Control (LRC), Wiring Devices (WD) Surveillance and Security, Final Distribution (FD), Energy Management and Renewable Energy. The integrated time scheduler/calendar function enables customers to prepare the house in advance for absence or presence, according to the mood or a planned activity. The temperatures can be set, heating can be lowered during the nights or when clients are at work. Lights and blinds can be scheduled as well for simulating presence. When developing this modular platform we had a clear vision: creating a switch range, that matches personality, focussed on two main aspects: how should it look like and what functions are needed in daily life.


What role does energy management play in the new smart home? How does Schneider work for ensuring it?

Energy management includes planning and operation of energy production and energy consumption units.  Smart homes are low on energy consumption since they involve technologies and solutions which are energy efficient. Smart sensors are easy to use; specifically, easy to install, replace, calibrate, maintain and which are intelligent enough to detect presence. The “disposable” design of Schneider Electric sensors means low cost of maintenance, and elimination of internal spare parts inventories. The sensor is mechanically rugged, chemically and thermally resistant, and can withstand extended exposure to high temperature applications, thereby making it ideally suited for the harshest industrial applications. Further, it also comes with high-end security along with enhanced comfort, convenience, security and provides entertainment to residents in a sustainable manner. Thus, the concept of smart homes can successfully help in lowering energy wastage, and also the electricity saved can be used in various other ways.


Schneider Electric has always believed in marketing products that provide a safe environment and optimise energy consumption as well as natural resources. Schneider has also introduced the Professional Energy Manager (PEM) certification in order to enrich the talent and knowledge of business professionals in the field of energy management. 


IoT and M2M play a big role in this trend. What r your views on the Indian market for home automation devices that are based on these technologies?

There is no dearth of possibilities for smart home IoT devices, and home automation is the wave of the future. Connected products are loaded with possibilities to make our lives easier, more convenient, and more comfortable. The first benefit to smart homes is convenience, as more connected devices can handle more operations such as lighting, temperature, etc. and frees up the resident to perform other tasks. But beyond this, smart home IoT devices can help reduce costs and conserve energy.


Where do you see global products and technologies market for home automation moving towards?

The global products and techno market for home automation is definitely on a rise. It’s not just the phones that are designed to be smarter and more intuitive but the overall lifestyle that is proceeding towards a more automated, simplified and organised structure. Apart from security, customers also talk about convenience related benefits of Smart Homes.  In a citizen research conducted by Schneider Electric in 2015, it was found out that the awareness of Smart Homes is very high and the subsequent demand for it is also on a rise. It is true that security is the main driving force behind the installation of Smart Homes, but people are equally inquisitive about convenience and energy efficiency that Smart Homes brings about.  Data shows that about 78% of customers (with a budget of Rs 50 lakh and above) want to go for Smart Homes.  Seeing the increase in awareness and demand for Smart Homes, the fate of global products and technologies market is in relatively good hands. Also, according to a survey by Schneider Electric, Smart Home market is expected to grow at a rate of 30 per cent year-on-year thereby ensuring that the market will double in revenue in three years.


Digitisation is being supported majorly by the Indian government. What impact do you see it making on home automation?

Having been present in home automation since 2014, we are happy to see the Indian government promoting digitisation. Intelligent features which utilise cloud-based machine learning to provide lifestyle benefits and which go beyond self-monitoring and user initiated outcomes are the key to attracting and maintaining customers.  Of course, it indicates that somewhere down the line we will have more home grown competitors, but in a market as dynamic as ours, more innovation is never a bad thing. It will only motivate us to work harder and come up with more advanced innovation thereby adhering to our goal of providing a safe, secured and balanced lifestyle for our customers.  Not to forget, the importance of reducing energy consumption thus contributing to the welfare of the environment.


Lighting design plays a big role in home automation. What’s Schneider’s play in that market? Is there significant competition in India? If yes, what’s your differentiator?

Intelligent lighting not only enhances your home but can also reflect your mood, raise your spirits or relax you. During the day our homes are flooded with natural light but as the sun goes down spaces are transformed by the ambience and detailing of a superior smart lighting design. A beautiful home requires extraordinary lighting. Too often spaces are let down by little or no attention to lighting. However perfection only comes by establishing a strong relationship between design, artificial lighting and natural light. It is important that smart homes are designed around you to ensure the lighting not only matches your interior and exterior style but also the everyday demands on the space.


Voice controlled devices and automated security devices are also a big part of this trend. How do you see the Indian market pan out in this space?

Voice recognition/voice commands are the next revolution in controlled devices. It is the next in-thing in automation after controlling from any hand-held device. The Indian market is receptive to the “What Next” factor. We foresee the Indian home automation market advancing on to voice automated devices in the coming three years.


What more can the Indian market do to adopt the latest technologies and products for home automation?

The goal now is to take smart home automation from being a privilege of the few rich to a truly mass scale opportunity. A research report published by Research Beam in February 2016, forecasts that the home automation market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.63 per cent in the coming six years. Factors such as growing employment opportunities, steady economic development, easy availability of housing finance, increasing urbanisation, rising standards of living, and increased consumer spending on lifestyle products, are also driving the growth of home automation. Further, initiatives on educating the masses on the importance of smart homes and how it is a onetime investment that will benefit not only the consumers but also help in effective energy management. So, this is just the beginning.