This year gave us a lot to be excited about in smart home technology, from advancements influenced by the pandemic to more accessible tech and dynamic partnerships. Take a look at our year-end roundup below.
WFH, Hybrid Improvements
In 2020, we dramatically altered the way we work, and 2021 saw continual refinements to this new normal. Crestron remained at the forefront of virtual work technology with improvements to their Flex platform, including enhanced video and audio conferencing capabilities. The new integration with Jabra provides video conferencing a 180-degree view of the room, allowing everyone to be clearly seen. It gives a real-time headcount of participants while adjusting the zoom level and focus based on what’s happening and who’s speaking. Including a live whiteboard streaming feature, Crestron’s improved Flex made hybrid work work for everyone.
Savant introduced its Zoom Room feature. Instead of struggling to get your AirPods’ microphone to work and adjusting your vision to a small screen with too many people, the new feature allowed us to tune in from our entertainment systems. All the Savant amenities we love—crisp sound quality, easy interface, preset scenes (lights dim or brighten automatically at the beginning of a call), and smart connectivity (background noise is muted for smoother streaming)—translated to the WFH experience. When the call is over, the lights return to pre-call settings.
Sonos Arc gave us true surround-sound immersion in the comfort of our smart home. The Arc is equipped with Dolby Atmos support, is self-adjusting, and integrates flawlessly with your smartphone and other Sonos speakers. With its four far-field microphones, the Sonos Arc voice control technology hears you clearly over any other competing sounds. Film aficionados fell in love with the cinematic thrill that the Arc delivers, with eleven multidirectional drivers creating a surround sound effect that rivals a traditional theater experience.
Audio aficionados rejoiced to learn that Bowers and Wilkins, longtime purveyor of speakers to the illustrious Abbey Road Studios, released wireless earbuds. The pi5 and pi7 both use superior technology from Qualcomm, multiple speakers, and advanced noise-cancelling capabilities to produce ultra-clear, pure sound. Google assistant compatibility connects these tiny powerhouse earbuds to your home automation system. Take your playlist out for a run, and before you finish that last mile, you can have your bathroom lights on and your post-workout shower flowing.
Touchless Control: Smart and Practical
In a point in history when we want to touch fewer things, Google’s second-generation Nest Hub with Quick Gestures was definitely on-trend. Users can complete a wide variety of functions with simple hand movements. As with voice control, touchless hand control has the benefit of cutting down the need to touch surfaces; in a kitchen, where hands may be messy, or an entryway, where the spread of germs might be higher, this feature is incredibly convenient and practical.
Kohler’s touchless toilet arrived on the market in 2021, and after 2020, anything that makes bathroom surfaces easier to keep clean is pretty exciting. The company’s Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet has all the customization options of a smart bath, but in a toilet. Lighting, temperature, and many more preferences can be controlled by a simple voice command, allowing for personalization as well as providing a touchless, more hygienic surface. In addition, settings can be saved for each family member, giving everyone their own preferred experience.
And what’s a smart bathroom without a connected tub? Kohler’s bathtub benefits from two new smart technologies: PerfectFill voice control allows for safe, exact filling, while maintaining precise temperatures and water levels; Stillness technology allows for water, steam, lighting, and aroma to be personalized to create the perfect relaxing mood. The endless combinations are sure to melt away stress.
Smart Homes for Veterans
We loved seeing how smart homes could be truly life-changing for veterans. The Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program provides specially customized homes for severely wounded veterans and their families. These homes have physical adaptations such as ramps and wide hallways to ease the passage of wheelchairs, and they are outfitted with a wide range of smart home technology.
The smart features in these homes, such as voice-controlled lights, thermostats, and locks, are paired with a consideration of the everyday challenges faced by veterans with disabilities. The company seeks to restore veterans’ self-sufficiency and make life less stressful for the entire family. Smart home technology allows us all to more easily navigate and control our homes, but for these members of our armed forces, that ease and control is a path to previously unimagined independence.
Crestron and Lambeau Field
When the NFL’s preseason started this fall, the Green Bay Packers returned to a better, brighter Lambeau field. This historic venue is the oldest continuously used stadium by a single team in the NFL, and it was treated to a facelift in 2021. Leader in lighting and lighting control Crestron was selected to replace the outdated, disjointed lighting system. The decade’s old system was replaced with a single, secure, easy-to-use lighting ecosystem that provides cutting edge technology to the 81,000-seat stadium. Game nights shine brighter and smarter in Green Bay.
Josh.ai + Lutron + Crestron
Exciting collaborations with Lutron and Crestron helped keep Josh.ai at the forefront of savvy smart home owners. Lutron and Josh.ai released the first Lutron wallplate controller that’s Josh.ai ready. The elegant, discrete solution combines buttons with microphones, providing users with endless possibilities in a minimal footprint. The Josh.ai Ready Wallplate is compatible with Ketra for a range of lighting and color options constrained only by your imagination. If you’re looking for ease, the pre-programmed “Natural” and “Relax” buttons deliver perfect moods with a single touch. This latest collaboration brings options, elegance, and security to your home.
Crestron and Josh.ai expanded their partnership, allowing homeowners using the Crestron Home operating system to use Josh.ai’s natural language controls to operate their homes more efficiently and easily. The identification of natural language and context allows Josh.ai to operate any connected device, no matter how extensive or complex the system. Step into your home theater and say “OK Josh, let’s watch Ted Lasso” and Josh.ai recognizes what room you’re in and plays the show on the correct screen. The integration means that control extends to lighting, temperature, shades, locks, and much more. This powerful partnership provides endless possibilities for unifying devices across the home and controlling them with ease.
We’ve been keeping our eyes on Matter Alliance and the interconnectivity this certification process is going to enable. The Connectivity Standards Alliance’s (CSA) new certification process for smart products promotes connectivity and integration amongst everything from lightbulbs to thermostats to door locks and more. The certification will regulate standards and provide a seal of approval for goods meeting them. Amazon, Google, and Apple are all part of the CSA and have committed to making their smart home solutions meet the Matter certification. Other standards of Matter-certified devices include simplicity, reliability, and security. We’re on the lookout for the first Matter-certified products to hit the market, ushering in a new universal standard for smart home goods.
Responsive Living, the term coined by Acoustic Architects founders, Aaron Flint and Spencer Hauldren, is the concept of seamlessly enhancing the client’s unique lifestyle using smart home technology. Responsive Living allows you to interact with your space via touch input, voice command, and predictive automation, placing you in full control of your home.
If you would like to learn more about integrating new systems into your smart home system, feel free to connect with us. We will be happy to schedule a demo with you.
For more information, visit acousticarchitects.net.
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