Expert Andrew Woods on Designing a Smart Home that Clients Will Love

Control4 Smart Home Professionals have a passion for technology and beautiful home esthetics, as you’d quickly find out after just a few minutes talking to Andrew Woods. Andrew has been in the technology industry for a long time, and his talent and knowledge for home automation spans beyond his technical knowledge; he understands the importance of both how a home looks as well as how it functions.

We asked this Control4 Certified Dealer & Programmer about his passion for technology, how he approaches the customer experience side of home automation, and his latest project – a District II Budapest villa.

What got you interested in becoming a home automation expert?

I was an electrician and a DJ in the UK before moving to Canada from England. I’ve always been an audio person. I’ve always loved music, and it fascinated me that you could reproduce the sounds of a live concert on a sound system. I’ve constantly had extreme sound systems, and I was always trying to think of what I could do next to make it better. Since my first business in Canada was in access control and security, networking and home automation were a natural progression for me. I have been working with Control4 since the beginning (over a decade ago). When I found out they were bringing the technology to Hungary, I wanted to be on the forefront and have the opportunity to live and work in this beautiful city of Budapest.

What are the benefits of working with a smart home professional for design professionals?

Designers like working with me because they know I’m not going to complicate their client’s lives, I’m not going to put technology in places that will take away from the beauty of the home, and I can offer solutions to the designer to compliment their work. The true character of any company comes not when they are trying to sell a product, but when they are trying to solve a problem. How fast I respond, how fast I fix it, and how competently I fix it are what’s most important. And I believe that you can’t just be good at that—you have to be great at it. Designers can trust that I want their customer to be happy and I will always put my best foot forward for both new and existing customers.

How do you approach a project to make sure the client is satisfied with the results?

I listen a lot in the initial meeting, I do an interview, and I always ask people what technologies they’ve had in the past, what they like/disliked about those systems, and what technologies they have heard about that they would like to have in their home. I never want to create a system that they won’t be happy with, and I’ve learned through experience that customers don’t want complicated systems. So I listen and then think about what solutions would solve their problems and what they are looking for. For example, some of my clients are older, and they want something that is simple and easy to use. The Control4 system is very intuitive for most people. 

What advice do you have for your homeowners or for designers/architects integrating technology into their designs?

What I see designers and homeowners struggle with the most is that they equate smart devices with a smart home. These piecemeal, DIY devices are not very reliable nor are they often integratable. That can cause frustration because they are not able to perform all the functions that a homeowner may want. Start thinking about technology as an integrated solution rather than just a device. For example, if someone just gets a smart doorbell or gate bell, you can’t have it connect with anything. All it can do is ring to your smartphone. However, if it is properly integrated into a smart home platform like Control4 and hardwired by a professional, then it’s not stressed with bandwidth and can ring on the audio system and video can pop up on the TVs and the touch screens as well as your phone. The homeowner can also respond to it via video or even open the gate/ door all from one interface or app. People want a quality experience in all aspects of their lives and that includes technology. Think of technology as a quality-enhancing solution for the home experience, and you’ll really start impressing clients.

What Control4 project are you currently working on here in Budapest?

I’ve spent the last year designing the smart tech and AV for a new-build villa in the Buda Hills. Working with the architects and other designers, the aim was to build a modern villa and create the optimum smart home for easy living, both inside and out. Not only did I create the design for the tech, but I am also doing the installation and programming on-site.  We start tomorrow, so stay tuned for future updates and follow along with the build!

The Budapest Smart Villa with a view.

6 Smart Home Upgrades to Install during your Renovation

Smart Home Reno

A renovation is the perfect time to customize your living space and take advantage of the latest in smart home tech. The smart home market is on the rise, and many companies are starting to offer products that integrate seamlessly into the design of a house. For those brave enough to jump into the deep end, the potential benefits from whole-home automation are nearly limitless. Larger upgrades often involve extensive custom design work, including hardwiring, so it’s best to upgrade when you’re already renovating to cut down on cost.
 
Smart home integration is a strong investment. According to a survey conducted by Houzz, smart tech has become more of a priority for renovating homeowners—28% say that it’s at the top of their lists. And in the luxury home market, these features are now expected. Smart home technology can set your home apart from other options on the housing market, and potentially increase the value of your property’s value.
 
Take advantage of your next overhaul and consider incorporating these six smart home renovations into your living space.

1. USB OUTLETS

If you tear out the backsplash in your kitchen, chances are you’ll need to rewire a few outlets. A home renovation gives you the opportunity to upgrade your home’s electrical system for your tech-friendly lifestyle. Outlets with built-in USB ports allow easy smartphone and tablet charging without the need for an unsightly power brick, freeing up the outlets themselves for appliances and lighting. Look for a USB outlet that offers 4.8 amp charging for larger devices, and make sure it meets the highest standards for safety.

2. HOME AUTOMATION SYSTEM

If you’re planning to install a number of smart home products during your home renovation project, a smart home system can help you automate the function of each device. A smart home system offers compatibility with a range of individual devices across several standards, and it may integrate directly with your digital voice control assistant. The Amazon Echo is the most popular voice-controlled smart device offered today and is compatible with whole-home automation systems like Control4. Once you’ve chosen a smart home automation system, be sure to select smart devices that “play nicely” with it to further the benefits in your home.

3. BUILT-IN SPEAKERS

Speakers and audio equipment can take up a lot of space, and unsightly wires can really break up the aesthetic feel of a minimalist living room. Luckily, several companies offer custom speaker systems that integrate directly into your home’s construction. Look for systems that mount directly into your home’s walls, ceiling, cabinetry, and even your patio. And they can be custom-matched to the painting on your walls or to various wood veneers.
 

4. MOTION SENSORS AND SMART SECURITY OPTIONS

While it’s still very possible to do in a home that does not require repairs or updates, automating your home security can be much easier to do during a renovation. Adding sensors that detect motion, door or window access, broken glass, smoke or carbon monoxide, and flooding are individual components that can be integrated into an automation system and customized to the unique layout of your home. When you tie an alarm panel into a home automation system, you can even receive alerts on our mobile device if any door or window has been accessed, or every light in the house can turn on instantly or flash repeatedly to alert neighbors of a potential break-in.
 

5. HOME SECURITY CAMERAS

Doorbell cameras, perimeter cameras, and interior cameras can be accessed and monitored by the phone in your pocket while you’re away at work or vacation. Discreetly camouflaging security cameras into the design of your home’s entryway and most frequented areas can help you protect your home and the things inside without making friends or family feel uncomfortable. Doorbell cameras are low-profile and minimally invasive, and you can easily install one during a refresh of your doorway. The faceplate can be customized to match your home, and most units come hardwired so you don’t need to replace any batteries. Should you decide to add one after the fact, there are many wireless options, as well.
 

6. SMART THERMOSTATS

A smart thermostat is a nice upgrade for your heating and cooling system, but these devices can potentially improve your home’s efficiency much more if you install a few extra temperature sensors. During your home renovation, you can hardwire sensors directly into your smart thermostat, allowing it to automatically regulate the temperature in each room. 
 
Whether you’re hiring a contractor or renovating your home yourself, the opportunity to update your home’s technology shouldn’t be missed. You’ll save on installation time, and the potential increase in your home’s value may offset many of the costs associated with these technologies. Your smart home can make everyday tasks and activities more pleasant and convenient, all while keeping your family safer and more secure. It’s a win-win for home renovators.

Extraordinary Living

This Ritz-Carlton Residence is on the corner of luxury and innovation.
 
When the Prism Development Company decided to take a landmarked building and integrate it into a new residential high-rise on Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile, they didn’t just bring the building up to date. They brought it a few steps into the future.
 
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Chicago, Magnificent Mile is the latest addition to the Ritz-Carlton suite of luxury residential homes. What sets this one apart? Each of the units comes with a Control4 Touch Screen equipped with the Integrisys InteliPlex™ Portal, a cutting-edge innovation that gives residents one-touch access to the building’s services and amenities through an easy-to-use graphical user interface.
 
From the sleek, in-wall Control4 Touch Screen residents can retrieve messages, connect to the concierge, valet, or make a service request with building management—all with the touch of a finger.
 
“For example, residents can request valet services on the touch screen,” describes Integrisys Principal and Control4 dealer George Velazquez. “While they catch a few more minutes of the game, they can be notified on their TV screen when their car is ready.”
 
The idea was simple: to extend front door services to every room in every residence. “In a hotel, you pick up the phone to call the front desk with your needs,” points out Velazquez. “With InteliPlex, you’re basically getting the luxury hotel experience in your own home through a simple touch screen.” Even away from home, he adds, residents can still access many of the innovative features through an easy-to-use web-based portal, from a computer or a smart phone.
 
Residents will also be able to use it to check weather and news headlines, much the same way as with a smart phone or computer—except these messages will span everything from building bulletins and notes about package deliveries or maintenance requests to international news. As George describes it, it will be like “combining the features of an iPhone with the amenities of a Ritz-Carlton hotel.”
 
“This exceeds typical residential design,” says Margo Dahmani, Director of Marketing for The Prism Group, the developers of the building. “We are at the high end of the residential market in Chicago, and the brand of our building meant that the technology packages had to be at the top of the spectrum. We are excited that we can offer it to our residents and uphold what The Ritz-Carlton is known for—always going above and beyond.”
 
The Control4-powered InteliPlex system will connect residents with as many as 12 full-time staff members as well as the private 12,000-square-foot Landmark Club on the 10th floor, which features a grand salon, a club dining room, a boardroom, a wine/billiard room, a screening room, a fitness center and a spa services area. Additionally, with full integration of Control4 technology, residents will be able to personalize their own home with control over everything from audio, video, lighting, climate and even window blinds.