Smart as standard?

Smart and connected technologies have the potential to transform our homes and our lives, but consumer uptake has been slower than expected. Emplas talks to Glass Times.

Smart is a ‘disruptive’ technology. It allows us to do things that we couldn’t do before. It is making business and industry more efficient and, through a new generation of connected devices, our homes increasingly automated.

Via the Internet of Things, smart technologies have the potential to go further: your fridge will notify you when foods have gone past their use-by date and reorder them for you; smart traffic lights will talk to smart cars and reroute your journey to avoid delays; and our daily lives will become seamlessly integrated with smart technologies.

These are clearly positives yet smart has some reputational obstacles to overcome. The first is the ‘all seeing eye and all hearing ear’ in the home. According to a recent study by PWC, concerns about data protection are making end-users wary.

Its connected homes survey finding that alongside price (38%), ‘data privacy concerns represented a significant barrier to adoption for consumers who do not already own smart technology’.

“There have been a number of high-profile data breaches and scandals that have impacted on how willing we are as consumers to embrace smart technologies,” Emplas’s John Leary said.

“The Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, or the row about involvement of Huawei, the Chinese-owned telecoms giant in the development of the UK’s 5G mobile network, which Huawei’s critics warn could compromise national security; smart products have become caught up in these high-profile rows and so slightly tarnished through association.

“Consumers may be more wary, but our direction of travel is still firmly one way.”

According to PWC the increased caution shown by end users will still not have prevented the market for smart technologies in the UK, topping £10.8 billion this year.

The study also suggests that home security is one area where homeowners may be prepared to put any misgivings they may hold to one side, out weighted by the perceived benefits smart home security technologies can deliver.

This reveals that more than 36% of respondents planned to invest in smart security technologies within the next five years on top of the 11% who already have smart security systems installed within their homes.

“At a headline level we have a market that is already growing, and with significant potential growth as smart technologies become more integrated and consumers more comfortable with them,” John said.

“We also have to look where the market is going. The PWC report highlights the importance of 18-35-year-olds as ‘aspirational homeowners’. They may not quite be on the property ladder but are already embracing smart technologies (59%).

“As tomorrow’s homeowners and our future customers, smart technologies will become an increasingly important part of our offer as an industry going forward, and will at some point set the standard for windows and doors.”

This analysis has driven Emplas’s decision to offer Kubu, the smart hardware system from Avantis – as standard – across its composite and PVCU door ranges.

This combines a high-performance multi-point locking mechanism with a smart sensor.

“It’s fitted in the same way as any other door, it’s operated in exactly the same way,” John said. “It’s cost neutral to our customers and can be sold in the same way as any other composite door.

“If, however, you want to, you can upsell it as either pre-prepped for Smart activation through the addition of the Kubu smart module, or as a complete Smart door system with it. Kubu offers a point of differentiation and significant market opportunities for installers who adopt it as part of their offer.”

The Kubu lock is upgraded from a standard multi-point locking system to a smart technology through the optional insertion of a Kubu battery powered module. No wiring or additional work is required.

This can then be linked by the end-user to their mobile or tablet, giving them full visibility of the status of their door in real-time through an app. Easy to set up, Kubu also works with other smart devices including Alexa.

This can also be set to deliver an alert if the owner leaves their property without securing the door, triggered as they disconnect from their home WiFi.

“It gives the end user peace of mind but importantly it isn’t invasive,” John said. “Consumer reticence towards Smart is a reaction to data concerns and, in part, by a concern about failure: what if my system is hacked?; is my home, and its belongings, vulnerable?

“Kubu is a high-performance multi-point locking system. It doesn’t have an automatic locking system – or the potential vulnerabilities that go with it. You use a key to lock your door when you leave home, and if you forget, it tells you in time to go back and do so. The proposition is simple.”

Kubu has also been designed to be simple to fit. If the end user doesn’t want to enable Kubu notifications straight away, covers are left in place on re-routed housing in the door. If they do, these are removed and the battery powered module slots in and is activated – there’s no hard wiring or additional time in installation.

Putting ‘smart’ to one side Emplas also relaunched its composite door offer in May. As well as being supplied with the Kubu Smart locking system and smart sensor as standard, it features an industry leading slab with 4mm thick impact resistant skin and LVL sub frame.

A high density insulative foam core means that it delivers U-values as low as 0.9W/m2K. It’s supplied as PAS24 as standard with an SBD option with laminate glass and dedicated letterplate. It also uses a dry and re-glazeable cassette should the glass need to be replaced.

This means that silicone isn’t required making any remedial work or change of glass easier to service.

“We’re first and foremost selling a door,” John said. “We have a highly competitive composite door offer to begin with.

“Kubu smart technologies and the Smart Avantis high performance multi-point locking mechanism give Emplas customers the opportunity to upsell that offer. Supplied as standard by us, they can do so at a cost neutral price point.

“If they sell it as a standard door, smart pre-prepped or primed, or as a smart door with full Kubu notifications – it’s up to them but across the board it delivers margin.”