This post gives an overview on home automation and security consultant or freelancing.
Recently, a friend narrated how his old diabetic mother who lived alone in an apartment, tripped in the dark of night. Fortunately she suffered minor injuries. It was not possible for him to quit his job and be with her at this time. He searched for solutions that allowed her to control lights and other devices like the TV, AC and water geyser. There were home automation products online (Amazon has some), but few who could install them and they charged a lot.
This is when I realized that the potential for home automation and security opportunity. Less competition and a large market waiting to be captured. If this opportunity interests you, read on…
What is Home Automation?
Home automation or domotics is a property automation system that controls lighting, domestic appliances, heating and cooling systems and entertainment systems. Most of these systems can be connected with the Internet for remote monitoring and control. Hence, these devices are a step away from being part of Internet of Things (IoT), in which everything has an assigned IP address (the device’s address on the Internet).
What are the Benefits of Home Automation & Security Systems?
1. Security / Safety
Unsurprisingly, this is the first requirement of a home automation & security system. Security of not only the building, it’s occupants and the things inside, but also that of information. Let me explain. You can install surveillance cameras, proximity sensors and smoke detectors for security of the house. You also have automation systems to control all electrical and electronic devices – well done! Now, if a hacker gets to the system, there is a possibility of you coming to a heated home in peak summers (less worrisome) or the property broken into because the security system was disabled remotely. Be wary of the technologies you use and the persons who install it.
Of course, one considers a home automation system for convenience or comfort it provides – especially for the elderly. Your grandma can now easily switch on the lights using her smartphone or even a voice command and not worry about tripping on her way to the bathroom.
Basic home automation systems will allow you to switch on and power down devices. But, one should consider advanced features that can be programmed or setup easily. For example, switch on the front porch lights at 7 pm. Even better if it can sense the ambient light and switch on / off automatically. How about a pet feeding device that allows you to feed your dog based on a schedule?
4. Remote Monitoring & Control
This entails connecting the device to a network – the Internet if you need to monitor and control from outside the home. You can use an app on the smartphone or tablet or a web interface on the desktop computers to monitor and control over the Internet.
5. Energy Efficiency
There is increasing concern over the effects of energy hungry devices on our planet. Smart Home automation systems enable devices to switch on and power down remotely or based on sensor inputs, schedules etc.
Home Automation and Security Consulting or Freelancing Opportunity
Home automation and security is an emerging business opportunity. As per Reuters, the home automation market is predicted to reach a market value of US$12.81 billion by the year 2020.
New-age home-owners seek more convenience and better security in their homes, but don’t have the time and / or know-how to do it themselves. This is where you, a budding home automation and security consultant, come in and save the day. If you are a fast mover, you can get ahead quickly and even expand the business to larger infrastructure like office buildings, campuses etc. This career is more suited to engineers – specifically engineers or technicians in electrical, electronic or IT streams. But, that should not stop anyone who has the skills and expertise in related technologies for home automation and security.
Now, I decided to combine home automation and security because of the overlap in terms of technology and application. Moreover, unlike security setup for office buildings or other large infrastructure, home security technology is much less complex.
Let’s see what both these functions entail. So here is one tip – put yourselves in the homeowner’s place. Ask what you would want for you and your family in your home. Think in terms of features that help save time, effort, energy (your as well as electrical), money while enhancing the security. This will give you an idea on what kinds of devices / technologies to use. Remember – always make it about the home owner and their near and dear ones.
Expectations from a Home Automation Project
A home-owner expects one or more of the following functionalities:
One usually associates smart lighting with the ‘mood lighting’ feature where you change the color of lights using an app. But it is more than just that. Smart lighting should enable control of lights remotely or by a schedule. It might also have advanced features like control by sensing ambient light or presence of people in a room. This results in reduction of energy usage. A report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) highlighted that the world would have used 12% more energy had it not been for energy efficiency improvements like the CFL and LED lamps since 2000. The IEA also states that smart lamps and luminaries could reduce electricity consumption by auto-adjusting to daylight levels and room occupancy or be switched on / off as per schedule / remotely. Common products in this segment include Philips Hue, Syska Smart LED, TP-Link SmartLight and others.
Smart Control Systems
Common systems in this category include those that can control electrical and electronic devices like TV, air-conditioning / heating, curtains / blinds, water geysers and so on. These assemblies have an IT component i.e. they are capable of being networked (wired / wireless). For example, one can plug in the usual electrical appliances in smart electrical sockets which are then controlled remotely using a console or the smartphone. The idea is reduce the inconvenience in switching on and off of the devices. You can even control the devices remotely – switch on the geyser when you leave your office and enjoy a hot shower when you reach home. Or perhaps change the light intensity, colour and fan speed etc. Examples of such products are Smarteefi Smart Switch Board, Homefy Smart Sockets, HomeSeer Home Controller etc
Smart Voice Assistant
If you guessed Alexa (Amazon Echo) or Google Home, you are right. One can use these devices to control devices – of course these devices need to have an interface with other home automation systems. Your kid can ask Alexa to switch on the TV without you being concerned about her reaching for the electrical outlets. The typical ad for these products show how Alexa can narrate the news or nursery rhyme. As you think of integrating it with other automation systems, you realize that the possibilities are many.
Advanced App & Device Automation
Once you get the hang of the home automation systems and their possibilities, I recommend integrating even further using services like Zapier and IFTTT. Home automation is still in the “fun” stage of integration with these services. But, many home automation and security companies have taken notice. Perhaps you can provide integration solution to such companies – this is yet another revenue stream for you. You can also build a custom system using Raspberry Pi or Arduino kits.
Expectations from a Home Security Project
Now let us see how you can secure your clients’ homes. As prices of security products keep dropping, more solutions are now within reach of the home owners. Here are some of the requirements:
The most common home security cameras have surveillance and monitoring functions which can also be used later for forensic analysis. These are placed strategically to monitor the areas required. They can also be integrated with home automation systems to generate alerts on say, the smartphone. Furthermore, the presence of these devices is a deterrent against mischievous elements. While travelling in the US, I saw many homes which had security devices prominently display a sign indicating something like “This house is protected by XYZ company.” Most thieves will think twice before breaking into such homes. Ring , (Google) Nest , Logitech, Xiaomi and others are in the smart cam business. Ring was in the news because the founder Jamie Siminoff failed to get investment in the “Shark Tank” in 2013. Subsequently, his company was acquired by Amazon for over $ 1.2 Billion!
Intrusion Detection Systems
An intrusion detection system consists of devices placed in strategic locations for protecting specific areas. To be specific, these devices alert and some even sound alarm when it detects an intruder in the property. These devices have sensors (infra-red / LASER etc) that detect any intrusion in your home. So the emitter emits an infra-red beam which falls on a receiver. When there is a break in the beam due to movement, an alarm is set off and / or an alert is generated to the law enforcement / security agency / your smartphone. Besides these, there are devices which detect acoustic (sound) signals – for example, breaking of glass windows to warn the home owner.
Smoke / Fire Detection System
As the name suggests, it helps in early warning of fire in the house. Ideally it should be installed in the entire property. But if the budget is limited, the home owner could get it installed in the kitchen. (Google) Nest Protect is one such premium product for homes.
How can you get Home Automation and Security Projects?
That is, how and where can you bid for and be employed for home automation and security projects. This is one category of freelancing which is rarely available on online freelance marketplaces. This is because the requirement of property inspection, engineering, planning and project delivery is all on-site. As an example, I was approached for home automation and security consulting for a residential complex. Apartment builders need their construction projects to stand out from the other apartment complex. You should approach apartment building companies with a plan to implement home automation and security systems for their customers. This is a win-win for everyone. The builder is happy that they can provide value added service at less cost and the home owners are happy that they are getting a smart home.
That was for new houses. As for existing houses and apartments, it is your marketing push that will matter. It simply means reaching out to existing home owners OR be found easily when they search for home automation and security business.
Marketing your Home Automation and Security Consulting
Needless to say you should have printed brochures of your service offerings ready. Place ads in classifieds – online and offline. But, the most important is to have an online presence. Create your business’s Facebook page (not your usual Facebook account), Instagram and Twitter account.
You must create a website to explain what you offer, the products you recommend and the partnerships you have with product manufacturers. The website must enable them to contact you – either by phone / email / web form / social media links. The simplest way to create a website is through Wix. I wrote a post on why Wix is the cheapest and best website creating platform.
In case you need to create a custom website using WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or just plain HTML, you will need a hosting company for the website space. For hosting, I recommend Siteground. Read this post on why Siteground is the best hosting company.
Education and Training
Udemy.com offers courses in home automation and security for less than Rs 700 or $ 10. In addition, read up on various products on websites like https://www.smarthome.com, https://www.safety.com, https://www.homecontrols.com, Amazon etc. There are product videos available on YouTube as well. Subscribe to newsletters of product companies so you get notified of any new technology or product.
Like I wrote before, home automation and security is an emerging space – so there is less competition. This should be taken as an opportunity to move fast and dominate at least in your area or city. Here’s wishing you best of luck in your endeavors.
Let me know in the comments below if you want me to add any further information or if you have additional information to contribute.