Press Coverage

18 Jan 2016

Source: Specification Online

It has just been announced that Smart homes technology specialists Cyberhomes have won the custom installation (CI) industry’s Install and Technology Solutions Award (ITSA) for ‘Best Whole House Integration’.

The award recognises the quality of a fully integrated automation and entertainment system designed, built and delivered by Cyberhomes. Having worked with the property developer client on several previous projects, Cyberhomes were given the opportunity to provide the integration of the AV (including a cinema room), lighting, heating and security systems for his own luxury family home in Hampstead.

Cyberhomes Director Ion Smith said: “The client had previous experience of Lutron lighting control and multi-room audio but the concept of integrating these, along with all the AV controls, heating and security into a single control system was new to him. Once we had demoed the Savant Pro system to him he was sold on the concept.” Cyberhomes’ client added: “Having worked with Cyberhomes on several upmarket property development projects, I knew they could deliver the type of smart capabilities I wanted for my own home—and they didn’t disappoint.

The ITSA judges commented: “The results of Cyberhomes’ work speak for themselves – a tour de force of custom install in every room they reached, creating a smart house that ticks all the boxes of advanced 21st century living and ups the home automation ante…the client couldn’t have asked for more from this team of innovative installers. A truly deserving winner in what was our toughest category to judge, this is what CI is all about!

Cyberhomes work closely with clients, architects, developers, interior designers and M&E consultants from the very start, wherever possible, to integrate control and AV systems with the overall building design and performance. The Cyberhomes founders have a background in outside-broadcasting technology for the BBC and take the same rigorous approach with the equipment, cabling and software behind home automation projects. AV racks are built and tested at Cyberhomes’ rack building facility in Thame and all the wiring looms created in a controlled environment before installation.

See this feature in the news section of Specification Online

Specification Online

29 Dec 2015
02 Jul 2015

Source: Building Products magazine

Tennant, marketing director at Cyberhomes, explores the ways in which home automation technology can benefit end users, from security uses to energy management applications.

There is a clear trend today towards a flexible, user-friendly approach to the remote control and programming of devices in homes and other buildings, enabled by the latest intuitive software. For example, home automation can allow owners to check and adjust heating, lighting and other functions using smartphones when they are not at the property. Smart technology also allows discreet CCTV cameras and door or gate entry systems to display on smartphones, as well as on touch-screen control panels throughout the property.

Owners also want to have as little technology on show as possible, minimising ‘wall clutter’ and other impacts on the look of their interiors. Now, every light in and around the property can be dimmed or switched on and off with touch-screens in the house and occupiers’ smartphones, as well as discreet local wall panels replacing conventional light switches. Pre-set scenes can be added to create specific lighting moods, which can form part of interior design schemes.

Secure surroundings

From a security perspective, all the lights in a building can be turned off with a single button, or lighting can be set to holiday mode, with simulations creating the impression that the property is still occupied. Integrating intruder alarm systems with home automation is a particularly powerful tool, allowing additional actions to be triggered automatically. For example, when the intruder alarm system is armed, lights can be automatically turned off, vacation mode occupancy simulation started and heating levels reduced to save energy. Then, when the alarm is disarmed, an entry lighting scene automatically activates and the heating returns to comfort levels.

However, home automation can make the most of other devices as well. Whilst the intruder alarm system is unarmed, security sensors can be used as occupancy detectors, triggering actions such as turning lights off if rooms are unoccupied for a period of time, or turning off heating in a room if a window is opened.

Changing rooms

There is also scope to change the character of a room with a sequence of pre-programmed actions. Although Cyberhomes designs dedicated home cinema rooms for many luxury properties, very often a single room has to work both as an everyday living space and also a high-specification 3D home cinema. With home automation, a single touch of a button can cause a projector to descend from the ceiling, a projection screen to gently lower in front of the TV, lights to dim and motorised blinds to close.

Multi-room audio and video systems are also growing in popularity. Discreet ceiling speakers in various rooms and external speakers in the garden can be organised into audio zones to suit occupier lifestyles, each providing music and sound selected from the central AV system. Similarly, video content from multiple, centralised sources—such as Sky, Virgin TiVo and Apple TV boxes, Blu-ray discs and movie servers—can be streamed to TVs located anywhere in the building.

In such situations, technical specifications and acoustic treatments to produce the best sound quality and user experience need to be carefully balanced against the aesthetic characteristics of the room. For example, in some projects Cyberhomes has designed bespoke cabinets to house a retractable cinema screen and front speakers. Speakers can also be hidden behind removable, ‘acoustically-transparent’ fabric panels to minimise visual impact on the room.

Looking to the future, home automation technology continues to develop apace. One interesting new technique is ‘geofencing’, which will allow a smartphone to detect its owner’s location and communicate with the building system, for example to automatically turn up heating an hour before arrival, then turn on external lights and open the gates upon approach. It can even identify who has arrived and turn on a TV set to that person’s favourite channel for that time of day.

Plan ahead

It is essential to involve smart home specialists in building projects from the start. They can then work closely with architects, developers, interior designers and M&E consultants to optimise integration of the system with the overall building design and performance. This will also ensure that accommodation of the extensive cabling needed, provision of a suitable plant room and minimisation of visual impact from equipment are all effectively catered for.

Reliability and long-term performance are key to the success of this advanced technology. The necessary racks of AV equipment should be built and tested, and all the wiring looms created in a controlled environment off-site. This will minimise the connections and other work on a building site. Wireless networks should be avoided for fixed equipment as they are generally not reliable or fast enough, and suffer from ‘dead spots’ as well as interference from other electrical items. Wireless is usually only suitable for devices that need to be handheld or portable such as remote controls, smartphones and tablets.

See this feature in the June issue of Building Products

Building Products magazine and website

19 Jun 2015

Source: HbD magazine and website

Tennant, Marketing Director of smart homes specialists Cyberhomes, discusses the latest automation technology and features that house-buyers are increasingly looking for.

Customers today are interested in a flexible, user-friendly approach to remotely control and programme devices in their homes, provided by the latest intuitive software. For example, home automation can enable every light in and around the property to be dimmed or switched on and off with touch-screens in the house and occupiers’ smartphones, as well as discreet local wall panels replacing conventional light switches. Pre-set scenes can be added to create specific lighting moods, which can form part of interior design schemes.

Peace of mind

From a security perspective, all the lights in a house can be turned off with a single button or lighting can be set to holiday mode, with simulations creating the impression that the house is still occupied. Smart technology also allows discreet CCTV cameras and door or gate entry systems to display on any of the touch-screen control panels throughout the house as well as on smartphones – a particularly important facility to give peace of mind when away from home. Owners can also check and adjust heating, lighting and other functions when they are not at the property.

Intruder alarm systems can also be integrated with home automation, allowing additional actions to be triggered automatically. For example, when the intruder alarm is armed, lights can be automatically turned off, vacation mode occupancy simulation started and heating levels reduced to save energy. Then, when the alarm is disarmed, an entry lighting scene automatically activates and the heating returns to comfort levels. But home automation can make the most of other devices as well. Whilst the intruder alarm system is unarmed, security sensors can be used as occupancy detectors triggering actions such as turning lights off if rooms are unoccupied for a period of time; or turning off heating in a room if a window is opened.

Home entertainment

Home entertainment is also an important area for homeowners. Multi-room audio and video systems are popular and can include a music player for each family member to enjoy his or her own diverse music collection and streaming service. Discreet ceiling speakers in various rooms and external speakers in the garden can be organised into audio zones to suit occupier lifestyles, each providing music and sound selected from the central AV system. Similarly, video content from multiple, centralised sources – such as Sky, Virgin TiVo and Apple TV boxes, Blu-ray discs and movie servers – can be streamed to TVs located anywhere in the house.

Although some companies design dedicated home cinema rooms for many luxury properties, very often a single room has to work both as an everyday living space and also a high-specification 3D home cinema. With home automation, a single touch of a button can cause a projector to descend from the ceiling, a projection screen to gently lower in front of the TV, lights to dim and motorised blinds to close. Within a matter of seconds, the ultimate home cinema environment is created with stunning picture quality and jaw-dropping surround sound.

Performance and aesthetics

In such situations, technical specifications and acoustic treatments to produce the best sound quality and user experience need to be carefully balanced against the aesthetic characteristics of the room. For example, in some projects bespoke cabinetry can be designed to house a retractable cinema screen and front speakers. Here, a tilting mechanism enables speaker adjustment to suit the precise distance to the seats once furniture positions have been finalised, optimising acoustic performance. Speakers can also be hidden behind removable, ‘acoustically-transparent’ fabric panels to minimise visual impact on the room.

Home-owners are keen to maximise new performance opportunities presented by the latest smart technology in general but often want to have as little on show as possible, minimising ‘wall clutter’ and other impacts on the look of their interiors. That is one reason why it is essential to involve smart homes specialists in building projects from the start. They can then work closely with architects, developers, interior designers and any M&E consultants to optimise integration of the system with the overall building design and performance. This will also ensure that accommodation of the extensive cabling needed, provision of a suitable plant room and minimising visual impact from equipment are all effectively catered for.

New trends

Looking to the future, home automation technology continues to develop apace and two new trends are becoming apparent. Firstly, ‘wearable technology’ apps will enable wrist devices and watches to easily control lights, select music, adjust volume and other actions. Then ‘geofencing’ will allow a smartphone to detect its owner’s location and communicate with the house system, for example to automatically turn up heating an hour before arrival, then turn on external lights and open the gates upon approach and even identify who has arrived and turn on a TV set to that person’s favourite channel for that time of day.

With this growing trend towards more automation and technology, reliability and longterm performance are essential. The necessary racks of AV equipment should be built and tested, and all the wiring looms created in a controlled environment off-site. This will minimise the connections and other work on a building site. Wireless networks should be avoided for fixed equipment as they are generally not reliable or fast enough, and suffer from ‘dead spots’ as well as interference from other electrical items. Wireless is usually only suitable for devices that need to be handheld or portable such as remote controls, smartphones and tablets.

See this feature in the June issue of Housebuilder & Developer

HbD magazine and website

10 Jun 2015

Source: The Guardian

The Guardian article on Smart Homes with Cyberhomes

Smart home technologies mean your heating comes on at the right time, you can manage your lights from a smartphone, and your dishwasher sends you text messages. You don’t need to build a new house from the ground up to benefit from the internet of things (IoT) in your home, but older buildings can be more of a challenge than newer residences.

That 500-year-old house with thick stone walls is certainly beautiful, but good luck getting Wi-Fi signal to every charming corner; that Nest smart home heating system sure is spiffy, but it doesn’t work with the storage heater in your 40-year-old flat. For help, we turned to Andy Stanford-Clark.

He’s a fellow at IBM, heading up its IoT department, but it’s his hobby we’re speaking about. Stanford-Clark lives in a 16th century detached cottage that despite its age is possibly the UK’s smartest home.

His windows have sensors that send an alert if they’re open when he leaves home, the fish pond fountain checks if it’s windy before turning on, his mousetraps alert when they’ve been triggered, and there’s even an automated heated towel rail that checks his Google calendar to see if he’s away to save energy.

When he turns on his dishwasher, it texts him if it’s a high-use time, and therefore expensive for electricity, asking if the dishes can wait. He can reply by text. Not bad for a thatched-roof cottage older than the country that is home to Silicon Valley.

When transforming an older house into a smart home, it usually makes more sense to use wireless technology than wires, Stanford-Clark advises.

“But with a house like ours you get problems with radio range, because the Wi-Fi doesn’t reach all the way down to the end of the house, because the thick stone walls are absorbing the signal. So you have to use something like mesh-connected radio.”

“Each sensor can see one other sensor,” he explains. “

Mesh controllers such as ZigBee or Z-Wave not only offer good coverage, but devices using the communications system draw little power; however, there’s issues of interoperability. Either way, using such a system means you don’t need perfect Wi-Fi coverage.

Andy Mack, director of Cyberhomes, disagrees on wireless, saying it is best to wire up as much as possible, especially for devices in a fixed location.

When building a smart home from scratch, the sensors and controllers can be built into the walls, but if you’re retrofitting, you’ll need to “put things on the walls rather than in the walls,” Stanford-Clark notes.

If you have renovations planned, Mack suggests considering installing smart features. “If you’re stripping plaster off the walls, maybe consider whether you want to put some wires in there while you’re at it,” he said.

He notes that smart lighting systems can be installed at the wall plate, which can be modified to look like a traditional switch.

Old heating

Smart energy meters and home heating systems are the most popular IoT device in Britain, according to Bergin Insight.

Hive is one smart meter company whose devices are supplied by British Gas. A spokeswoman says it is possible to connect its sensors to any heating system – gas, oil or electric – but not storage heaters.

Even then there are options to smarten it up – and that includes those who rent. Stanford-Clark pointed out you can buy an adaptor that sits between the wall socket and the plug of your appliance. “It’s rather like switching the switch on the wall on or off remotely,” he explains.

That means you can turn your storage heater on the day before returning from a long trip away so you come back to a warm house, or tell a fan heater to start up in the kitchen before getting out of bed. Such a system can get even smarter with the inclusion of a temperature gauge: using a simple system such as If This Then That, you can easily programme a heater to go on at a certain temperature – and do much more.

“One of my computers could take the decision to turn it on for me,” explains Stanford-Clark. It detects from the GPS in his smartphone that he is 15 minutes away from home and turns on the heating.

The difficulty with older homes is the rooms often vary in temperature. The trick to that is to have smart heating sensors not only monitoring how cold it is in each room, but checking the external temperature, whether from weather websites or a sensor outside.

Smart lighting

Smart homes can be very simple and easy, but that means they are likely to be limited. They can also be super smart and fully automated, but therefore complicated.

For example, it’s simple to add smart lighting to a home, regardless of its age. Buy a Philips hue bulb, screw it into a socket, download the app and you’re ready to go – however, a pack of three bulbs costs £149. If all you want is your front lighting to come on when you get home, that may well be all you need.

If you want to try smart lights as well as switches to turn appliances on and off, consider a system such as Belkin’s WeMo or D-Link’s mydlink. Again, you’ll have to shell out for a switch or bulb for each “smart” addition to your home, but it’s simple to install – simply plug your floor heater into the WeMo device, and plug that into your wall socket.

LightwaveRF takes it a step further – its smart sockets and switches directly replace the ones in your home, letting you control anything that plugs in.

Stanford-Clark uses the Raspberry Pi, a cheap and easy computing board, as the brains behind his operation. You’ll need to be a bit handy and have a willingness to try programming, but websites such as If This Then That make it simpler.

“A lot of things are in their early stages. But what makes it possible is that you can buy these things like a home heating controller, a Hive or a Nest or something like that, which comes with its own applications,” he says.

That means it has its own smart system that works in the cloud, and its own app that you use to control it. “The disadvantage is, it doesn’t integrate with all your other things,” said Stanford-Clark. “ But those things will come.”

Indeed, it could be set to get a lot easier with the advent of smart-home systems from Apple and Google. If you have an iPhone and buy devices running Apple’s HomeKit, due later this year, they’ll be able to interact with each other – the same follows for Google’s newly announced Brillo.

The next year will be key for smart home platforms, so it may well be worth waiting for the internet of things to get a bit smarter and simpler before installing it in your home.

Author: Nicole Kobie @njkobie
The Guardian

05 May 2015
24 Mar 2015

Source: Professional Housebuilder and Property Developer magazine

Professional Housebuilder March 2015 Cyberhomes featureThe March 2015 issue of ‘Professional Housebuilder and Property Developer’ magazine features a case study article on of Luxury Surrey Homes project. Please download a full copy of the Professional Housebuilder magazine feature.

You can also find out more details about this installation on our project page, or download it from our case studies page.