Making the switch

PUBLISHED: 10:00 30 September 2014

Managing Director David Rowe, right, Dan Stevens, left, and fellow system integrator Tim Viney, centre, demonstrate the home technology

Managing Director David Rowe, right, Dan Stevens, left, and fellow system integrator Tim Viney, centre, demonstrate the home technology


Technology around the home is about to make the next leap forward…and it’s being pioneered here in Devon, as CHRISSY HARRIS discovers

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I’ve seen the future – and it’s all at the touch of a button. Pretty soon, households across the country will be controlling their heating, dimming lights, closing curtains and adjusting TV sets with their mobile phones and tablets.

What was once the stuff of science fiction movies could soon be coming to a three to four bed-house near you.

It’s a frightening concept for those of us who have only just got to grips with programming the dishwasher.

But the people behind ‘home automation’ assure us that this technology is there to make our lives simpler, safer and more economical - even if you’re prone to answering the TV remote instead of the phone!

“All this is pretty new to me,” says the instantly likeable David Rowe, managing director of Applied Home Automation, a Plymouth-based company that is leading the way in ‘smart home’ technology in the South West.

“I come from an industrial background and it’s always been laughable to anyone that knows me that I should have all this technology around me. But anyone can do it. It’s so simple.”

David says he is practising what he preaches by installing the smart technology in his 200-year-old farmhouse in Tavistock.

You can’t help but wonder what the original occupiers would have made of it all when David talks about remote controlled lighting and a home entertainment system controlled at the touch of a button.

But experts say the UK home automation market is on the brink of a boom, with predictions the market could be worth £156 million by 2016.

Residents in the US and London are already enjoying the benefits and Devon is fast catching up.

“I’m pretty sure that this will become standard in homes,” says David. “When they build new houses, this technology will installed as the norm. What we are doing is not groundbreaking. We are taking standard products and putting them together. All the building blocks are there.”

David’s company has its roots in industry and specialised in making automation controls for machinery. It’s only recently that the firm has taken a leap into the future to make automation packages first for luxury yachts and, in the past two years, people’s homes.

Installing the full package on a three bedroom home could set you back about £30,000. But each package is tailor-made and price depends on what the customer wants. To help them decide, Applied Home Automation has just opened a ‘smart house showroom’ in its offices at Plympton’s Langage Business Park.

“Here, we’ll give you a demonstration,” says David, who very graciously gets up from the showroom’s sofa and hands over the reins to one of his techno-experts.

Dan Stevens, systems integrator, then proceeds to hit the ‘party button’, where the music notches up and coloured lights come on, then its on to the ‘romantic setting’ (a bit alarming for a moment, especially when Barry White’s voice came through the surround-sound speakers).

The curtains were opening and closing and the heating hotting up.

“I’ve installed it in my home,” says Dan, who lives in a two-bedroomed house in Plympton. “It wakes me up in the morning and the music starts playing in the bedroom. It sets the alarm and shuts down the house.”

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