The Future is Now

Do you remember watching ‘Back to the Future 2′?  I mean the first time around, that’s right, thirty three years ago! I’m not mentioning this to make you feel old (age is just a number, right?) it’s got more to do with how futuristic predictions can turn into reality. 

The film correctly predicted the following: robots – seen in the film refuelling cars, in reality using in manufacturing; hologram cinema – 3D now comes as standard for many fantasy/sci-fi films; wearable tech – smart watches and although not mainstream yet, Google glasses; drone reporters – drones are often used in all kinds of news reporting to get the best pictures; hands-free video games, projection home-movie screens, video-calling and best of all, voice controlled kitchen equipment. It’s quite a list! It may have seemed out of reach then and may even have influenced today’s tech-developers when they were kids, but what interests me most is that today, in the ‘future’, we don’t see them as ridiculous. They enhance our lives, make it more efficient, enjoyable!

Pre-millennium predictions

I came across an article last night that I wrote in 1999 about how the Internet would soon become an integral part of phone usage and daily life. In it I ask whether using a phone to access the news of the day or book restaurants was just hype – I predicted that it wasn’t hype and it turns out I was right! (wipes brow).

Twenty years on and I’m still working in the technology industry, embracing smart technology and all that it has to offer. Just as Marty McFly in his fictional 2015 future is able to rehydrate his mini-pizza using voice control, I too am enjoying being able to talk to various devices around my home. The difference being that I can control my lights, heating and security system both from within my home, and when I’m out and about, not only for convenience but to maintain my home security and to be eco-friendly. I prefer to prepare my pizza from scratch before sticking it in the oven, though. Slower but ever-so-slightly more appetising!

Early days with early adopters

When Ugot came onto the Smart Integration scene in 2006 it was to cater to the needs of the early adopters who were ahead of the pack where technology was concerned. The first iPhone hadn’t even been released and here we were installing home control systems in substantial hi-end pads. But as you’d expect, things have changed. Now, we’re installing in every-day homes, homes where Alexa is playing the homeowners favourite tune and ordering next-week’s shopping. 

Smart integration isn’t something reserved for the younger generations either. If you can talk, or are able to use something to control a screen, you can create a friendlier environment for the way you live. A home owner with mobility restrictions can answer their doorbell, open the door, turn lights on and off, control their heating and even cook their dinner all from the comfort of one place. The one thing that people dread with ageing is losing their independence, the reality now is that Smart homes can enable extend independent living with simple, secure, user-friendly devices. 

Future thinking

We love that the future is here now, that we’re at the forefront of technological changes that benefit every generation, but what’s coming next? Can we predict the direction Smart homes will go? With the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) it’s highly likely that all we have to is think about going home at the end of a long working day and all of our Smart devices will interoperate, working in sequence to ensure a welcome arrival, a prepared dinner, clothes washed and dried, a prepared bath and a pre-heated bed with sleep-ready lighting all tailored to your personal timetable. I’ll check back in a few years’ time and see if I’m right!`

What Ugot that makes you special?

It’s an interesting question this one. When a potential client asks you the question “Why you?” Have you got an answer? It can be easy to lead with what products you sell and what they do, but that’s not what they’re asking. What they really want to know is, are you worth taking a risk on, and why should they partner with you on their project?

Whether you’ve been in your industry for a few years or whether you’re a new business, when you’re putting yourself out there and promoting yourself the same thing matter. You need a reason, something that’ll make them take a chance on you. Essentially it comes down to proving yourself, and admittedly, if you’re a new player it’s going to be harder but that’s OK because you need to earn a good reputation.

Value your client, value yourself

I was told a story the other day about a builder who’d installed a kitchen for someone. He had a great reputation as a builder, his quote was exceptionally competitive and the initial RSJ he’d installed and plastered looked great, the client thought she’d made the right decision. Fast forward six weeks and the poor woman’s tearing her hair out. Despite being a ‘good’ builder, he outsourced the kitchen fitting to contractors. Her list of complaints were as long as her leg and the photos prove it. She hates to admit it, but she realises now that his quote was competitive for a reason. He wasn’t an experienced kitchen fitter, he was using cheap, unskilled labour, and she now finds herself in a position of having to rip out the entire kitchen and start again with the paltry remains of her once healthy budget. And the builder? He’s done a runner and his reputation’s in tatters.

So what’s the lesson here? It’s simple, be an expert; be great at what you do and always deliver; never underestimate how important customer service is, and be honest – with yourself as much as the client. If you can’t deliver and the client’s budget doesn’t stretch to you employing the right contractor, don’t fake it, it could ruin you. Find yourself some trusted partners and recommend them with a guilt-free conscience.

And if you’re the one looking for an expert consider the following:

Find someone who knows what they’re doing, someone who has expertise. Even if they’re starting out it’s ok to take a chance but they should be upfront about being new but still be able to show a large degree of knowledge in the area they’re working. Ask questions. An Electrician is not a Home Cinema Expert in the same way that a Chef-de-Partie is not a Pastry Chef, they’re skilled in their own areas.  Knowing some of what they’re being asked (and Googling the rest) is not enough.

Shop around, different suppliers may use the same products as their counterparts but what are they offering that gives you the comfort of knowing that they really know their stuff? What’s their differentiator? Are they on top of technological advancements? They might not be able to predict the future but if they can talk about their take on trends and how they’re planning to integrate them into their business, and ultimately work with you, then it’s a good sign. Will they stick around to finish the job, even if there’s a hiccup? And finally, think about the level of customer service you expect and the customer service you pass on to your clients, let them know your expectations and accept nothing less.

Even the ‘elderly’ can get Smart

Our sympathetic Smart installation in an elderly property took expertise, patience and a lot of love.

Ugot were contacted during the summer by clients who own a 200 year old Grade II listed building, in Hampshire.  The issue was that they’d had a home entertainment system installed some years ago and despite initially being pleased with it they’d lived for many years with intermittent issues and niggles, adding bits and bobs here and there but never fully integrating them.  Basically, it had never been quite right and this summer they’d had enough.

We were asked to take a look at the system and see what needed to be done to resolve the issues they had.  We took one look and knew instantly that changes needed to be made!  We found tangled cabling, dangerous connections and even an extension lead that had been screwed to the wall (we still aren’t sure how the original installer didn’t get electrocuted!).

The clients wanted a system that worked well, was fully integrated and completely secure, plus it needed to be moved from a staircase inside a cupboard (yes, really!) to the basement. But, and there was a big but.  They warned us it was a listed building, it wouldn’t be an easy job and we had to ensure that the fabric of the building showed no visible signs of interruption.  They were sure it wasn’t possible because it hadn’t been possible before, hence the cobbled together system they were having to persuade to work on a daily basis.

Listed buildings experience counts when the going gets tough

Ugot have quite a bit of experience in listed buildings and pride ourselves in keeping the inside as beautiful as the outside, but it’s very rarely easy.  Perhaps it’s the challenge that drives our passion, and a love for what we do.  Every home is unique and has it’s quirks and the quirk of this job?  A 5ft 9 engineer working in a height-restrictive, soot-filled loft space of  an aged property, on one of the hottest weeks of the year installing new cabling through two floors whilst remaining sympathetic to the Grade II listed building status.

Did we manage to complete the job that the client’s were sure was impossible? We sure did and these images show the only visible invasive sign of our work, and the final kit and rack installation.  Pretty impressive we think.

System installed:  Fully integrated Control4 Audio and Video system with desktop and on-wall touch screens and new data network.

Got a problem? No problem.

Opus multiroom AV logoWhat do you do when something you’ve bought goes wrong?  Take it back to the shop, receipt in hand? Check the warranty and then call a service centre, safe in the knowledge that your product will be fixed one way or another?  But what happens if the company that you bought the item from no longer exists, or what if it was already installed in the dream house you bought a couple of years ago?

Find an expert who can help

This is exactly what has happened with the Opus multi-room home entertainment system which first came to the market around 15 years ago.  Installed in luxury homes in the UK and in Dubai, the multi-room entertainment system created an experience for home owners that allowed them to access their entire music and film collections throughout their homes using wall mounted touch panels and remote controls.  It’s a great system but since leaving the market a few years ago, Opus has been replaced with state-of-the-art solutions such as Control4 and Elan to name a couple, and there’s only one company in England who can help when things go wrong.

Common problems, easily fixed

You may have had the Opus system installed yourself or be the heir of such a system installed between 2003 and 2012 in a home you’ve purchased.  We are now starting to see an influx of issues with the system, due to its age, but we can help.  Common problems include the touch screens failing, power surges overloading the system following the installation of a smart meter or wireless router, speakers buzzing or humming.  If you have experienced these issues or any others, don’t fret.  We can  diagnose and often repair common issues to keep your system running, as do for home owners every day.  If it can be fix, we will fix it.

Ugot are the only smart integration company in England supporting Opus.  If your system is unfixable, or you just want to upgrade to another system we offer up to £1000 discount even if your system is faulty.

Opus up to £1000 trade in offer

Need us?

Call 02380 253399 or email sales@ugot.co.uk

Chauffeur driving the homebuying experience

I read an article this week that announced ‘Homes are the new cars’ – and with four kids dumping a whole range of paraphernalia willy-nilly under and between the seven seats, I do often mistake our Volvo for their bedrooms! On a serious note, it referred to what was once a luxury now being offered as standard.  Over recent years, car manufacturers have seen huge profit increases through brand lock-ins and connected in-car infotainment systems.  Volvo for example has a long-running partnership with Google whose Android operating system powers its Sensus infotainment system and Google universe services will be introduced into its next-generation system.

Now it’s our turn.  Where once Developers relied upon high-labour bespoke items with a low-profit margin, such as kitchens, to tempt homebuyers, they are beginning to see the benefits of integrated high-tech add-ons that have a much greater Wow! factor and enable developers to maintain a higher asking-price.  How?  Well, it’s all about your customers.

In their shoes

Your potential homebuyers, let’s call them Mike and Anna, pull up on-site having seen that the homes are advertised as ‘Smart Ready’, tickling their taste buds enough for them to want to find out more.  Mike heads straight to the sales assistant wanting to know the price of the properties on offer; Anna reads the marketing materials and looks at the site-plan, eyeing a nice corner plot, before being shown towards the show-home.  On entry they see a strategically placed sign on the walls instructing ‘Say “Lights On”’, Anna is impressed, Mike’s not letting on at this stage.  The sales assistant shuts the front door behind them and leaves to view alone.

Walking around, Anna obeys each of the signs from “TV On” and “Heating On Low” to “Chill Out Music On” and “Evening Lighting On” and is enthused.  Mike’s quietly impressed but isn’t sure about the investment.  Whilst they admire the size of the en-suite bedroom the doorbell rings and a touch screen panel lights up on the bedroom wall.  The sales assistant appears on the screen and Anna chats with her before unlocking the front door remotely and letting her in.  Now Mike is interested. 

They join the sales assistant downstairs and she shows them her mobile phone, revealing that the entire smart home system can be controlled from wherever she is, using one integrated app.  She explains the advanced features of the entry system app which allows the controller to activate any type of customisable ‘scene’ in their home, such as turning on lights, opening the garage, unlocking the door or quickly activate alerts such as sounding an alarm, locking all doors, or turning on all interior and exterior lighting for added safety if the property is empty.

Mike often works away from home and this has sold him the house.  At first, he was interested in the fact that the house would be ‘Smart Ready’ and he could use his Alexa to turn on the TV but the fact that so many options can be integrated either now or at later stages, and the safety of his family taken care of, will see him pay a premium for the peace of mind.  Knowing that both he and Anna can see who is at his front door whilst he is working late at night is an added bonus.

How much work?

So, for the Developer, how much work is actually involved?  What do you have to do to maintain your preferred price point?  The answer, in reality, is very little.  Planned at the right stage, Smart Home Integration, is simple.  Planning starts from approved plan stage, (smart blueprints for each house ‘type’ can be replicated across a development), cabling takes place at first-fix by the Developer’s electricians and cables can either remain hidden or be blank plated ready for installation experts to be brought in as and when the customer is ready.  Developers can choose to offer Smart Home Integration as part of their overall package or pass on customers to a Ugot expert once they take ownership of their new home.

The key to success

The key to making this work is to make the process seamless.  Planning makes it seamless, makes it simple for everyone concerned.  Offering something that’s a little bit more than just a ‘nice to have’ and more of an essential in terms of both security and future-proofing a home gives homebuyers confidence.  Chauffeur drive the home-buying experience, show them what’s possible and be the industry standard. 

By Caroline Meech, Marketing Manager, Ugot Smart Integration.  www.ugot.co.uk

Be Smart, Be Secure

Gone are the days when smart homes were just for the tech-savvy early-adopters, today if you’ve got a smart home hub then you’re half way there. You might only use yours to play music or to get the local weather forecast, but the capabilities go far beyond that.

Elan g! interface on smartphoneSo what does having a fully integrated smart home actually mean? Typically, it will have all, or a combination of, the following elements that are voice or app activated: lighting, heating, CCTV, alarm systems, electric blinds, home cinema, even door locking and security. It’s possible for some systems to be retro-fitted in modern homes but if you’re looking at buying off-plan or self-building, even better. But what’s the point you may ask, perhaps it’s a passing phase? Not so. Where once these systems were something to show off, they are fast becoming the essential items for the savvy house-buyer and house-builder.

What’s in it for you? 

Well, apart from being something to show off, they make life that much easier. Imagine this, after a long-hard day at work, tired children in tow, the alarm has already been deactivated via your mobile phone, the outside lights are on and you enter your home using your thumbprint. The door opens to lighting and that was pre-set for your arrival and the children make themselves comfortable as they call out for their favourite programme to start on the TV in their den and your favourite music station is already playing on your integrated speakers. Gone is the scrabbling around for keys, feeling for the light switch and jumping to the kids demands, bliss.

Home & Property security
CCTV, simulated occupancy, gate and door entry control system design & installation

But what about when you’re on holiday or away on business? Perhaps you’re worried about leaving your home vacant and vulnerable. Don’t be. With simulated occupancy, your smart home can be set up to mirror a typical week of activity. Lights and sound systems can replicate a normal pattern, without the predictability of timed lamps switching on and off at the same time each day. In addition, you can monitor your CCTV footage from your app and even speak to any callers remotely via a door entry system.  

Best of all, every home is bespoke. You get exactly what you want and need. Don’t want the kids to be able to activate your controls? No problem. You want to add automated lights a little later on when your budget allows? Again, no problem. Smart integration is exactly that. It’s flexible, intelligent and made for you.

To find out more, give your local Smart Integration Specialists a call on 02380 253399 or email sales@ugot.co.uk

Life beyond the lawnmower

There was an article in a national newspaper yesterday, instructing the general public as to the top 5 smart gadgets to invest in. Two of these products made sense, a smart home heating thermostat and a security doorbell. One however, it probably not on the average home owners’ essential buy list – the smart lawnmower, nice to have but not essential. 

What, then, was the point of the article? To stir interest or to excite the reader? Either way it seemed like a wasted opportunity. For most, smart integration is relatively new but the possibilities are endless. The technology, in reality, goes far further than the article hints at. In fact, the smart home integration market is doing seamlessly now, what was mooted around 12 years ago. It’s integrating the life of the average homeowner, not only making it more convenient but also more secure. The article talked about a self-dimming lightbulb, what it didn’t mention is that you can now install a lighting system, doorbell and CCTV system that can be managed from one control hub – be that your smart phone, tablet or remote control.

The beauty of a smart home is that it’s as unique as the home owner. Love parties?  Integrate a full home entertainment and lighting system that you can control at the tap of an app. Often away for business or leisure? Keep an eye on your home and make it look as though you’re cosied up in the lounge watching TV from the comfort of your hotel room.

“The beauty of a smart home is that it’s as unique as the home owner.”

If you’ve only just discovered the Internet of Things, this is your chance to change your world.  If you’ve got a couple of devices, don’t just think about what they can do in their simplest form, think about what the possibilities could be. The range of smart devices out there is huge and growing all the time but the smart home owner will be thinking about how these things can work together simply and effectively to really make a difference to how they live their life. 

Think smart, be smart, visit www.ugot.co.uk

Collaboration begins in the Smart home

How using an integration expert will give you and your clients peace of mind.

‘The Internet of Things’ – are you familiar with the phrase? Because if you’re not yet, you soon will be according to tech experts. In the broadest sense it covers all disparate systems, items and objects that are connected to the internet which are increasingly beginning to communicate with one another. Predictions say there will be approximately 76 billion connected devices worldwide by 2025!

Energy companies, with the government’s blessing, are already fully signed up to the concept with the target of offering every home a smart meter by 2020, and smart home hubs are fast becoming the norm too. So it seems we’re approaching the next few years at warp speed! Home integration can, in theory, connect a plethora of devices such as smart watches, toasters, kettles, washing machines, fridges, cat feeders, toothbrushes, mirrors, even dog collars with automated systems that in turn can gather information to ‘enhance’ the home owners’ life. It might sound a little bit OTT right now if it’s not your kind of thing but the reality is that within the next decade or so, many people will be living in homes that require nothing more than a voice and auto-sensing via a mobile phone or tablet to get everything and anything done, recorded and measured.

It all sounds amazing, if a little sci-fi, but there is an element of risk, to both security and privacy.  With disparate systems you will inevitably get a range of IP addresses communicating with the outside world, this in itself puts them at risk of security breaches. Right now, your clients are probably asking about integrated doorbells, lighting and CCTV but remember, with any smart products, if the set-up isn’t managed by an expert the risk is potentially much greater.

Know a ‘man’ who can

So how can you, as leaders in your field, help your clients to stay safe? Engage with a smart integration expert as soon as your client mentions the word ‘Alexa’ or ‘Siri’. By using one mobile interface with robust and safe network remote control, you can make a disparate smart home smarter.

Still not sure what it’s all about or what value you can add? Consider this. You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to know an expert who can assist your clients if they ask for help or mention their concerns about keeping their homes and data safe. If you’re able to connect your client with the expert who can provide that knowledge, you’ll have the edge over your competition.

If you’re keen to partner with an expert who can navigate the technological minefield with you and your client and also offer practical and reliable solutions, don’t hesitate to get in touch, we’d be delighted to meet with you. Call 02380 253399 or email sales@ugot.co.uk