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The Crestron Smart Home in 2024: Top Design-Build Trends
Three experts look at the trends that will impact integrators and the design-build community as they collaborate on projects in 2024
January 9

The concept of a “smart home” is no longer a novelty — in fact, as internet connectivity has become as important as plumbing and electricity in the home, smart solutions are now essential. Home buyers and remodelers expect solutions such as lighting, shading, entertainment, HVAC, and other residential systems to have a level of automation and advanced control.

With those expectations comes a need for technology integrators and the design-build community to work more closely than ever before. With planning and forethought, the team can create solutions that provide clients with intuitive tech solutions that blend into — and even enhance — a home’s aesthetic.

With that in mind, here’s a chance to look at some of the big trends ahead in the connected home for 2024 – “forewarned is forearmed,” as the saying goes. There are business trends afoot as well as technological advances, and we turned to three experts for a comprehensive look at all of them: Carol Campbell, publisher (and partner) of Technology Designer and TechnologyDesigner.com; Tony Monteleone, publisher of Connected Design; and Crestron’s own Director of Business Development, JoAnn Arcenal.

 
There’s a growing body of research finding that tunable lighting that follows the rhythms of the sun may be extremely beneficial.

Lighting and Shading

As far as growth segments in 2024, lighting is the first thing that comes to mind from everyone on the panel: “It’s at the top of the list,” says Monteleone, and Campbell agrees.

“This is something that Crestron obviously is at the forefront of, but when you think about it, lighting wasn't a thing until we could manage the fixture component because everything that touches the network is part of an integrator’s purview,” says Campbell. It further provides the entry point for a true meeting of the minds between the tech specialist and the design-build team. “It’s as simple as this: Does your client have a multi-million-dollar Picasso on the wall? How does it look? Does it look just as good at different times of day? Tuning lighting to illuminate a masterpiece properly establishes the need for the right tech in the right place.”

“We had lighting control covered for years, but introducing our own fixtures into the market really brought us to another level,” says JoAnn Arcenal, Crestron’s director of business development. In addition to the quality and reliability Crestron is known for, the introduction of fixtures with a variety of trim options ensures that the technology and its surrounding aesthetics are a match. “Couple that with Crestron Home OS 4, and the homeowner can create scenes using the controls in the platform, like sliding bars and color wheels on their touch screens,” she adds. “It’s really powerful and very intuitive.”

There’s more to it than a great look, of course: There’s a growing body of research finding that tunable lighting that follows the rhythms of the sun may be extremely beneficial — and setting the right light for everything from tasks like cooking to setting the mood for eating that wonderful meal is clearly a plus in any home. Shading’s a part of those solutions, too: “Harvesting natural sunlight with automated shading should really be a factor in an effective lighting scheme,” says Campbell, and companies like Crestron are constantly developing ways to make those solutions as elegant as they are useful. “The right lighting scheme is never just about potential health benefits — it's also aesthetics,” adds Monteleone.

The power of sensors is something Monteleone wants to bring into the discussion. “I was at an interior design function, and a number of interior designers were with me,” he recalls. “They walked by a small fixture on a motion-sensor switch — the simplest thing, really — and there was a profound moment of realization.” Light bulbs were going off — literally and figuratively. “These are smart people, and it didn’t take much for them to make the leap and apply that kind of automation technology to a wide variety of ‘living-in-place’ solutions.”

Learn more about Crestron lighting solutions

The Home as Refuge

Those “living-in-place” solutions that Monteleone hints at are part of a broader philosophy, something Campbell has taken to calling “the performance home.” Yes, there are solutions for those who are aging or have certain physical challenges — and they’re constantly evolving, both aesthetically and practically — but the right solutions can provide benefits for anyone, at any age and with any level of ability.

“There are technologies that can help ensure that your home has clean air and water,” says Campbell. “You can have landscape design that is integrated with lighting design, and it can create a truly peaceful environment,” she adds. Monteleone has seen this trend firsthand: “There’s a desire among the design-build community — and it’s based on client feedback, I’m sure — to ‘bring the outside in,’ and vice-versa.” Bringing lighting, music, and more to outdoor spaces, along with shading solutions that balance both privacy, energy management, and preservation of a home’s unique views, all contribute to the notion of the home as a place of refuge and rejuvenation.

The power of tech to create that vibe is something that Arcenal finds exceptional. “Being able to completely change the look, the feel, really the energy of the space through technology is something special,” she says. “Lights come up slowly; perhaps there’s a TV embedded in the bathroom mirror that’s on as you’re getting ready for the day. Maybe there’s a specific playlist you’ve selected for the bed and bath zones of your home.” The overall feel of the scene is one of “ramping up” to meet the day.

“And then, at the end of the day, we're winding down,” Arcenal says. “It’s a totally different vibe now: We can dim the lights and adjust the color temperature to replicate candlelight. Perhaps you’ve put natural sounds or relaxing music on your audio system as you draw a bath that fills at the perfect temperature.” There’s potential for all of these integrated technologies to adjust every aspect of the space to create the desired atmosphere.

“The furniture is the same, the fixtures are the same — nothing has changed except for the way that you're presenting that room to yourself,” she says. “You’ve transformed the space through technology.”

But the “home as healthful refuge” has another layer to it, according to Carol Campbell. “There’s something that appeals to the human conscience in this,” she notes. “This is something that you're doing to provide a healthy environment for your family. People live there. Your kids sleep there. What does that mean to you?”

There’s another aspect of this that Campbell sees as “conscience-driven” for the modern smart-home client: energy management. “There’s a growing movement toward clean energy, and more and more homeowners are prioritizing better energy solutions — even in places where it’s not dictated by law,” she says.

Learn more about the Crestron Home® Platform

The Impact of AI

Another trend having a moment is the rapid growth of AI — the term and the tech are everywhere, and they’re not going away. Tony Monteleone is extremely familiar with the opportunities — and challenges — presented by the sudden advances of artificial intelligence. “I’ve seen what it can do with text, and that’s as exciting as it is frightening,” he says, “But the technology is going to have a broad impact beyond generating editorial content.”

A great many technology integrators are keeping their eyes on the potential applications of AI in the smart home — perhaps even the eventual arrival of AI as a true “virtual assistant” in Carol Campbell’s “Performance Home.” Imagine a home that recognizes your mood and adjusts music and lighting to reduce stress or give comfort? Or a monitoring system that knows when a device — even something as common as a kitchen appliance — is about to fail? The coming possibilities are limitless. “It’s going to eventually create a truly intuitive home,” says Arcenal. “It will learn the user’s habits and individual tastes and apply that information as needed.”

Security benefits come with AI advancements, too: Commercial enterprises have discovered that AI programs can analyze many lines of computer code very quickly and catch anomalies (even malware and other threats) that humans can’t spot. It’s also very effective at reviewing video surveillance and its recordings, eventually “learning” the ability to discern between movements that are benign — and those that aren’t. “Ultimately, AI will understand what responses to trigger to meet a given threat,” says Arcenal, and it will all happen in a server that’s tucked away in a space that has zero impact on a home’s interior design.

Like it or not, we’ll all have to learn what AI can and cannot do. “No matter what we do for a living, it's going to be something you'll have to embrace if you want your career to move forward,” says Monteleone.

That holds true for designers — and likely in the near term. “We’re about to see AI-driven images that can allow you to see different furnishings, paint schemes, lighting, everything you can imagine in a rendering that can be tweaked with just a few simple prompts.” Imagine inputting a smartphone photograph or two into a digital program that allows you to reimagine a space in real-time as you’re talking with your designer and integrator, making changes on the fly — and seeing data outputs on changes in timelines and cost as options are discussed. “It’s going to be an incredible tool for everyone in the industry,” says Monteleone.

The Growth of the “Middle”

Monteleone and Campbell are also noticing certain business shifts — first and foremost, the desire for technological solutions in markets outside of what may have been the traditional consumers for these comprehensive systems, namely, beyond the “1%.” “I think it’s critical that we build our client base beyond that top end of the economic scale,” says Campbell. She notes that solutions such as the Crestron Home® OS are extremely impactful in this regard. “There will always be a market for high-end custom technology integration, but with a product such the Crestron Home platform, we can expand integration in that mid-market where we can make your production home a performance home,” she says “It doesn't have to be a custom home — but it can be customized.”

This is especially true of the latest iteration of the Crestron Home platform. “It’s easier and faster to deploy because it's configuration based,” says Arcenal. Simply put, since it’s not custom-built for each individual home, costs associated with that individualized programming can be significantly reduced. “But that doesn't mean we've skimped on the experience,” says Arcenal. “If anything, we've actually enhanced it.” The team focused on ensuring that the platform became more intuitive and easier to navigate — and more personalized than ever before. “Beyond creating their own scenes, the end user can customize icons, change font sizes, upload photos of the rooms each page controls — it seems like those might be small tweaks, but they all add to that overall experience,” she says.

Besides a desire for tech solutions among more diverse demographics, another shift that Monteleone notes is the attitude toward home ownership among more recent buyers: “When my parents were buying their first home, it was a starter home or a ‘beginner’ home, and then their dream was to have kids and move up to a bigger place. Not everyone's doing that now.” Monteleone says he’s seen more and more evidence of younger buyers purchasing a home that they’re going to stay in for decades upon decades — an investment that will be retrofit to meet the needs of the family as they change over time.

“That's where the integrator and the designer come in, and that's where the biggest potential is right now,” Monteleone explains. “The client base is no longer limited to the 1%, but many levels of people in different economic structures that are using designers and integrators because it's more affordable and accessible than ever before.” Mid-level solutions often lead to a desire to upgrade that technological infrastructure as careers advance and income rises, and clients who’ve had great experiences at the outset usually turn to that same team of designers and integrators for future upgrades.

Learn more about our guests’ publications:

Technology Designer

Connected Design

We’re All in This Together

The other trend — one that’s a positive for all involved — is the preponderance of outreach efforts on both sides that bridge the language and knowledge gaps that exist between the design-build community and technology integrators. “The whole reason we founded Connected Design in 2017 was the recognition that there was a chasm: The integrator on one side and the designer on the other,” says Monteleone. Part of the friction was steeped in stereotypes: tradespeople on one side pulling low-voltage cable trying to communicate with people they may have viewed as “dressed head to toe in Prada,” as Monteleone puts it. Neither thought the other could relate to them at all.

To try and bridge that gap further, Campbell was one of the organizers of an event called the “Day of Discovery” that was wrapped into the annual CEDIA® Expo trade show. “We learned in spades what the obstacles were at that event,” she says. “What's a CEDIA? Who's CEDIA? What does CEDIA mean?” (For the uninitiated, CEDIA is an industry association of and for smart-home pros. According to their website, “CEDIA, the global industry association and central touch point for smart home technology, provides members with cutting-edge education, develops standards to ensure the highest levels of professionalism, and is the industry's only certifying body. CEDIA furthers collaboration with architects, designers, builders, and homeowners to deliver technology solutions that allow families to experience their best moments in life in the comfort of their own homes.”)

Campbell saw that knowledge gap as an opportunity. “It tells us in no uncertain language what we need to do — the design-build community and their clients don’t know what they don’t know, and it’s incumbent on us to inform.” That information need not be overly technical — something Campbell emphasizes: “We don't expect you to learn how it works. We want you to appreciate that it does work and what it does in terms of functionality. We know that selling to a homeowner is about benefits supported by features. Nobody cares about the individual components — they care about the experience they can provide.”

To that end, CEDIA is heavily invested in the idea that every stakeholder on a project understands how the technology integrator works with all the other trades on a site. “CEDIA provides education,” says Arcenal, “and they have programs that offer outreach to the design-build community.” That includes courses that are recognized by the International Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). “There are courses that can be taught by certified outreach instructors like me and everyone else on the business development team at Crestron, and the fact that CEDIA’s undertaken that kind of initiative says a lot,” she adds.

 
Members of the Crestron team have become part of the various organizations that support the design-build community

Bridging the Gaps

Tony Monteleone is a fan of one of CEDIA’s board members and the co-founder of integration firm TruMedia, Amanda Wildman. “I've had her on two panels, and I'll never forget this. She tells the designers, ‘You must date your integrator. You must get to know them. You must build a relationship. You have to know the integrators in your space, and you have to work with them.’

“Her advice: ‘Go to their facility, go on a project, see what they do.’ You don't have to learn about all the nuts and bolts, but just look at some of the projects — and vice-versa,” says Monteleone. “We were at CEDIA and I conducted a panel with JoAnn from Crestron, Amanda, and a few others, and they had the same advice for the integrators: ‘Don't be afraid of the designer. Go on projects with them. Learn about what their pain points are.”

There’s one last elephant in the room, and Carol Campbell has been hearing about this issue for years: “When the integrator and the designer or builder sit down with the client, there’s always the potential for budgetary tension,” she notes. Will that great audio system mean fewer granite countertops, for example? Campbell sees it a different way: “Once that homeowner has a grasp of what is possible, then it's a collaboration, and suddenly that budget begins to grow — exponentially.”

The first step, though, is connection, and there are myriad ways in which the design-build community and the integrators in their regions can do just that. “Local NKBA [National Kitchen and Bath Association] chapters, lunch-and-learn events — these are all terrific connection points,” says Monteleone. He’s also a fan of what Crestron’s done in this regard by hiring people such as Arcenal and Michelle Guss (who’s now vice-president of Crestron’s Hospitality division) — people who are specifically there to help the design-build community understand what Crestron is creating and how it applies to their client’s needs. “They’re both very warm people, very smart — and they speak the language of the designer. That’s extraordinarily helpful,” he notes.

Members of the Crestron team have become part of the various organizations that support the design-build community, from the aforementioned AIA and NKBA to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), among others. “We don’t just do this because it’s an interesting way to spend our free time (which it would be anyway!),” says Arcenal. “We really want to learn the language that the design-build community speaks,” says Arcenal. “We learn as much as we strive to teach.

“But most importantly, we join these groups because without an understanding of the design community, their priorities, and how they serve their clients, there's no way we could possibly forge a true partnership and collaboration.”

About our Guest Panelists:

For more than 30 years Carol Campbell has been a driving force in the consumer electronics industry. A well-recognized and respected expert in advancing the art of performance homes and marketing technical products and luxury goods to women, Ms. Campbell utilizes her considerable experience and industry expertise as the managing director of Technology Insider Group and as Publisher/Partner of Technology Designer and TechnologyDesigner.com. Ms. Campbell was honored as the CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in 2022. She is also the co-founder of the Elf Foundation, which builds “Rooms of Magic” in Children’s Hospitals. She’s also the founder of Women in Consumer Technology.

Tony Monteleone is the current group publisher of Connected Design, a publication dedicated to building a community of professionals working and collaborating in the smart home environment. Its audience includes home technology professionals, interior designers, architects, and builders. He’s also behind Dealerscope, the industry-leading B2B media hub for consumer technology retail and decision-makers. Monteleone has over 30 years of sales experience in events, print, digital, video, and research on the trade and consumer side.  He loves tech and is always fascinated by how innovation can help our environment on several different levels. If you’re in the Consumer Technology industry and want to increase your reach, contact him at tony@monteleoneconsulting.com.

 

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