a room with a couch and a table in front of a brick building: Lighting controls, motorised shades, iPad-controlled residences and Lutron lighting controls (motorised shading) are trending in luxury pads, as per Delhi-based light control equipment solutions provider Anusha Technovision.

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Lighting controls, motorised shades, iPad-controlled residences and Lutron lighting controls (motorised shading) are trending in luxury pads, as per Delhi-based light control equipment solutions provider Anusha Technovision.

At CES 2020, the world’s biggest consumer electronics show held in Las Vegas, US, artificial intelligence (AI) was a prominent presence. At the show, Samsung introduced Ballie, a small ball-shaped robot, which can assist in daily chores. Consumer electronics giant GE Appliances, too, revealed a personalised kitchen design called ‘Shift’ (which uses face and voice recognition, and comes with height adjustment for wheelchair users) and ‘Home Grown’, a new-age gardening system for growing food in homes.

Clearly, home automation is on the rise. In the future, smart, multifunctional, interactive, sustainable and flexible spaces are expected to rule homes, focusing on the balance of work, life and sleep. “The rising demand for smart home products in the country-owing to factors such as upgrading of wireless internet, emergence of cloud-based services and convergence-based technologies such as IoT-has brought a new era in smart home automation. This segment is expected to see an overall growth of 7.2% by 2022. As the government focuses on development of smart cities, more companies will strive to be leaders and push the boundaries of possibility,” says Gurumukh Uttamchandani, executive director, Syska Group, which caters to innovative product solutions and Wi-Fi-enabled devices, both app and voice-controlled.

Take, for instance, Miraie, an IoT- and AI-enabled connected living solution by Panasonic. It empowers everyday lives of consumers with comfort, convenience and seamless connectivity across all Panasonic devices. The first range of connected products includes AC, smart doorbell, plugs and switches, with plans of adding refrigerator, washing machine, TV, fans and geysers in the future. Miraie can receive doorbell alerts on smartphone with a video feed or manage switches with in-built voice assistance, etc. “With the advent of 5G, IoT will be driving the next round of transformation in the digital world and is the future of smart, connected India. Consumers are looking to enhance quality of life through connected ecosystems. Our research reveals over 75% consumers look for specific requirements related to ease of use, safety, monitoring misuse, service reminders, personalised usage pattern. Miraie addresses all these,” says Manish Sharma, president and CEO, Panasonic India and south-east Asia.

Next-generation home

The home automation system in India has witnessed unprecedented demand in recent years, especially in urban areas. As per Allied Market Research, the India home automation market size was valued at $1,790.9 million in 2018 and is expected to reach $13,574.1 million by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 29.8% during the forecast period of 2019-2026. “Though in a nascent stage in India, the growth of the discerning class of consumers with high disposable incomes and improved lifestyle has boosted growth of smart homes. There’s a growing awareness about energy and water conservation… smart energy and water meters to monitor consumption are the next big automation solutions. Without touching the phone or a smart switch panel, one can turn on/off light and energy devices with just a wave of a hand,” says US-based Ashwanth Anadasu, co-founder and COO, Hogar Controls, a building and home automation brand.

The smart home category has a variety of products to offer. Samsung’s Curd Maestro can address the pain point of daily curd-making or the calculative Pantelligent smart pan can change the way you cook, fry or sauté. Smart home app Syska can control, schedule, organise lights, set mood, etc. An integrated solution, ‘Wonder Life-Box’ by Panasonic has Akari, an AI system, which manages the home with face recognition to validate entry/exit. Sensors wipe out potential bacteria or detect polluted air, chores that a human can’t perform. Then Philips’ smart TV Ultra Slim 4K UHD LED, with three-sided ambilight in 65-inch screen size, converts the living room into a virtual sound and light show.

Silicon Valley-based AI home robot brand Trifo launched the first home surveillance robot cleaner with a water tank and 10 mopping pads, allowing users to mop the floor while sweeping. To help people savour the experience of immersive 3D sound in home cinema, German label Sennheiser launched Ambeo soundbar, which automatically adjusts sound to the room. Goldmedal Electricals, a leading home-grown fast-moving electrical goods company, introduced Goldmedal i-Sense Senso Switch to control light sources, fans and other appliances by a wave of the hand. “We are likely to see improved versions of voice assistants to understand voice commands and gauge the context and tone of the inquiry,” says Kishan Jain, director, Goldmedal Electricals.

The pandemic, too, has significantly changed Indian homes. With many forgoing domestic helps, dishwashers, cleaning robots and sanitiser dispensers were in demand. The G 7000 autonomous dishwasher from Miele (a Germany-based manufacturer of premium domestic appliances) dispenses detergent automatically, controlled by an app on the mobile. Kitchen appliances manufacturer Faber has introduced a fully-automatic, touchless, wall-mounted sanitiser dispenser.

Security surveillance, too, is a powerful addition to the home automation system. French audio brand Zoook’s Eagle Cam 100 is a Wi-Fi CCTV camera for surveillance via smartphone for users to stay updated on the whereabouts of their pets, elderly parents, kids, etc. Hogar Controls’ Home Controller Pro V2 can receive alerts, monitor home and fits into any power socket. It can control up to 232 smart home devices.

Lighting it up

Bespoke lighting systems are also gaining traction among consumers especially those that are IoT-enabled, wireless and Bluetooth-operated. Noida-based Vishal Singh, founder and MD, Vizion Lighting, an architectural lighting brand, has in recent years witnessed an overarching focus on the effects of natural light indoors. “For a sustainable environment, conventional lighting is replaced with bespoke solutions,” says Singh, whose company also offers smart lighting options.

Lighting controls, motorised shades, iPad-controlled residences and Lutron lighting controls (motorised shading) are trending in luxury pads, as per Delhi-based light control equipment solutions provider Anusha Technovision. Similarly, CoeLux is an innovative lighting solution to reproduce the effect of natural sunlight by high-end furniture brand Sources Unlimited. It can be installed in different compositions and designs of frame, dimmed from 40% to maximum power and controlled via Bluetooth. Jaquar lighting products, too, offer various functions-switches on upon detection of motion, switches off/dims after three minutes when no movement is sensed, and a streetlight LED pole with multiple applications (Wi-Fi, electric vehicle charger and HD security camera).

Minimality & aesthetics

In the future, interior designers and décor brands perceive a shift towards minimalism and aesthetics. Designer Ritu Kumar says, “Interior design for any space should be visually pleasing and curated to make the surrounding comfortable and easy to stay in. Indoor plants make the space lively. Avoid gimmicky bits or accessories.”

An important aspect is to bring nature inside the premises, says Jahan Tahiliani, CEO, Tahiliani Homes, a boutique interior and architecture firm. “The indoor-outdoor feel has become central to residences and the urban cityscape. With lack of greenery and clean air in urban sprawls, building a home around these guiding principles is now important,” he says.

Less is stylish, believes Delhi-based interior designer Aparna Kaushik. “A lot of the design will have exteriors towards organic elements like verdant vertical gardens, large windows, flat painted walls in earthy tones. A good use of grazer lighting (that casts a gradual and magical wash-over effect on the walls), balconies in wrought iron will allow light and ventilation… more use of terracotta tile roofs, rustic pergolas help merge with the surrounding. With houses growing vertically, windows dress up the facades to protect homes from rain, wind and sunlight. The exteriors evolve into lighter, intelligent features with nature-friendly facades,” she offers.

Space design should transcend a specificity of time in both planning and material, feels Manhattan-based multidisciplinary interior designer Ghiora Aharoni. “The space design and material converge into a marriage of function and aesthetics. Whether I’m designing a home or a piece of furniture, both function and aesthetics are important. Integrating these elements with furnishings and art objects creates harmonious environments that embrace an evolving use of a space,” says Aharoni.

Take, for instance, Momenti, an Italian custom design company brought to India by Ottimo, an Indo-Italian retail space for furniture and interiors. It has an acoustic décor panel, which serves the dual purpose of aesthetics and functionality-a wall décor that absorbs sound. A layer of 100% polyester acoustic fibre protects the layer within the canvas panels, enabling a high level of sound absorption.

Multifunctional spaces will grow as more millennials take up spaces, as per Amit Syngle, MD and CEO, Asian Paints. “Smart homes are contributing to comfort living and the sense of permanency will reduce. People will live in the décor of the moment rather than décor of permanence. Another important aspect is the sense of well-being. We introduced an anti-bacterial paint, which uses activated carbon technology to help one breathe purified air by reducing indoor air pollutants,” he says.

Sustainability is big

Designer Ritu Kumar feels that in the future sustainability via mending and repairing of accessories will see a huge comeback. “An organic sense of aesthetic is appreciated. Rustic décor brings a touch of nature, incorporating earthy colours and textures, and giving it a more vintage look,” she says. Repair, upcycling and mending also help in renovation. “The market for products like locally-sourced crafts, stones, recycled wood with minimal carbon footprint is increasing and so is the awareness to use them,” says Bindu Vadera, head of interiors, Tahiliani Homes.

In terms of flooring, vinyl has a low impact on the environment. Easy to maintain and waterproof, vinyl flooring tiles also emit zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds), contributing to clean indoor air. As per a recent research report by IMARC, a leading market research company, the global vinyl flooring market is projected to reach $66.8 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 10.1% during 2019-2024. In India, it is expected to reach a volume of 52 million sq m by 2024, expected to reach $1,361.4 million by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 8.9% during 2019-2024. “Premium vinyl tiles are a replacement for wooden flooring and vitrified tiles at a 50% cheaper cost and are easy to install in houses and offices,” says Rishabh Agarwal, chairman, Responsive Industries, a global vinyl flooring player.

Construction building material also impacts the environment. As per findings by Washington-based US Green Building Council, buildings alone account for around 41% of global energy use. To fix this, concrete can be replaced with alternate construction material like hempcrete or hemplime, a mixture of hemp hurds and lime, a lightweight insulating material ideal for most climates as it combines insulation and thermal mass. Recycled scrap steel can be used for beams, girders and other structural components. It reduces the energy impact by 75%. Solar tiles help generate power for the building’s inhabitants and protect the rooftop from the sun. “Adaptive reuse of doors and recycled wood help in eliminating toxic construction waste. Rainwater harvesting and percolation pits help in regulating water consumption,” says Mumbai-based Arbaysis Ashley, co-founder and architect, Ashleys, a boutique firm.

There is a need for urgent awareness among consumers, says Sonali Rastogi, founder-partner of architecture firm Morphogenesis. “Materials like locally-sourced clay, agricultural waste, etc, are already being used for constructing 3D-printed houses. But the adoption of such materials could take time to implement in an established environment due to lack of awareness and the scalability of machines,” she says, adding that breathable walls have become imperative as tech solutions such as titanium dioxide coating, biodynamic cement, bentonite clay, etc, help filter out air pollutants in the micro climate. “Such materials are not prohibitively expensive and add as little as 4-5% to construction costs,” says Rastogi.

WFH dynamics

With most professionals working from home, there is a huge demand for makeshift workspaces. Furniture rental subscriptions are also being seen as a secure and convenient way to set up temporary offices at homes. “WFH is expected to continue till the foreseeable future, making it stressful for working professionals as most are not equipped with comfortable office furniture,” says Sidhant Lamba, founder, Fabrento, a rental furniture startup. “Since Unlock 1.0 in June 2020, we saw a huge rise in the demand for customised desks, recliners that people prefer to relax on during breaks and dining tables, which can also double up as WFH counters. Some opted for rentals for home appliances,” adds Lamba.

Meanwhile, Neerav Jain, founder and CEO of affordable rental startup Cityfurnish, says the company witnessed 40% increase in demand for WFH solutions like study tables and chairs, both of which have been in huge demand.

Nonetheless, traditional elements can’t be ruled out. Design innovators emphasise on the balance of work, life and sleep for décor besides vaastu and feng shui. Ease of knowledge sharing has made today’s buyer conscious of health and well-being, says Mani Rangarajan, group COO, Housing.com, Makaan.com and Proptiger.com. “This is the prime reason for buyers to demand housing projects that promote green living using the principles of vaastu. Such concepts help in making the projects popular and the developers use it as the USP to promote them. While buyers want premium luxuries, they choose a green living option especially created using the best building principles laid down by vaastu or Leed-certified building projects that promote zero waste,” he says.

Despite growing tech usage, India is essentially a society steeped in traditions and so vaastu and feng shui remain widespread in homes. “Recognising this trend, most developers ensure that the homes they build comply with these guidelines as both are considered branches of science that help in maintaining positive energies in homes,” says Abhinav Joshi, head of research, CBRE India, a global commercial real estate services company. “Indians are likely to continue to leverage both these practices in the long term also,” Joshi adds.

Smart homes are contributing to comfort living… People will live in the décor of the moment rather than décor of permanence – Amit Syngle, MD & CEO, Asian Paints

With lack of greenery and clean air in urban sprawls, building a home around these guiding principles is now important – Jahan Tahiliani, CEO, Tahiliani Homes, a boutique interior and architecture firm

Ease of knowledge sharing has made today’s buyer conscious of health and well-being – Mani Rangarajan, group COO, Housing.com, Makaan.com & Proptiger.com