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Thu 26 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

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At the push of a button

State-of-the-art audio visual, home entertainment and interior automation technology is becoming a fundamental feature of any commercial interior, Selin Arkut discovers.

State-of-the-art audio visual, home entertainment and interior automation technology is becoming a fundamental feature of any commercial interior, Selin Arkut discovers.

The march of technology has left few spaces untouched. Laptops, iPods and mobile phones are already ubiquitous - and as consumers become increasingly accustomed to the ease and convenience offered by these personal accessories, the pressure is on designers to make sure that the interiors they create are fit for a generation Y audience.

As a result, customised control and communication of lighting, music and security-enabled systems is becoming an increasingly prevalent part of any residential or commercial space. Interior automation offers ease and speed, the two fundamentals of modern day living.

"In most cases, the consumer is dictating trends, and the architects and developers are competing to accommodate the needs of the modern consumer. We see this in many instances today, where developers are offering more sophisticated automation and lighting control, dedicated home cinema rooms and iPod docks that can play music through a distributed audio system," said Nisreen El Daly, marketing manager at Archimedia, a provider of high-end audiovisual and interior automation solutions.

"This trend will continue to grow, as consumers are becoming much more tech savvy, and they expect the hotel rooms they stay in or the homes they buy to be well equipped for this particular lifestyle," she added.

Automated

Interactive, seamless, user friendly and fully integrated systems are what consumers have come to expect, and these are the features that interior automation companies are competing to offer.

"Revolutionary changes are happening in the convergence of technologies, to enhance the digital lifestyle of the people using them. Networked, intelligent systems are becoming a standard feature of most of the ongoing projects in this region," said Greg Eun, general manager of HomNet, LG Electronics.

Complementing its ambitious strategy to play a key role in the region's development, LG has launched HomNet, an intelligent home network solution that provides convenience, security and integration.

"LG HomNet is a brand new concept in the market. It is essentially a converged, intelligent home network designed specifically for residential towers and community developments, offering residents a safer, more convenient, more affluent and more joyful life that can be controlled and monitored by remote control within the home, or via the Internet and mobile phones from outside," said Eun.

"We've introduced a brand new living culture whereby intelligent systems can control heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, windows and blinds - it can also be connected to call the elevator from home. In addition, this system allows for security management with CCTV systems that provide SMS alerts to pre-assigned mobile numbers in the event of an emergency," he continued.

Not only are such wireless systems easy to use, they're more reliable and, with less cabling, easier to install and maintain. Suitable for commercial as well as domestic developments, ZITY, a 100% wireless interior automation system distributed by RoomWithNet, can control anything from lighting, music and television to air-conditioning and curtains.

"This product can be self installed and is therefore sold in stores. The interface is merely the handheld remote control, which you can use to dictate which action goes live at what time. This was introduced into the UAE market six months ago and the response has been tremendous," said Andrew Prince, managing director of RoomWithNet.

"It's a great product, to be looked at as an energy management console controlled by clever switches that hypothetically speak to each other. In terms of hospitality, these products can also control the ‘do not disturb', ‘make up room', and ‘door bell' applications in a seamless and expandable network. Used in conjunction with LEDs, this product will provide massive savings. Technology is by all means the driving force of our lives," he added. Super sound

Automated sound technology is also proving popular in commercial spaces, where innovative sound systems are being seamlessly blended into the overall design aesthetic.

"There are an increasing number of ambitious and impressive residential and commercial developments coming up all over the Middle East and there is massive investment being made in the inclusion of high-end audio technology and applications. This is rapidly becoming the norm and is now essential to many private residences and commercial premises," said Sharon Holm, marketing manager of Artcoustic, a specialist in flat panel speakers and subwoofer systems for surround sound theatre systems.

This region is a top emerging market and there is a very large, affluent client base which is now demanding high-end audio products. There is demand for basic audio systems and dedicated home cinema, as well as systems especially designed for a restaurant, a hotel or corporate facilities.

Our products are unique in that no one else in the world offers a high-end audio system that not only sounds great but complements the look and feel of any interior setting.

"The Diablo Target, for example, is our new compact and versatile on-wall, in-ceiling and outdoor speaker. It is an extremely accurate monitor speaker, easy to accommodate in the most space-restricted environments, while its performance brings uncompromised sound performance to any environment. Speakers are often unattractive and functional but our unique interchangeable screen system ensures that the speakers complement any interior design. Artcoustic loudspeakers are therefore designed with interior design and quality performance in mind," she added.

With audio technology, the emphasis is on being heard and not seen, stressed John Dodson, general manager of Bose.

"Sound enhances people's experiences, and is a key element in creating ambiance and atmosphere. We understand that interior designers always want equipment that can be heard and not seen. Bose sound systems work behind the scenes to provide that extra touch to any occasion: be it providing audio solutions for a corporate event or by offering ambient music at a fine dining restaurant," said Dodson.

"Our proprietary Acoustimass speaker technology in Lifestyle systems allows the Acoustimass module to be placed nearly anywhere within the listening area, even behind furniture, and as its sound is non-localisable, the audio - from powerful movie effects to orchestral passages - seems to be coming from the tiny cube speakers, which at just 11.5cm in height, blend into practically any décor," he added.

Ease of use

Enhancing the designer's ability to create spaces that are engaging and attractive, interior automation systems must be able to maintain the integrity of the aesthetic, while providing optimum functionality.

"Many of our products are specifically designed to seamlessly integrate with the room's design. We offer invisible speakers that can be totally hidden into a wall's paint or wallpaper, as well as works of art that can conceal flat panel televisions of practically any size. In general, much of the work that we do revolves around working with the designer to maintain the beauty of their design throughout," said Archimedia's El Daly.

Creating the right mood and the perfect environment means combining great sound, effortless and intelligent control, ease of use and state-of-the-art design. With ever-more options open to those wishing to control their surroundings with the touch of a button, interior automation technology will become increasingly common in both residential and commercial settings.

"I see technology playing a more important role in the interiors of the very near future," El Daly predicted.

"I don't mean that we will have any sci-fi stuff going on, but it's simply utilising technologies, as they become more affordable, to enhance the way people experience and enjoy a space.

Applications that can create impact through the addition of lighting or music will be more and more prevalent, and we will definitely see a lot more automation in the way of curtain controls, communication, internet access and entertainment servers," she continued.

"Technology, and the right application of it, will be a significant differentiating factor in real estate development in the future. Developers that are able to identify the needs of their consumers, and cost-effectively address those needs through the right technology, will create a significant competitive advantage over those who do not," El Daly concluded.

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