Dermot Bannon: ‘I’d love a hoover that works via wifi’
The architect and self-confessed luddite looks to the future home
Architect Dermot Bannon helps launch Vodafone Ireland’s Vodafone Gigabit Broadband campaign. Photograph: Naoise Culhane
By his own admission, and despite a reputation for creating homes that meet most modern-day needs, Dermot Bannon is something of a Luddite. He’s not, he says, entirely resistant to technological and digital advances, but a little slow off the blocks compared with many early adopters. He was, he notes, “one of the last people to get connected to Twitter and Instagram”.
He has only been signed up to Spotify since December, and admits that he isn’t entirely certain where the channel buttons on his TV remote control are. Yet in recent months, he has become somewhat evangelical about the potential of smart homes, and reckons they will be a huge part of how the next generation of Irish homes will be designed and built.
“My daughter is learning gymnastics on FaceTime, and after starting to learn on an iPad in her bedroom now she competes at national level,” he says.
“I use my phone to warm up the car in the mornings, and have the remote control for the telly on the phone as well. Lighting, alarms, sound systems will all be cheaper and more connected as they’ll essentially be done by apps. There are now monitors built into fridges that let you know when you run out of milk, and soon there will be ways to send a message to somewhere like SuperValu so you can do the weekly shop.
“There has always been this impression that a smart home was for wealthy people, but this stuff is definitely becoming more and more mainstream.”
Yet Bannon is only too aware that many Irish people have been slow to embrace this new revolution, or find the onslaught of new information intimidating.
“People are frightened by a lot of, but I think the more these things get streamlined, the more normal it will seem and everyone will trust it more,” he reasons. “Some people are first to do everything, but then the more these things become available, it’s more a case of ‘why not?’
“I remember people saying about Netflix, ‘Why would I need that? Why would I need to watch a whole series in one go?’ Now, even my mum has Netflix.”
Smart homes needn’t be the exclusive preserve of digital natives, either. “For a certain generation of people who might be looking after elderly parents, smart technology could be really helpful,” Bannon adds. “If a bath overflows, for instance, or smart technology can detect if an oven has been left on for over five hours. A phone can turn the lights off and on in a house, giving the impression that someone is at home.”
Research suggests that by 2022, Irish households will have, on average, 500 connected devices covering a multitude of areas: utilities, music, home cinema, even electric shavers. So far, so Jetsons, but Bannon issues a caveat on this new world order. All the technological wizardry in the world will be no use to anyone without sufficient broadband capabilities.
“In all my time working on houses, no one has asked me about how to get the house connected to a fibre network, and maybe they should,” he says. “They talk about water, electricity, but rarely connectivity.
“We are reaching the tipping point when it comes to home broadband, and people need to be more aware of things like speeds,” he affirms. “You know what it’s like when you experience buffering in a house with 10 or 15 devices on the go – can you imagine what it will be like when we reach 500 devices?”
Yet, as many inhabitants of rural Ireland are only too aware, broadband rollout across the country leaves much to be desired.
“It’s being rolled out across the country, but then Rome wasn’t built in a day,” concedes Bannon. “Rollout can be poor, and we certainly need to keep pressure on the Government so that people can live and work from home the way they want to. But the thing is, there are 350,000 homes in Ireland that can access a gigabit connection that haven’t yet availed of it.”
I’d love a hoover that works via wifi. That’s definitely on the wishlist
According to Greg Clifford, director of Luxavo Smart Home Automation Systems, full automation for a typical Irish home could cost up to €40,000.
“[The figure] could easily escalate depending on the equipment – for instance, if a dedicated home theatre is added with seating it could cost an extra €60,000,” he says. “Then again, if the owner was to cable for everything but only go with the TV, audio, wifi package the cost would come in around €10,000-€15,000, with people able to add in more equipment when they can afford it.
“When it comes to an average spend on a home it’s very hard to quantify, but it’s essential that they sit down and plan it with somebody they know they can trust. Cedia-registered companies are tested on an ongoing basis in the areas of home technology so as to keep their certification. There are too many cowboys out there that tell you they will cable for everything and leave you with a bundle of cables in the attic. Any smart system should be . . . tested fully and labelled, and a full drawing should also be provided, so the customer knows exactly where everything is located.”
Yet Bannon advises newcomers to smart technology to invest in new apps and devices gradually, possibly waiting for beta versions of new innovations (read: less expensive, with many of the alpha version kinks ironed out) to become more widely available.
“It’s all about getting to know what’s out there, with no pressure,” he states. “The more organic it happens, the better. I’m not saying go fill the house with gadgets; wait until things become the norm. No one went out looking for cameraphones when they were first invented, and look what happened there.”
As to what canny device Bannon himself would happily invest in, he replies without hesitation: “I’d love a hoover that works via wifi. That’s definitely on the wishlist.”
*Dermot Bannon has partnered with Vodafone Ireland on its Vodafone Gigabit Broadband campaign