Audio Visual, Security & Home Automation Designer
Tas and George Kyriacou are experts in sophisticated living. Their company creates efficient, instinctive and innovative experiences in the home through integrated technology. From lighting that you can adapt to suit your mood to audiovisual systems that will rival any live film or music experience, the luxury lifestyle technology that the IDS Group provides is always sleek and sophisticated. In our chat, Tas shares his knowledge and insight into the endless possibilities when it comes to lifestyle tech.
Tas & George Kyriacou, Lifestyle Technology Designers (UK)
1. What are some of the more unusual or unexpected things that people may not know can be integrated into a home control system?
Well, what most people don’t realise is that if you are using a good quality control system, you can integrate anything that can provide some form of communication to it, so technically if a cooker, oven or microwave, for example, can link-in to our system, then we can control it! As we are getting hotter and slightly longer summers, more home owners are installing irrigation systems in their gardens.
This is something that can easily be integrated into our control system. You can have these on timers which gives you the flexibility to turn them on or off via your phone, tablet or in-wall touch panels, whether at home or away.
2. Seamlessly integrating audiovisual and technological products into the home takes careful planning and advance consideration. Can you tell us how you collaborate with an interior designer or architect on a project?
Planning and meticulous design is crucial to the success of an integrated technology system. Collaboration and coordination with other trades on a project needs to occur at the design stage. This methodical approach will prevent any discrepancies and will clearly define the requirements for each contractor to allow for a seamless process throughout each stage of the project.
3. What are some of your favourite ways to create the perfect home cinema design with lifestyle technology?
A home cinema is one of our most exciting spaces to design and install. It’s a lot of fun putting a theme together and this comes with spending time with the client to understand who they are and how they want the space to make them feel. A home cinema can transport you to a place of nostalgia or simply provide a touch of opulence, so along with the client and the designers, we can start the process by creating a mood board.
However, let’s not forget the performance! A cinema room should provide a truly immersive experience, totally engrossing the viewer in a movie or show, so depending on the size of the space, with a bit of physics, we compile an acoustic design, with speaker, projector, screen, seat and lighting positioning we will strike the right balance to create the experience the client desires.
From a more practical point of view, occupancy sensors can also create different lighting scenes at different times in the day, such a subtle LED lighting under bathroom units which can turn on during the night when the user is entering the bathroom in the middle of the night, preventing the need to turn anything on or off and avoiding bright light.
4. Which features can be included in a home automation system to achieve different responses for different times of the day?
The beauty of an automated system is that you can seamlessly and intuitively program the home to respond to different elements such as lighting shading and climate. For example, if there is too much sun beaming into a particular room, then, with sensors we can ensure that the motorised blinds draw down to create shade in the room.
Similarly, if the sun is creating too much heat in that same room, the cooling system can turn on to regulate the temperature and keep the room comfortable for the user. Another example, again using sensors - we can create beautiful aesthetic lighting to contribute to the beauty of a home by triggering some subtle lighting in dawn and more prominent lighting during the night.
5. Smart home technology can solve the problem of creating a minimalist design within your home…can you share some of your favourite examples?
I think the greatest example I can give here is with audio or video systems. Some of our clients want all the technology in some rooms however, for none of the technology to be visible. This is completely achievable with good system design and interior design.
In-ceiling speakers or invisible speakers is an excellent way to achieve both excellent performance and discreet design. Similarly, with video we have embedded the TV within the joinery work, with motorised cabinets so that the TV is discreetly hidden away when it’s not in use. As people are now spending more time at home, we have to use the space available intelligently so that we can create different uses within rooms and transform the ambiance of a room depending on its use.
6. What are some of the ways that home automation can save energy for a more efficient, sustainable home? E.g. ‘All off’ switch by the front door.
There are a number of ways to preserve energy. First and foremost, integrating the heating and cooling systems within an automation system can optimise each system’s function to eliminate system conflict.
Additionally, having occupancy sensors in each room can identify any movement for specific periods of time allowing the system to keep the energy usage within that room low. This also applies to light, audio and video systems, by simply turning everything off in a particular room automatically.
Typically we encourage our clients to have an ‘all off’ button at the entrance of their home, so upon leaving, they are able shut the whole home down, thus not leaving any lights, TVs, speakers etc on whilst they are out.
7. What smart home trends have you seen homeowners move away from in the last 2-3 years as technology, quality and price points have changed?
What we have seen over the years, with the introduction of streaming services on smart TVs, is that hardware that’s centralised with a video matrix such as a Sky box, or Blu Ray player etc within a comms rack, is becoming less desirable. Sky Q mini’s are now only an additional £10 a month, they are easy to position behind the TV with a bracket and they connect to the Wi-Fi, therefore a centralised matrix distribution system may not be required. This, of course, depends on the size of the home, the larger the home, the greater the need for a matrix system.
8. What are some of the ways you can prevent sunlight from damaging your home’s interior in order to protect things like furnishings, floors and artwork?
Electronic blinds, curtains or shutters are a great way to automate and prevent solar gain in a room. The use of sensors can trigger the electronic shades and prevent the sunlight from hitting any valuable materials or furnishings in a room. This can also be coupled with artificial lighting which can then allow for light in the room, or create a desired scene.
9. What problems do you foresee with voice activation in the home? E.g. accents, children being able to activate certain things.
Voice activation is still at an embryonic stage and so in the next decade or so, the advancement in technology will accelerate and we will have far more advanced systems. Currently there are still problems with responsiveness and accuracy in accent identification.
Its built-in AI (artificial intelligence) still has some way to go, but we can’t take away how impressive these systems actually are!
We are still able to trigger simple devices such as electronic blinds, turn on/off a TV, turn lighting on/off, make announcements (which my 4 and 2 year old kids are constantly doing throughout the day!) and most commonly, play music through Spotify or provide news or weather updates.
10. What are some ways you can make home automation work personally for you and your lifestyle? E.g. Automatically playing your preferred radio station in the mornings.
The beauty of an automation system is that it is designed, implemented and programmed based on the user’s lifestyle and needs. So it’s totally bespoke, and is designed to simplify one’s life.
For example, if you want to wake up in the morning at a specific time, you can program the system to open the blinds, play your favourite playlist and turn on specific lights so that it creates the perfect environment the moment you wake up.
Similarly, in a home cinema we are able to program the room to each person’s desired specification within a household. We can ensure that certain lighting levels and circuits will turn on, the screen will drop down, the projector will turn on, it will be set to the desired source e.g. Netflix, and the cinema seat may recline to the user’s favourite position, as well as the desired temperature within the room.
This can all be done at the touch of one button - we could put each resident’s name on a touch panel and with one tap of that button it will transform a room perfectly designed for that individual. Now that is automation!
11. Many of us are designing/adapting our homes to enhance our wellbeing. What are some ways this can be done? E.g. automatic dimming lights leading up to bedtime to help the body/mind to start winding down for the day.
One of the most prominent and talked about technology systems for wellbeing is circadian lighting. The concept of circadian lighting follows that of the human circadian rhythm.
The area of the brain called the hypothalamus controls each person’s circadian rhythm by receiving signals from the eyes that report when it’s daytime and night time. The hypothalamus, in turn, controls the amount of melatonin released to correlate sleepiness with darkness and alertness with lightness.
Scientists have discovered that long-term exposure to certain wavelengths of blue light at a specific intensity can have a negative impact on melatonin production. Circadian lighting, therefore, controls electric light to support health and wellbeing by reducing the effect it has on the human circadian rhythm.
12. What do you think the future holds for smart home automation?
If you’ve ever watched the Pixar movie Wall-E, then let’s hope we don’t turn out like that!! I do believe the advancement in technology and the way we use it in our homes will grow exponentially over the next two decades, but what I am hoping for is that it’s used in a positive way and enhances our lives for the better.
13. One for Tas...what are your top 3 films to watch in your home cinema?
Avengers Endgame, purely because it’s just an epic film! Back the future 1, for a good measure of nostalgia and Moana because my 2 year daughter absolutely loves it!
14. One for George...what’s your go-to Apple or Spotify playlist for a dinner party?
Buddha Bar – it’s definitely the most relaxing soundtrack. It really does depend on the guests and the amount of alcohol that’s consumed though...are we allowed to say that?!
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