Designing the future

High-tech interiors are fast becoming the norm in modern homes and hotels, from fully automated home entertainment to speakers that double as pieces of art.

Archimedia stocks the latest in B & W speakers.
Archimedia stocks the latest in B & W speakers.

High-tech interiors are fast becoming the norm in modern homes and hotels, from fully automated home entertainment to speakers that double as pieces of art.

A few years ago high-tech interiors, such as home automation systems seemed like a vision from a science fiction movie. Now, however, they are a reality and are fast becoming a must for homeowners and hoteliers who want to keep abreast of customer requirements.

The very nature of the Middle East construction boom lends itself to the implementation of such interiors and developers are also seeing the benefits of such technology as they construct more properties wired for intelligent home automation.

Today's smart home technologies not only control television and audio, they are also designed to bring convenience and ease to modern day living, connecting lights, temperature controls and security among other things. But it is also becoming ever clearer that building managements are starting to incorporate intelligent solutions for energy efficiency.

"The phenomenal growth and development of the real estate industry, the awareness that energy must be conserved for future generations, coupled with the high disposable income in the region creates a platform where smart home is becoming an essential part of everyday life," explains Leo Beuyukian, CEO, EON.

When it comes to commercial buildings, flexibility and cost productivity are particularly important and as new builds are more easily adapted to the needs of the user, envisaging the future of technology-led design is vital to save money and avoid needless restructuring later on.

Simple additions can drastically lower electricity costs, such as installing presence-detecting lighting, like the Argus Presence Detector by Merton, and sensor operated escalators.

But today's home automation systems integrate sensors whereby if a room is not being used the electrical appliances within that room are switched off, resulting in a reduction in utility bills.

Hotels are particularly keen to adapt to intelligent systems, as customers continually demand more from luxury hospitality. "The latest advances in the hi-tech hospitality sector are all about bringing the guest experience to a new level. This means not only making the guest more comfortable but impressing them with amenities and functions not found at home," says Rick Quirino, president, Inncom, creators of the guest room touchscreen control console.

Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi recruited the talents of Dubai-based Bond Communications for the Dhs100 million contract to integrate a multimedia system through all 390 of the hotel's rooms and suites.

AMX touch panels allow the guests fingertip control of everything from interactive TVs and in-room entertainment, to lighting, air conditioning, personal computers, internet access and room service orders.

Property developer Nakheel has pre-wired its homes on the Palm ready for the Opus' home automation system. "The system distributes and controls your CD collection, TV and movies. Also with the new touch screen you can control third party lighting, curtains and blinds and air conditioning systems," explains Steve Simpson, GCC operations manager, Opus Technologies.

The Opus 500 works by centralising home entertainment equipment and allows the user to enjoy different music and video in different areas simultaneously. And because the system operates on low voltage cabling within the construction of the property, it can also be used in bathrooms and outdoor locations.

There seems to be myriad of different smart home systems available on the market and choosing the most suitable one can be a tricky operation. Italian company Bticino markets itself differently from its competition by taking home automation systems that step further in terms of aesthetics.

Recently launched in the Middle East, the Axolute range focuses on the look of its digital interfaces, switches and sockets, with 41 different colour and material finishes, including leather, Corian, wood and even Carrara marble.

For interior designers, integrating sound and audio equipment into a commercial interior design can be a real challenge, as unsightly speakers, wires and boxes can spoil an otherwise elegant or minimalist design.

One wireless system proving popular in the Middle East is the Sonos Digital Music Centre, available in Dubai's EON and Archimedia showrooms. The system connects to any amplified audio device in any room and that device is instantly part of a wireless, multi-room digital music system.

The Sonos Controller allows you to then control your music from the palm of your hand and distribute the same audio file wirelessly to up to 32 different rooms or distribute 32 different audio files to each of these rooms.

UK loudspeaker company, Artcoustic, has also recognised the aesthetic challenges faced by designers when installing audio equipment into stylish interiors. This led it to create a combination of a unique mix of art and design with the science of acoustic.

"The sleek design gives our loudspeakers the character of a picture that can hang discreetly on the wall. This is enhanced by the freedom that allows the customer to choose the look of the front of the speakers," explains Sharon Holm, marketing manager, Artcoustic. "We allow customers to personalise and completely match their interior by providing a wide variety of images and access to our Getty Images gallery of photos. The customer can also specify their own personal pictures to decorate the speakers resulting in completely bespoke designs."

Artcoustic's latest range of speakers, the Spitfire Venue Monitor was developed specifically for the commercial market and is perfect for use in bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, cinemas and recording and film studios.

The company also provides furniture to conceal cabling and hifi equipment for seamless interiors integration. "The Artcoustic Media Wall was created so that the cables from your flat screen TV and loudspeakers are easily hidden so the installation has a perfect finish," adds Holm.

Archimedia plans audio, video and automation systems to work alongside interior designers, architects and consultants to ensure a fully integrated and functional space.

"The biggest problem is integrating the interior design of a space with the high tech equipment," admits Omar Hikal, chief operating officer, Archimedia. "We have a range of products that conceal home equipment and we work with the interior designers to help them with the implementation of our products."

With over 700 different images to choose from, Vision Art is one such product that can be used to cleverly conceal a wall-mounted flat screen TV behind your favourite painting or photograph. The company also provides mirrors that double up as TVs and waterproof speakers, that resemble rocks, for outdoor use.

Archimedia is famous for its dedicated home cinemas and uses the Kaleidescape package for music and movie storage. With a user-friendly interface that mirrors the artwork from CD and DVD covers, the music and movie player is not a PC based system and does not suffer from computer related problems.

Its storage capacity can also be increased by adding more disk cartridges. The company also provides the D-Box, a chair with an integrated motion system that moves in sequence with the onscreen motion and sound. Coupled with audio from award winning Bowers and Wilkins, you get movie interaction on a different scale.

With the introduction of flat screen TVs, entertainment equipment can even double up as part of the interior design, complimenting the overall look of a space.

High-end television manufacturer Loewe maintains that its Connect range of LCD TV sets acts as an exclusive piece of designer furniture, coming in high gloss white, elegant silver and high gloss black.

Available at Dubai Audio Centre, the Loewe Connect opens up new doors in terms of connectivity to mobile devices such as digital cameras or MP3 players and even PC networks.

The television can also have direct access to photos, images and videos on a PC or network storage device - all in high definition picture and sound quality through the integrated HDTV receiver.

Technology has even reached the bathroom with the creation of fog-free mirrors, mirrors embedded with LCD screens and toilets fitted with automated sensors.

Geberit's HyTronic, infra-red controls available for WCs, taps and urinals provide touch-free operation with fast reaction times for added hygiene and reduced water consumption.

Geberit has also launched the Balena shower toilet, which features an extendable shower arm, non-contact warm air dryer and automatic air purification.

New advances in technology mean more things for the commercial interior designer to think about. However, it seems their job is being made that bit easier by the choice of aesthetically pleasing high-tech products that manufacturers are putting onto the market.

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