Smart home technology set to push Dubai into the future

with a host of property developments in the pipeline, convergex is looking to add its technology to projects

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By  Rhys Jones Published  September 11, 2004

Dubai: a community of the future|~|panelbody1.jpg|~|CovergeX claims its smart home technology can simplify your life.|~|With Dubai rapidly becoming a future community, the time has come for the emirate to add the latest technological advances to its property developments. ConvergeX’s smart home technology integrates all aspects of smart living from controlling the air conditioning while you’re away to programming the televison. The company is set to officially launch in Dubai this month and is about to add untold value and revolutionise housing projects throughout the region. Jostein Svendsen, CEO, ConvergeX told Construction Week about the smart revolution about to hit Dubai.

Could you outline your career path and how ConvergeX came to be?

I started a number of successful companies in the IT industry and financial services sector in the last 10 years and I was one of the pioneers of the internet in Scandinavia and Europe in the 90s. I also started two companies that went onto the stock exchange in Scandinavia and started an online stock exchange company, which grew to be bigger than e-trade in the UK market and it is now American Express online stock brokerage in Europe. I also helped to launch an online credit card bank in Norway a few years ago, that is now one of the largest Visa credit card issuers in Norway and we are the fastest growing credit card issuer there.

Two years ago I decided to go back into IT. A few years before when I was working with the internet and broadband we had developed prototypes for the home of the future and smart home applications. Three years ago when I was looking at when smart home technology may actually happen I was surprised to see that the solutions available in the market in 2002 were not much more advanced than the solutions in1992.

That’s when I decided that some of the prototypes that we had developed in ’92, ’93 and ’94 were ready to be commercialised. We have now spent the last two years developing the platform for ConvergeX, which is the next generation of smart home technology and we are now integrating all of the aspects you see in the digital home space from the likes of Intel and Microsoft on the entertainment side and integrating it with intelligent home technology. You can do more than just utilise computer technology in your home for entertainment and office work but you can also use it to simplify your life and enable what we call smart living.

Explain the benefits that ConvergeX’s smart home technology offers?

There are a number of companies out there today that are either doing digital home solutions that are focused around entertainment or specialist solutions for automation but you have very few companies that combine the two into one integrated solution. That is one of the key features that differentiates ConvergeX from the rest. In addition to that our platform can be used for information, e-commerce and value added services, so instead of having all of these services in separate devices, in different remote controls and user interfaces we have combined all of this into one platform.
The problem with disconnected systems these days are that they are expensive and complex to install and operate and it does not give a very good user experience. By combining all of these features into one system it is simpler to install and operate and gives a better end user experience.

How much are costs reduced by?

Compared to propriety systems that have been sold in a high-end market we are probably looking at cost savings of between 70%-80%, so it is quite dramatic. The reason for these other solutions being relatively expensive is that they are all based on propriety software and hardware, the user has to buy the control systems. However, with our solution you are given the opportunity to control you home using PDA’s and smart phones.

To get the same sort of control functionality that we offer will cost you $1000 to $2000 as opposed to the $100 to $200 that we offer. We can deliver control panels from a range of suppliers that will be less than the $7000 to $8000 that our competitors offer. The drivers cost more than the pre-empters, the plasma screens and the dvd. These things are the costly components but we don’t have control over the cost of these components.||**||ConvergeX and research and development|~|Conbothbody.jpg|~|Jostein Svendsen gives a demonstration of Covergex's technology.|~|What is the background of ConvergeX internationally?

We are based in the UK and we do our product development in the south of France and we are about to set up an office in the Middle East, which will be in Dubai Internet City. We have signed up to do a large-scale project with a big property developer in the UK called Linden Homes for a community of 150 homes, which may not be big for Dubai but it is for the UK. It’s large scale in terms of the fact that every single home has a complete system installed.

We are installing everything from keyless entry, integrated alarm security systems, entertainment systems with music servers and heating and ventilation integration. This is actually being fitted as standard in every home in the project so that when someone purchases a home in this complex they have a very strong package as basic. The end user can then decide if they want to buy home theatre, movie and video upgrades and this is the same proposal that we are coming to the Dubai market with. We are in negotiations with some major property development projects and will have some announcements coming up very soon.

Our system is like no other that is available in the Middle East. We are introducing a whole new generation system and one of the key functions that we can deliver is not only a system for inside the home but it also allows you to interact with your home while you are away. You will be able to use these devices to be in control of your entertainment, your TV, video, music and movie servers. You can control your air conditioning, lighting and window treatments if you’re away for the weekend and set the home to work on an energy saving mode as well as scheduling it to operate on different modes.

What is unique about our system is that we are not just an air conditioning control system or an entertainment system where single functions are automated, which is what many other companies offer. What we offer is an expert system that integrates everything in the home and can react when you entering and leave the home and operate the energy management system accordingly. It also takes weather readings so it gauges how long the sprinkler system needs to be on for; and can measure the humidity in the soil so the system can produce real savings in a short time.

What else does ConvergeX do apart from smart technology for the home?

The technology we offer is not just applicable to homes but also to hotels and hospitals. The solution offers many different ways of energy saving for hotels in particular because hotels run air conditioning all day and we can make the system detect if a guest is or is not in the room and we can control functions. Energy saving is one of many factors, including convenience, safety and comfort. The system can simplify the way you live your life, and save you money.

Where does your research and development take place?

It takes place in the south of France and we are about to double our team in the next few months. Our team is currently six strong but we also employ freelancers and have an agreement with the university of Niece for research and development. We are also looking to set up a similar centre in the Middle East region and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of growth in development in Dubai and India in the coming months rather than expanding our team in Europe too much.
||**||Smart home technology and the Middle East|~|panelbody2.jpg|~|Smart living could be a big hit in Dubai: Svendsen.|~|Why are you targeting Dubai and the Middle East in particular?

The fantastic thing about Dubai is that it is one of the most exciting property development areas in the world and I think it’s only second to Shanghai in that respect. Furthermore, Sheikh Mohammed has said he wants Dubai to be a showcase for the future and be a community of the future. Thus, we see Dubai as the perfect place to be and to introduce our products. Even though we started in Europe we see Dubai and the Middle East as a high priority at the moment.

Also, we entered this market before we went in to the US and Asian markets. We identified this region very early on but we were actually pulled into this market by Cisco because we are working very closely with Cisco, Intel and Microsoft and Cisco said we should come to Dubai and utilise the network facilities that already go into the home here. We will have a show home ready in Dubai by the start of October at the latest but we haven’t decided where it will be yet. It could be in a villa in Jumeirah or in an apartment elsewhere.

Do you think that the majority of homes will feature smart home technology in the future?

The interesting angle for property sellers is that this is a solution that is designed for large-scale projects and it’s something that if you take it into consideration at construction time the mark up on construction costs is quite low. So there’s a lot of value for property developers that are considering offering these types of solutions in the future and they should at least think about this when specifying the components of the development.
Even having the most basic infrastructure at construction time can leave a lot of opportunities for the property developer to have smart solutions in the future rather than just having a one-time revenue stream, selling the property and forgetting it. We do think that, in the future, the majority of homes will have some sort of system in place, and we think that we have the ideal platform to hopefully be used in most projects in the region.||**||

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