On lighting control, Steve Moore, says keep it simple, not stupid, just simple.

As a diligent follower of technology, you probably read Mary Meeker’s definitive and panoramic technology presentations each year. She is the doyenne of Silicon Valley tech analysts, and concisely (across 300 slides!) describes trends and prognosticates. If there was a theme for Western markets this year, it was maybe ‘Enough already!’.

Some key stats: There are now four billion internet users in the world, and 1.5B of those people use smartphones. Including you. 1/3 of the world’s most valuable companies are ‘tech’ outfits. Digital payments now account for more than 50% of all payments worldwide. Especially interestingly for those of us managing the spiralling technology incorporated in high-end residential projects, UK and US users average over six hours screen time per day (this has more than doubled in 10 years) most of which is on their mobile devices. And 88% of people view TV with two screens, 71% of those looking up content related to the programme they’re watching – player stats, IMDB etc.

This, of course, is impacting how people use their homes and feel about their life. High-end homeowners started incorporating security, lighting control, and entertainment systems a couple of decades ago. The market expectation, and the amount spent, has continued to rise. But things have changed.

It used to be the case that you needed tons of wiring to send music or TV to each room. Now many of us use Sonos, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, iPlayer or other networked systems, typically controlled via a screen. Expensive BMS systems are being replaced in smaller schemes by Nest or Hive – controlled by an app (in fact around a couple of million people use this sort of smart thermostat technology in the UK now, saving energy each day).

So what? How does this impact the control of lighting, blinds and curtains?


Interestingly, as people use their smartphones more, we’realso seeing people asking for ‘less’ technology in the walls. Much less. For example, none (or nearly none). Lots of people – particularly our time-poor, design-conscious customers – have just had enough of screens!

And who can blame them when there are some truly beautiful, gimmick-free controls around. Customers are asking for simple, intuitive control – consistent across their home (or homes) not all of which are wired for smart control. Voice isn’t a reliable solution for all users. People want a switch that looks and feels right – a beautiful object in its own right.

Let’s be honest, most designers have always hated touch panels – or little plasticky keypads. There are obviously good ones out there, but in restrained, clean environments they’re probably not the right answer. Some customers are also a little scared of expensive touch-panel control systems, as they’ve had less-than perfect experiences in the past. More than one property developer has talked, somewhat unfairly, about ‘touch screen fatigue.’

The good news is that, with the use of a simple network interface, integrators can control lighting scenes, operate blinds, shutters, parasols and awnings – even music – with simpler, more traditional switches. Of course, this may mean that a lighting or control system is still running behind the scenes, but ‘out of sight is out of mind’. And if it isn’t needed – in smaller rooms, say – the switches look exactly the same.

The ranges now available can be specified with or withoutengraving, in almost any finish (to match door furniture, say) and are therefore favoured by interior designers.

Users seem to like them for three main reasons:

  •  they’re super simple, and very intuitive
  •  they’re discreet
  •  they feel really classy


Specifiers value them for a couple of reasons:

  • they can have exactly what they want
  • they’re special – ‘just right’ for the carefully crafted home aesthetic

Of course, dealers like them because customers are keen to pay more for something different, that’s just right for them. It isn’t called ‘custom’ installation for nothing.

As seen in Essential Install – Aug 2019 (p.38).