The company Somfy, spol. s r.o. is the largest world producer and supplier of controllers and drives for entrance gates, garage doors, blinds, awnings, window roll shutters and interior shading technology. It is represented in 60 countries around the world, and has 8,400 employees.
Within the framework of resolving an intelligent home, Somfy offers connection of electric drives for shading and sliding technology. Currently, it has developed its own independent system TaHoma®, focused on automation and connection of not only shading technology, but also ordinary home appliances and devices.
Michal Tichý is Somfy’s Business Developer in the segment of automation for the Czech and Slovak Republics respectively. He previously worked at Samsung as Product Manager of the IM/DI division. Home automation and new technologies are his major hobby. He has been actively working for over a decade in the environment of applying these technologies.
Somfy has been on the market now for over 45 years. Can you recall the main milestones of the company’s development? How long have you been operating on the Czech market?
The parent company Somfy International, residing in the French town of Cluses in the Mont Blanc foothills, has been the world’s largest supplier and supplier in control and drives for entrance gates, garage doors, blinds, awnings, window roll shutters and interior shading for 45 years now. Our Czech branch was established in 1996. It has been led since 2000 by its current executive Ing. Jiří Husák, who basically reset the entire company that year. This was actually the first true milestone in the company’s young existence. Another milestone relates to 2008 and the construction industry crisis that affected us as well. Thanks to the fantastic team of people and quality facilities, we overcame the crisis, whereas in the past four years, we have grown by practically 100 %. This year we entered the mobile world, with a new type of home control, the system TaHoma®, whose development is key for us at this time.
You have vast experience in automation of various types of shading and sliding technology. What should those interested in buying shading technology best focus on?
The decisive factor is selection of the right system in terms of the spatial layout of the building and the required function of the system. For larger projects or those where a radio signal could have range issues, bus control is always the most advantageous application. On the contrary, in most cases of residential constructions, we recommend a wireless solution, both in terms of affordability and concerning modularity and minimum need for construction work or alterations.
It is furthermore important to realize for what we want to use the entire system. If the customer requires control from a mobile phone mistakenly using the term home automation, the offer is rather wide. It is different though in the case that the customer expects feedback for each of his or her commands, and wants to have the option of setting various time programs in very fine detail, or even in relation to outside influences (motion, solar intensity, temperature, an open window or door, etc.), the customer wants for the system itself to adjust the settings of individual elements in the home.
As with all products, it is important today to select a partner having sufficient experience in the segment of home automation, not only in terms of the breadth of offered products, but also their final “involvement” in real projects.
Somfy offers for home automation systems a comprehensive offer of solutions and individual products. These products can be summarized into the following groups:
- drives for shading technology, garage doors and gates – the newest with the integrated technology io-homecontrol, which is a system for bi-directional communication between the drive and the controller.
- controllers – a large offer of controllers, from basic local controllers to central automation control
- accessories – from a wide selection of sensors (temperature, solar, motion detectors, etc.), through actuators for lighting and thermostats for temperature control
- Third-party accessories and products – this mainly concerns devices from the offer of partners of a consortium io-homecontrol (Velux, Honeywell, Hitachi, Hoppe, GU, Philips etc.), but also further products operating by means of the technology z-wave, enocean, etc.
Can you share with us what portion of the installation uses a fully automatic mode (in comparison with manual control?)
For products offered by our company, we have long observed the trend towards complete automation. A great number of customers use e.g. fully automatic modes in the form of protection of shading elements (fan, automatic, shock sensor, etc.) or automatic control of individual products in relation to time or solar light intensity.
With the advent of complete home automation systems, the possibilities of these fully automatic modes differ dramatically. That’s because possibilities are opening up for users of easy, yet very detailed settings of time scenes, or even conditional scenarios controlling a large number of events. According to our data, the fully automatic mode then concerns over 30% of events from a total number of performed events (we have been conducting research since June 1 2015). This number then grows along with the number of installations and the gradual gaining of experience amongst end users.
Have you noticed now too any new trends in the area of automation, in the sector of home and commercial constructions?
We mainly register huge development in the demand for home automation in residential housing. This is given by several main factors: price, wireless solution, during which the need falls away for structural modifications, and easy installation and use. In terms of trends, they focus mainly on safety, simplicity and savings.
The Tahoma® system, as you mention at the start, can be used for controlling not only shading technology, but also other devices in the home. Can you tell us something more about this system?
The TaHoma® system can be used for up to 100 types of products by Somfy, from shading technology to garage doors. We have also developed it to be compatible with the widest possible range of leading brands of home furnishing, and we have succeeded in doing so. TaHoma® recognizes and control over 15 other brands, and this number continues to grow. The result is a cooperating and connected home, which can be controlled from one place – from a smart phone, tablet, PC and recently from an Apple Watch, from anywhere on earth.
Safety, savings and easy control are the main pillars upon which the TaHoma® system is built. Though it is not directly a security system but rather a safe home system – thanks to a unified view in the user environment, I easily find out whether gates are closed, or in what position each installed roll shutter is currently found. Another popular function is the simulation of home presence while we are e.g. on vacation, or connection to the video camera system, thanks to which we can easily find out if everything is in order.
To illustrate, I would mention that today, the TaHoma® system is actively used in over 25,000 European households.
Besides comfortable control, shading technology automation is focused on the potential for savings. How can people save thanks to automation of shading technology? Can they monitor and compare energy savings in the system?
One of the advantages of a smart home is that it knows how to make optimum use of and regulate energy – water, gas, electricity. It also records energy consumption, so you can monitor its development and compare with values from previous periods. Our TaHoma® system also offers a so-called Smart Scenario, thanks to which the household regulates itself based on the current weather, planned energy consumption or family activity.
What might at Smart Scenario look like specifically?
In summer months, blinds or roll shutter switch on automatically once a temperature sensor signals that a set value has been exceeded The interior thus does not become overheated, and the air conditioning can stay switched off. And on the other hand – when it is cold inside and outside the sun is shining, the system opens the roll shutters itself to let the sun’s rays in to warm the room. You can then reduce heat loss in the room by setting the roll shutters to lower as the sun sets. These methods will let you save up to 10% on heating expenses in the winter, and decrease the indoor temperature by 9°C in the summer naturally and without air conditioning!