Smarter Homes to meet the needs of a digital generation

Brendan Hegarty, Head of Sky Communal TV, explains how house-builders and property developers must build smarter homes to meet the changing needs of homebuyers

The Government’s Help to Buy scheme, launched in England in April last year, and in Wales in January, is being promoted by the Government as putting a new generation of people on the housing ladder. Undoubtedly, it is having a huge impact on the new homes market. Barratt recently announced a 20% increase in new homes built in the second half of 2013, and confirmed that the scheme continues to have a positive impact on the market with 29% of completions using it. Similarly, Bovis saw a 26% surge in new home completions last year.

With 3.3 million 20 to 34 year olds living with their parents in 2013 according to ONS figures from January (the highest number since records began in 1996), there are plenty of young people who are likely to make use of the Help to Buy scheme. Developers have an opportunity to make the most of this influx of young professionals moving into their first homes. But in an increasingly competitive market, are they considering how best to equip their properties to appeal to a younger, more technically savvy generation?

We recently commissioned a survey which revealed that 52% of 18-34 year olds moving into their first homes regard digital TV as a common utility, with only a quarter (26%) still considering digital TV services a luxury in their home. The survey of 2,000 people found that only 4% of young people would now settle for just terrestrial TV in their new home, whereas a huge 78% of people surveyed want access to a digital TV service.

Since there are more than 14 million people in this age group in the UK, that means there are over 7 million young people out there expecting a digital TV service as standard in their first flat. This generation also demands high levels of customer service, with the vast majority of young people (81%) expecting to have their digital TV service installed within seven days. It is also clear that young people now expect a broader and more compelling choice of TV programming.

What we have here is a generation with different expectations from their parents and grandparents, fuelled by our rapidly evolving media landscape and consumption.

Technology experts predict that the next few years will see the birth of the Smart Home, providing connectivity to all manner of aspects of the home via the ‘Internet of Things’. We will be able to remotely access and control our heating, lights, washing machine, coffee maker, and even our garden. New machine-to-machine (M2M) technology will mean that these devices can transfer data and ‘talk’ to each other. Our fridge will be able to suggest recipes based on the food it is storing; garden gadgets will measure air temperature, humidity, light intensity, and soil moisture to help make decisions about watering and care; our doors and gates will lock and unlock to enable access for deliveries; and music and TV from the world over will be at our fingertips.

Already, with the Sky+ app on your compatible mobile, laptop or tablet, you can take charge of your Sky+HD box when you’re out, or in a different room to your TV. You can see what’s on, view your recommendations, record a show or set up a Series Link to record a whole series at the touch of a button. And this is clearly just the beginning, with a number of new developments already in the pipeline to make viewing and choices easier still for Sky Go and Sky+ customers.

The next big innovation on the horizon in the TV world is 4k Ultra HD. It delivers four times the pixel resolution of a current HD screen, providing finer detail, greater texture, and greatly improved clarity of picture. Ultra HD TVs are already available on the market, ‘ready’ for when the technology is more widely available.

But is the new build market ‘ready’? With so many exciting technologies just around the corner, developers need to consider now how best to future-proof their new properties, if they are to compete to attract new homebuyers.  

For a fail-safe, future-proof TV system for a new apartment block or development, we would recommend developers talk to us about installing an IRS (Integrated Reception System). Since it is ‘platform-neutral’, it gives tenants and homeowners the freedom to choose their own TV supplier, be that Freesat, Freeview or subscription services such as Sky. It provides access to FM and DAB radio, as well as supporting alternative satellite providers such as Turksat and Arabsat. IRS is highly flexible, has excellent signal strength, comes with a range of leasing and maintenance options, and can be tailored to blocks and developments of many different types and sizes.

IRS is a ‘dual feed’ system, delivering the two signals required for full Sky+ functionality. This means that residents are able to access the latest TV technology such as Sky Multiscreen services (the ability to watch Sky in multiple rooms), and can pause and rewind, and record two or more shows at one time. The dual feed system is also crucial for enabling future technologies, such as Ultra HD.

Another important benefit of IRS is that with it, residents won’t be tempted to put up their own mini-dishes to access digital services, which can spoil the aesthetics of a development. Instead, IRS connects all residents with a single dish, and because it’s built in, it’s almost invisible, with discreet cabling and a faceplate fitted in each flat for easy connection.

Developers we work with tell us that Sky is the natural partner for tech-ready Smart homes as we are at the forefront of technology. Equipping new homes with digital TV and broadband from the outset is a powerful selling point, adding value to the property and making it much more attractive to today’s buyers – particularly for those aiming to compete for the young professionals market.

We are currently working with owner and management company, Get Living London, to offer market-leading services to renters in London’s East Village, on the site of the former 2012 Olympic Athletes’ Village. Exciting new developments like East Village are great news for renters who are looking for high-quality and high-tech homes.

The East Village neighbourhood was recently announced the ‘Best New Place to Live’ at the London Planning Awards and includes a range of quality homes designed by 16 world-renowned architects. The neighbourhood, which spans over 27 hectares of land, equivalent to St James’s Park, boasts more than 10 hectares of new parks, landscaped gardens, public squares, play areas and courtyards.

The properties, which range from one and two-bedroom apartments to three and four-bedroom apartments and town-houses, are all Sky ready with an IRS communal TV system in place for instant Sky access. Residents are able to benefit from savings on Sky subscriptions, don’t have to arrange the installation of individual mini dishes, and can plug in and play as soon as they move in. They also have access to free high-speed broadband and phone services from Hyperoptic and high-end furniture packages selected by acclaimed designer Wayne Hemingway MBE.

Derek Gorman, Chief Executive of Get Living London, commented: “Providing residents with ready-to-go technology is a crucial part of the convenient new way of renting Get Living London is looking to offer. With great savings on Sky TV and free high-speed broadband with Hyperoptic, East Village is the perfect new neighbourhood for tech-savvy renters.”

We work closely with landlords and property developers to make sure that future generations of home owners and tenants receive the services they demand. We can provide highly skilled and experienced Sky Approved Installers, or work alongside preferred contractors, to get the job done seamlessly and efficiently.

To help developers understand their options, we have created a free, downloadable Sky Homes Specification guide which details all the elements needed to install a communal TV system. It has been developed to aid agreements between developers and installation contractors and is intended to help during preliminary planning and tendering. It also provides an infrastructure for local security and information systems, as well as describing the procedures required for planning the individual systems.

The Sky Homes Specification PDF can be downloaded for free from or call 08442 410327 to talk to one of our communal TV experts. We look forward to facing the future with you!

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