Want a Smart Home? You’ll Need Rob McAllister

Monday, August 21, 2017

Everyone who uses modern AV and smart home systems falls in love with them immediately, and the novelty of being able to control music, lighting, climate and more anywhere in the home (or outside of it) never wears off. But while this technology is fantastic to use, few people enjoy the headache of actually having to install and set it up.

That’s where AV/smart home consultants such as myself come in. I’ve been setting up AV systems for more than 20 years, starting with events and venues before moving on to residential. As you can imagine, the technology of today is barely recognisable from when I started, but one thing hasn’t changed: people like technology most when they don’t see it.

Today, I work with architects such as DGA to make sure that their clients’ technology needs are prioritised from the earliest stages of the project, taking care of all the complexities of technology so that it’s as simple and elegant as possible once it’s being lived with it day to day.

Here are a few of the ways I help clients make sure their dream homes are smart homes too.

Attack of the Cables

Wifi is great for keeping things tidy and connecting your portable devices, but you can’t beat Ethernet cables for reliability and speed. Wireless traffic is limited, and if you rely on wireless alone for all the AV and smart equipment in your house – on top of everyone’s smart devices, computers, consoles and more – your router will quickly become congested.

By far the best option for complete home connectivity is to have Cat 6 Ethernet cables installed throughout the home with wireless access points placed in key areas, thus providing whole-house coverage. Of course, cabling an entire home is a big job, which is why your connectivity requirements need to be decided early in the planning stage.

I won’t bore you with the fine details of cabling, but it’s important to understand that it’s far more complicated than running a few cables behind the skirting boards. A hidden, integrated cable installation requires a full cable design for the property, which includes a unique ID for every cable so we know exactly where each one starts and ends – which is essential for future maintenance.

Even if you don’t plan on having a sophisticated AV or smart home system immediately, it’s worth having the cabling installed to future-proof your home so that you don’t have to rip open walls to install new cabling if you decide to expand in the future.

One Rack to Rule Them All

Each smart lighting, climate control, security, or AV system you install in your home will come with its own hardware and control panel. While you can set up a Sonos system or a basic home cinema yourself without much issue, if you want to expand beyond that and if you want the web of cabling and equipment clutter to be hidden away, you’ll soon find yourself beyond the realms of DIY.

Instead of having various set-top boxes and AV equipment scattered around the house, the best option is to have a dedicated room which contains a “rack” of all AV equipment and manual control panels in a central location. All the equipment is then wired up with a combination of Cat 6, 2-core speaker and coax cables so that their signal can be transmitted around the home and controlled via smart devices, remotes or wall panels.

This AV room also needs to be well ventilated or even actively cooled, because an electronics-packed AV rack generates a lot of heat, particularly some of the low-grade equipment supplied by internet and TV providers which are unfortunately mandatory in order to receive their services.

You’ve probably already guessed a problem: in London, space is at a premium, and dedicating a room to equipment alone can be a hard sell for many clients. But if you want advanced smart home and AV systems, the equipment has to go somewhere, and having a centralised, cooled location for all equipment to be housed and for all cables to lead makes long-term maintenance far easier and cheaper.

Visit McAllister AV to learn more

If you’d like to explore some of the projects I’ve worked on, you can visit my website at and you can always give me a call on 02083337912.