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Lee Nunn, Technical Director of Union Systems, talks about Wondrwall’s intelligent home solution

Lee, tell us about Union Systems

We were formed in 2008 and specialise in the installation and integration of smart home technology including home networking, AV solutions, HVAC, blinds, lighting control and energy management.

We were ahead of the automated home curve at the time, and for a few years we concentrated on smaller property developers in and around Suffolk.

As the sector has taken off it has enabled us to penetrate the lucrative London market which today forms 100% of our business. Our focus and speciality is now MDU (Multi Dwelling Units) projects – we’ve come a long way in a short period of time.

What was your own background prior to setting up Union Systems?

I spent my early career in fibre optic engineering working with clients like BT and Telewest. Over the years I got to understand their vision for the future home. I had my lightbulb moment when I grasped that the market needed a home media network solution to support future media streaming & automation technologies that were just around the corner.

Tell us about the type of project Union Systems have been working on recently.

We just scooped a national award for the work we did on a 150-luxury apartment scheme at The Lexicon in Islington where we designed and installed our automation and control systems. It was built by the same people who engineered Dubai’s Burj Khalifa so we’re pretty proud of that and feel that the project really showcases what we do.

What’s the potential for the home automation market? Why are you focussed on this area?

This is market is growing exponentially and has huge long-term potential. The connected home as a concept is happening and demand is high. When we started in home automation all those years ago, it was a bloody hard sell, but developers these days are much more receptive. I think they know now that they can’t afford not to be.

What makes Union systems special?

We wanted to differentiate ourselves from other installers and took the view to employ our engineers & permanently staff our projects, which is unusual in the AV & smart home space. That way, our clients get onsite coordination with other trades & physical installation in real time which all adds up to a smoother service.

I’m also a big believer in nurturing home-grown talent and we offer excellent training and career prospects. Technicians typically come to us with a couple of years’ basic experience in a related field. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing them develop into highly skilled engineers over the course of a few years.

Why should housebuilders install home automation?

Firstly, prices have plummeted recently and it is no longer purely the preserve of the well-off.  Secondly, demand has sky rocketed; the generation that have grown up with a device in their hand are now starting to buy their own homes and they have high expectations. Finally, I think smart home technology is maturing; my sense is that we are over the gimmicks we saw a lot of 4/5 years ago and want to see more tangible and practical home solutions now.

Why did you decide to start offering Wondrwall?

Once I saw the product, its functionality and then the price point, it was a Eureka moment for me! A whole house solution with high end functionality but at a mass market price.

Like the guys at Wondrwall, I think the “intelligent” home is where the smart home market is now headed. Wondrwall allows homeowners to use one system to control everything in their home rather than a confusing number of different apps. The “intelligent” component it is that over time Wondrwall learns how you live and adapts your heating, lighting and security accordingly – it basically gives your home a brain.

I especially like Alexa – for many years voice control has been the Holy Grail in home automation and the fact that Wonderwall incorporates Amazon’s push to talk platform into every light switch, is a major selling point. Wondrwall haven’t reinvented the home automation wheel but they have used standard protocols in an ingenious way.

What type of project is Wondrwall best suited to?

I think because Wondrwall is at the price point that the mass market will accept but also has the functionality you’d expect in a top spec home, that it will tick the box for most projects.

It’s really easy to install and configure. Property developers will love the fact that they don’t need to preconfigure the wiring which of course has the benefit that it can be offered as an upgrade to home buyers.

What has the reception to Wondrwall been so far?

This is the best reception I’ve ever had to a product!

The functionality and price point have made it a very compelling proposition for developers. Over the last few months, every new scheme we’ve pitched for has asked to be priced up with Wondrwall. The pipeline is looking very good.

Any plans to install Wondrwall in your own home?

Yes, without a doubt, I’ll be putting the whole system in, it’s a no brainer for me.