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We look at dynamic companies and entrepreneurs in the region, what makes them tick and the buzz on their business. Haidi Esper, founder and General Manager of Shifra Smart Homes, the company leading the way in innovative home technology, talks to us about the exciting future of domestic multimedia integrations.

iPad Interface which is used to control anything from the lighting to music

In a nutshell

Name: Haidi Esper

Designation: General Manager

Company: Shifra Smart Homes

Industry: Residental Homes

Date it was founded: February 2005

Number of employees: Under 25

Location: Dubai Internet City

Website: www.shifrasmarthomes.com

Recognitions: Best enterprise in the Construction and Real Estate category at the SME Advisor Stars of Business Awards, 2010

Tell us a bit about yourself, what motivates you, your background.

The motivation of starting and running this company stems from passion of a concept I have been working on for about four and a half years. I have worked hard and spent sleepless nights researching and developing my own solution to finally come up with the end result of the Shifra Smart Homes offering. Whenever someone asked me, what would you do if you had a million dollars and didn’t have to work? My answer would be to open up my own research laboratory and experiment with technologies and come up with my own innovations. Shifra Smart Homes is exactly that!

It is an opportunity for me to create and innovate not only to reach this specific point in time, but also to progress and develop what Shifra Smart Homes can do. My vision is to create a new trend in home technology by bringing advanced home automation and multimedia experiences to all homes in the region. By creating this trend, I want to evolve the engineering sector in the region from consumer to one that researches and develops its own technologies in collaboration with scientists, researches, students and universities.

Tell us more about your business.

Shifra Smart Homes is a System Integrator in the home automation industry that provides the hardware and software necessary to create a turn-key solution to deliver automation of lights, appliances, HVAC, curtains, security systems, IR systems, surveillance and multi-room multimedia (pictures, music, videos, movies) distribution.

Ahmad El Khatib, a business owner in Dubai Internet City (Shifra Middle East) took interest in the idea and encouraged me to develop it into a real professional product, which I did during the past 14 months. The biggest challenge is to come up with a solution that is stable, affordable and truly has an added value. Another challenge was to create something that once you have in your home you will not be able to live without.

What customer, industry or social benefits does your business provide?

I was able to accomplish this by creating what I call self-healing features in the software. This innovation literary makes the smart home not only smart enough to automate your lights, but also smart enough to fix itself. An affordable solution has to do with the technology used. Unlike any other competitor in the market, I use technologies that were created for residential homes and these are definitely affordable.

Advanced Logic is making automation decisions based on state of the house. With Shifra Smart Homes, one can simply change the state of his house or room with the press of a button to adjust settings. Shifra use motion sensors to detect presence in a room at a certain time of day. For example, if you walk into your bedroom after work in the evening, the system will automatically adjust the air conditioning, turn on lights, close curtains and play your favourite music.

Multimedia Integration is the greatest and best innovation we have. Today, everyone’s lifestyle is revolving around multimedia.  Music, videos, movies, pictures and sharing of all this content is becoming more and more popular. Shifra Smart Homes tackles this need by doing multi-room music, video, movie, picture distribution. This means that every TV in every room will see all the multimedia content shared in the house. You can watch two different movies in two different rooms, or play one music playlist in all the rooms of the house.

What is also incredible about our Multimedia solution is that it is fully integrated with the automation. Integration between the world of home automation (lights, a/c) and multimedia means that you can press a button and dim your lights and put music on automatically, or if you insert a DVD to play, the curtains will automatically close and lights go off.

What is innovative about your approach? How do you see yourself in comparison to competition?

The Smart Homes solution is relatively new to the region and during the past five years companies have installed hardware based on KNX technology. This solution has not achieved much growth because KNX based solutions are expensive and are hard wired which means they can only be installed in homes currently in the construction phase. Shifra Smart Homes brings software that can tie together hardware based on Z-wave technology, which is about 25%-50% of KNX hardware cost making it more available and affordable to customers.

What are your immediate plans and where do you see yourself and your company five years from now?

In the next five years, I see the company growing from not only catering to individual homes, but also to communities. Imagine a city that is completely Smart. Imagine the benefits to lifestyle and energy saving when this can be done at a much larger scale. I dream of taking Shifra Smart Homes from a business to a knowledge community. I want this business to be home for people who love technology and who are not afraid of making bold steps and creating something of their own.

Rushika Bhatia

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.