Home Toys Article
- June 2007 -
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Smart Homes are Here
The prevalence of smart home technologies is much greater now than even five years ago. More and more builders are beginning to include pre-wiring in houses for cable TV, computer networks, alarm systems and distributed audio.
Due to recent changes in technology smart home systems with distributed audio / video, lighting control and other automation are now becoming more advanced, less expensive and more widespread. People like the "Smiths" (who wish to remain anonymous) can now enjoy the convenience and security of technologies that were previously out of their price range and until now would have required extensive rewiring of their house. The Smiths had a Control4 system installed by Advanced Home LLC of Panama City Beach, FL. Their new system gives them many new technological conveniences. For example; the Smiths now get a picture message sent to their cell phones and email accounts from a hidden camera if someone enters their front door during certain predetermined hours. In some major cities it is even possible to have the video from their cameras streamed to their cell phones. They also get a text message sent to their phones whenever someone rings the doorbell. What they enjoy the most is being able to control all of their electronic equipment and more with a single remote.
The recent advances in technology allow the Smiths to have their music distributed wirelessly throughout their home without needing to run wires from a central location. They can now hear their satellite radio synchronized all around the house, or even plug in a single iPod and listen to three different streams of music from it simultaneously.
The Smiths have a Control4 media controller that allows them to store and scan through their music collection by the album cover art or different search preferences on any of their touch screen remotes or even on the screen of their family room plasma TV. Allowing them to choose what music they want to listen to in each location. When it's movie time they can hit a button on their remote to dim the lights and lower the shades. They can then scan through the cover art for their 400 DVD's on the big screen and play any one with little effort by selecting it with a remote. All of this is experienced on their high end system that has been set up and audio / video calibrated for optimum performance by Dan Brock of Advanced Home LLC who is a CEDIA and THX certified technician that comes from an information technology background.
New technologies allow light switches and outlets to be installed and controlled wirelessly, and they operate on their own mesh network along with remote controls and other devices allowing each unit to become a transmitter thereby increasing the strength and reach of the wireless mesh network. The Smith house has almost all of their lamps and light fixtures hooked up so they can turn any single light or group of lights on or off with any remote. When they leave the house they can hit a single button by the door and turn off a selection of lights, arm the alarm, and change the thermostat setting. They can hit another button when they return to turn on specific lights as well as their favorite music selection and adjust the thermostat back to normal.
These new technologies integrate with the internet
to automatically look up the cover art for your movies and music, send
messages to your email or phone, and allow you to control your house
while you are away.
The Smiths system is set up to remind them with a text message to their phones if they have left the garage door open. It will then close it for them after a specified amount of time. The music and lights turn on in the garage the moment it is opened and the LED lights on the keypad by the front door change from blue to green whenever the garage is open to ensure that they know it.
When the Smiths leave town they can turn on and off lights, adjust the thermostat and more over a secure internet connection. They can even open the garage to let in a neighbor if Mrs. Smith may have forgotten to unplug her curling iron before leaving town. Even better yet, they will get messages sent to their email and cell phones if the water heater bursts, the refrigerator stops working, or the heat or air conditioning goes on the fritz, allowing them to get problems solved while they are out of town and avoiding awful surprises upon their return.
The cost involved with smart home technologies has dropped rapidly over recent years like many other technologies. This can be contributed to the lowering costs of LCD's, computers and the fact that there are now more companies providing products in the smart home arena. So now more people can start every day like the Smiths by being awaken by their favorite music slowly getting louder in their room, and the lights slowly getting brighter as the dimmers turn up and the blinds open on their own. They can even have the news channel turn on automatically in their bathroom so they get informed while they brush their teeth.
The prevalence of smart home technologies is much greater now than even five years ago. More and more builders are beginning to include pre-wiring in houses for cable TV, computer networks, alarm systems and distributed audio. The Smiths have wireless security cameras that work over their computer network, had their house been pre-wired than they could use the existing network wiring to power the cameras and send the video signal. If you take a look at new houses across the country, most of them now have structured wiring cabinets where all of the pre-wiring for the house originates. These structured wiring cabinets are now becoming almost as common a site as the circuit breaker cabinet. The Smiths have most of their centralized wiring going to a high tech looking equipment rack that is recessed into the wall like a modern work of art, freeing up the area around their plasma TV and eliminating the entertainment center. All of the wiring is hidden from view and accessed from the back door of the cabinet in the closet that the cabinet is sunk into.
As more and more homes start enjoying movies and distributed audio at home they are finding how much more there is to the technology experience than a surround sound system and a universal remote.
How nice it must be to be able to access and control your house from an alarm clock sized touch screen that sits on your nightstand. If you are too warm, just turn down the heat; if you hear a noise, turn on all the lights; if you want to listen to some jazz then browse through a list of artists on your media controller or select them all to play randomly; all from the comfort of your bed.
Mr. Smith loves it when guests are coming over. He just hits the button labeled "PARTY" on the keypad by the front door and it plays his party music play list throughout the house and from the rocks outside on the porch at a preset volume. It turns on the accent lighting by the fireplace, dims the lights in the hallways and guest bathroom, turns on the fountain and party lights outside, and even fires up the bug zapper that is hidden in the backyard. He also likes showing guests how his handheld remote can control every function on the system without having to point it at anything; even from across the street at the neighbors house.
The recent advances in technology have begun to bring smart home technology to the masses at prices that won't break the bank. This convergence of technology and the home will continue to become a bigger part of our everyday lives as things like smart ovens that will cool your food until it's time to cook it, or media servers that store all of your movies as well as music on large hard drives. We can be thankful that there are businesses like Advanced Home LLC of Panama City Beach out there to help us make the transition to our own smart homes.