The world of pre-programmed electronics has come a long way from the vacation settings of living room lights turning on at 5 and off at 11. Now, whole houses can be programmed with the flip of a switch and a touch of an app.
Henry Johnson, owner of Digital Architecture Inc. in Montclair, NJ, believes that everyone will have home automation systems installed into their homes in the near future. The systems’ soaring popularity can be mostly credited to advancements in technology, which mean expanded programming options and reduced costs.
In the past, home systems were operated onsite. Now, most functions are done through the Internet, and everything from outside watering systems to lowering shades and turning on the heat can be done remotely. The change streamlines lifestyles and home interiors. “We can communicate with so many more devices in your home,” Johnson comments on the home automation systems. “Once I have your IP address, it’s like your home address, and we can control all the devices sitting on your network.”
There are many do-it-yourself models on the market, but many people hire an outside systems integrator. Prices range from several thousand dollars for specialty features to tens of thousands for a full-home system.
“You can have your whole home set in one touch,” states Tim McInerney, director of product marketing for Savant, a leader in home automation products. He explains that the “capture” feature on Savant’s app allows homeowners to simply press a button to store electronics for future use. All the systems are based on latitude and longitude, so they take into account time changes and climate needs.
“Imagine coming home. You’re making dinner, the kids are watching television, your favorite Pandora station is playing, the temperature is right,” says McInerney, setting up the scene. “Just hit ‘capture’ and that scene is stored in the system’s memory, called something like ‘Preparing Dinner.’” When you eat, simply select another scene-setting called ‘Eating Dinner,’ and the lights and music in the dining room will turn on, while the kitchen lights and the television turn off. “We call it a single app home,” he notes.
Don’t be intimidated though; home automation can be as involved or as limited as people want. “You can start with just one room – one goal – such as I want to get all the remotes off the coffee table,” says McInerney. Johnson has seen the other end of the home automation spectrum. People’s thermostats can be activated as they drive home, simply by the interface of Google maps and the home system. “A good system is going to learn the functionality of the house [and] your personal schedule,” Johnson tells.
Condensing the electronic functions not only results in saving energy, but also creates a cleaner, sleeker living area in the home. “The approach is to keep it (electronics, switches, wires, cables, thermostats, etc.) out of the way,” shares Jordan Wills, director of marketing for Cloud9 Smarthome in Manhattan, which works with home streamlining, particularly in the audio and music arena.
“We work with architects, and their main concern is that we’re not messing up the vibe of the room with too much technology,” adds Wills. Cloud9 Smarthome will build speakers into walls and ceilings, as well as create an electronic closet that will house entertainment equipment.
Johnson will run everything into one control panel so that nothing comes in the way of living spaces. Room thermostats can be the size of a dime and mounted flush to a wall. Rooms that once had eight light switches can now have one. Security, outside lighting, watering and garage doors can all be part of the system. “There’s a brain inside the house remembering all these things,” says Johnson.
With technology advancing so quickly, who knows what could be next? Whatever it may be, we’ll be satisfied with a push of a button for now.