It's one thing to read about home automation but quite another to see a real-world system in action.
So we asked Electronics Design Group (EDG), an award-winning installation firm based in Piscataway, N.J., to walk us through a spectacular half-million-dollar project they recently completed in the suburbs of North Jersey.
How spectacular? For starters, music and video is readily accessible throughout the house, window shades and lighting are integrated into a central control system and exterior door locks, kitchen appliances and heating/cooling can be remotely monitored. Best of all: Everything can be controlled by an iPhone/Pad or wall-mounted touchpanels.
"The owner is a tech-savvy guy who wanted to seamlessly integrate every bell and whistle into his home, including stuff that's out of the ordinary - like being able to preheat the oven from his iPhone," explains Project Manager Matt Bolger.
Let's take a closer look at some of the modern amenities that adorn this House of Tech.
Music Everywhere - Fifteen zones of audio fed by an iPod docking station and four Sonos players ensure that music is always just a button-press away. Nearly every room in the house has speakers in the walls or ceiling.
And in areas where the interior designer was adamant about keeping the walls "clean" - the foyer, dining room, living room, and wine cellar - EDG installed panel speakers that literally disappear in the walls (they're actually covered by a thin coat of spackle and paint).
Walk outside and you're treated to an audio setup that Bolger likens to an outdoor concert venue. Sixteen speakers and three in-ground subwoofers serenade two patios and a pool area with a cabana. "The speakers are separated into three zones, and when you combine them it's very impressive," Bolger says.
Pick a Movie, Any Movie - Two centrally located FiOS cable boxes, a Blu-ray player, an Apple TV box and a media player deliver video to the master bedroom, the basement playroom, the study/game room, three guest bedrooms and the gym.
The media player enables big-screen Web surfing and provides a gateway to music and movie streaming services with the ability to store movies on a server "in the cloud" or on a local hard drive.
A dedicated home theater is planned for the future but in the meantime, the family enjoys 5.1 surround sound in the family room, playroom and study. Each space has a flat-panel TV, including a 65-inch model in the study that swings out from the wall.
Intelligent Illumination - The homeowners can control lighting and motorized shades throughout the house from wall-mounted keypads while occupancy sensors provide the ultimate in convenience and help conserve energy. Walk into a room and the lights turn on, adjusted to a predetermined level. Walk out and they turn off after a brief period.
Remote Temperature Control - It takes lots of energy to heat and cool a large home, especially one with 10 zones. Remote control makes it possible to monitor and adjust the temperature in each zone via an app.
Smart Kitchen - In addition to being able to preheat the oven on their way home from work, the homeowners can put the refrigerator in an ice-making "party mode" as well as remotely monitor and adjust the temperature to ensure its contents stay cold while guests help themselves to drinks.
Candid Camera - Security is of paramount importance to the homeowners, so EDG installed a dozen cameras in and around the house. Every camera is linked to a motion sensor and several are equipped with pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities.
"The homeowner wanted to be able to keep an eye on his preschool-age kids when they're in the playroom or out in the yard," Bolger says, adding that "the owner gets a notification on his phone whenever a sensor detects motion."
Smart Driveway - Sensors embedded in the driveway can automatically open the garage door when a car approaches, but that feature won't be fully realized until EDG installs a license-plate camera to identify approaching vehicles. In the meantime, whenever a car pulls, up a barking dog can be heard over speakers in the house.
Cool Pool - Outdoor automation amenities include the ability to adjust pool temperature and lighting on an iPhone or iPad and open or close the pool cover.
Tidy Tech - The forty-some-odd components that make up the backbone of this remarkable system are neatly arranged on racks in a basement equipment room. "We needed a large room to fit everything - one with enough room for us to get behind the racks," Bolger says, adding that a remote management system enables EDG to log in and troubleshoot issues. "A reboot, which we can do remotely, usually fixes the problem."
To learn more about home automation, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.