January 20, 2012
| by Lisa Montgomery
After a long day pounding the show floor pavement at the Consumer Electronic Show, it feels oh so nice to get back to the hotel room—even more so when that room is automated. I use the term “automated” loosely, as the only part of my two-night stay at the Aria that was truly automated was the first minute or so. As I entered the room for the first time, the drapes and sheers opened, music started playing the lights gradually brightened. Was I impressed? Yes. More than that, though, the welcome scenario made that smallish space seem a lot friendlier, and well, welcoming.
In typical Control4 style, wall-mounted keypads let me set groups of lights for reading, sleeping and waking up by just tapping a button. My favorite was the keypad by the door. Here, I could press a button to request that my room be serviced or that I not be disturbed. The appropriate icon by my door in the hallway illuminated to alert the Aria staff—kind of like hanging out a modern-day, electronic “Do Not Disturb” sign.
No Control4 system is complete without a touchpanel, and my room had one, as well as a hard-buttoned handheld remote. The touchpanel—the far sexier of the controls—happened to be on the nightstand by my side of the bed. Nice. My hubby got the remote. Both eager to test drive the controls, we started pushing buttons—in my case, icons. We toyed around with the window treatments, parting the shades half-way, leaving the drape open, closing both—any arrangement we could think of. The controls worked flawlessly. We played around with the lights, again, success. At times, the system got confused and devices failed to respond—we chalked it up to too many commands being thrown at it at the same time. Obviously, we needed to take turns.
If you need a little instruction in the use of the control system, Aria provides an online .PDF so you can study up before you arrive.
A nice feature of the Control4 system that came in particularly handy for my remote-wielding husband was the on-screen display. Using the buttons of the remote he could navigate the same interface that I could on the touchpanel. The only difference was that his interface showed up on the screen of the room’s ample-size flat-panel TV.
The main menu of this interface presented icons for controlling the motorized draperies, the lights, the thermostat, the audio and the video. The A/V should have been fun, but it ended up being quite frustrating. There were an awful lot of choices; scrolling through them was quite a chore, considering the “slow” response time of the Control4 system. I’d press a button; when I didn’t hear or see anything I’d naturally press the button again, which brought up a song I really didn’t want to hear or a show I really didn’t want to watch. Eventually, I learned to be patient—to let the system catch up with my commands. The same punch-and-wait exercise had to be applied when setting up a wakeup routine, which was one of the coolest high-tech features of my room. Using the touchpanel, I told the Control4 system to wake me up at 6 by opening the sheers and drapes, gradually bringing up the lights and playing music from a soft-rock station. It’s a much better way to wake up than to the sound of a blaring alarm.
All said and done—my stay was a hit. The automation system enhanced the luxurious design and atmosphere of the room. Once I was in that room, I never wanted to leave.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.