A Home So Smart It Talks
Audible reminders like "Take a pill" help homeowners in their 70s, with assists from Control4 and SpeakerCraft.
May 01, 2012 by Lisa Montgomery

Not everyone who puts sophisticated electronics into a home is a fan of high-tech. In fact, some are vehemently opposed to it. The owners of this 3,400-square-foot home in a suburb of Chicago were thinking only of new countertops, flooring and fixtures during a massive renovation that started three years ago. Now they are on the cutting edge, enjoying a home control system that provides them with audible and visual reminders of family birthdays and to take medications. Their smarter and improved home can even remind them to take out the trash.

It was only per the suggestion of their architect and interior designer, John Regas of J.P. Regas and Associates in Chicago, that Paul and Senya Kalpake contacted a custom electronics design and installation firm to learn about their high-tech options. The architect felt that technology would help the owners, who are both in their 70s, better manage and enjoy their home, says Jacek Zaworski, president of Procom Enterprises in Elk Grove Village, Ill. Respectful of the owners’ doubts, Zaworski suggested that they incorporate technology into their home by bits and pieces. “Most people understand the benefits of having a security system,” says Zaworski, “so that’s what we started with.”

As the home was being remodeled, Procom pulled the appropriate cabling, plus a little extra on the chance that the Kalpakes would add more amenities as the project progressed. To the GE NX8E security panel Procom wired a variety of different sensors, including contacts on every door and window, glass-break detectors, smoke and heat detectors and a sump pump sensor. A standard security keypad mounted by each exterior door would allow the owners to arm and disarm the system. There was nothing fancy or unfamiliar about this setup, but it offered Procom and the owners a solid stepping stone into other, more exciting features. One of these features was the addition of specialty screens on the windows. Fitted with trip wires and sensors, the screens allow the owners to open the windows without jeopardizing their security. Procom shipped the existing window screens to Secura-Screens, which added the necessary technology that would enable them to be tied to the GE security system.

“They can arm only the screens, just the windows or both,” says Zaworski. In addition to security, intercoms and remote controls were within the owners’ comfort zone. Building off the basic concepts of communication and control, Procom introduced the Kalpakes to new, modern ways of using each device. For an intercom system, Procom installed a Panasonic phone system. In addition to functioning like a traditional telephone, each handset can be used to converse with a visitor at the front door, to page someone inside the house, and to patch an incoming call to a different extension. If someone rings the doorbell while the owners are away, their cell phones ring, and they can converse with the visitor just as if they were using one of the Panasonic phones at home. And rather than have the owners deal with multiple remotes—as they may have done before the remodel—Procom unified the operation of every A/V device into a single clicker, the SR-250 from Control4.

“They really liked the idea of being able to put all of their equipment in a rack in the basement and use the Control 4 remote to operate their entertainment system from any room,” says Zaworski. As a bonus, he purchased an iPad for the owners and downloaded Control4’s MyHome app to it so they could use the iPad to access and control two high-def cable DVRs (one for storing her action movies; the other for his old black-and-white sitcoms), a Blu-ray player and an Apple TV box. The app will let the owners control any type of device that’s connected to the Control4 HC-300 system controller (see sidebar).

A SnapAV HDMI switcher directs audio and video signals from the A/V components, which includes two color surveillance cameras, to 12 music zones, three Samsung LED 3D TVs and one Samsung LCD TV. Commands issued by either the Control4 remote, iPad or 7-inch in-wall touchpanel tell the HDMI switcher precisely where to send the music and video.

To simplify control over the A/V distribution system, Procom organized the owners’ music collection into several playlists. Now all they need to do is touch a button on the iPad labeled sinatra, for example, to play their favorite tunes on every speaker in the house, most of which are flush-mounted in-ceiling models from SpeakerCraft. Sometimes, the speakers surprise the owners by playing something on their own. Procom scheduled a series of prerecorded messages to play through the audio system automatically. A verbal reminder—also displayed on every TV screen—of loved ones’ birthdays and anniversaries has become one of the owners’ favorite features, Zaworski says. It’s also one of the newest amenities, having been added to the Control4 system months after the initial installation was complete. It’s an approach that works well for the homeowners. They are able to live with the technology and become comfortable with it before adding something new. Next up, says Zaworski, is scheduling a few of the interior lights to turn on and off automatically, and having the motorized shades open and close at sunrise and sunset.

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

Systems & Equipment

Control: Control4
A/V Distribution: Control4
Phone System: Panasonic, Logenex
Video Displays: Samsung
Speakers: SpeakerCraft


Home Size: 3,400 square feet
Cost: $42,000 (includes installation and labor)
Project Duration: 8 months
Construction: Retrofit

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