Prices continue to fall in the automation marketplace, as evidenced by a few companies on hand to demonstrate their systems at the Electronic House Expo (EHX) held recently in Orlando, Fla. Honeywell, for example, plans to introduce in early summer an automation system that will be able to be installed for around $2,000. “We’re bringing the price point to a level that’s affordable for the masses,” says Ralph Maniscalco, Honeywell director of marketing communications. “It’s truly a product that any homeowner will be able to have.”
The system won’t skimp on features because of the attractive price tag, though. Designed to be compatible with Z-Wave, ZigBee and IP technologies, which means they can communicate, manage and control hundreds of different products—from Honeywell’s own thermostats to door locks, light switches, surveillance cameras, and audio and video equipment.
Honeywell is weaving a few unique technologies into the system, including the ability for the system to receive and react to information from the utility smart grid. This feature will allow the system to turn on and off certain devices based on the current price of electricity. And while many automation manufacturers are developing iPad and iPhone apps for their products, Honeywell plans to build a web server into its automation controller. Explains Maniscalco: “This will allow the product to be interface agnostic. Consumers will be able to use whichever mobile device they want to control the system—Android, iPad … whatever.” Plus, the web server will allow content, such as weather reports, current events and promotions from the company who installed the system to be streamed directly to the screen of the control pad. Say the installing dealer is running a special on surveillance cameras. He can stream the “infomercial” right to his customers. Another cool feature will be system’s ability to record video from surveillance cameras automatically to an SD card that’s inserted into the controller’s built-in slot.
Another $2,000ish system comes from Legrand. The company’s On-Q Unity Home System supports the control of a multiroom audio system, lights, thermostats and surveillance cameras. The control pads can also function as intercom stations. Recently, Legrand upgraded the system to so that information about the weather and the family schedule can be displayed on the screen of a TV or the Unity touchpanel controller.
For example, families with busy schedules can set event notifications regarding sports practices, birthdays, anniversaries, or work-related outings. Simple reminders can also be set for home sitters to feed family pets or remember garbage and recycling rotations. Or, those simply enjoying time at home can experience the full benefits of the system by coordinating Saturday morning music playlists with their morning alarm or coffee maker to kick-start their day.
Last but not least, a music upgrade provides better integration with iTunes and Windows Media files.
A typical Unity system would include four rooms of intercom, four zones of audio, and one camera. It would also include one LCD Console or TV Display Interface, both of which enable convenient system interaction via graphical user interfaces. This standard system can also be expanded to accommodate a system of up to 32 rooms of intercom, eight zones of audio, four cameras, two LCD Consoles, and up to 16 TV Display Interfaces.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.