A lot of people think they need a big space to fit in technology. Stop making excuses and take a peek at what Zac Adams has accomplished in his apartment.
Yes, it’s an apartment. Zac has lived here for five years, 4.5 of which have been complete with some type of high-tech assistence. Currently, the 1,180-square-foot living space houses six touchscreens, whole-house music, temperature control, automated lighting, security, and several sensors. Even the dishwasher and washing machine have automated features built in. And guess what? Zac’s landlord absolutely loves it.
“They’ve actually taken pictures to use in their brochures because they said that nobody has ever done an apartment like this,” Zac says of his landlord at The Columns at Cypress Point in Tampa, Florida.
The reason most people don’t outfit an apartment with high-tech gear is that an apartment seems very temporary. Well, not to Zac. He really has no interest in moving his home automation to well… an actual home. “I’ve done the big house thing,” he says. “Maintenance was horrible. I’ve got better things to spend my money on then to keep a big house up.”
Instead, he started replacing his apartment’s old light switches with Z-Wave switches made by GE. The wireless technology was perfect for this application. It’s inexpensive, easy to retrofit, and reliable. About 18 months after the very first switch went in, Zac found himself with a completely automated apartment.
Despite all of the high-tech features, the wiring in Zac’s apartment is minimal. He’s drilled a few holes and ran a few wires. That said, most of the cables are run under the carpets and most of the equipment is hidden inside a utility closet, which also houses his hot water heater, an AC unit, and a shelf for his computer. That computer is actually the brain behind this entire setup. It runs HomeSeer software, which is tied into everything in the home.
“I like HomeSeer because it gives you the ease of basic setup, but you can go in and write your own scripts,” Zac says. A script is an automated activity run by the program. “You also have a web-based interface, plus it has the amazing ability to pull information from the Internet and act on it.” For example, Zac has a “CNN Breaking News” script. If breaking news happens, Zac will get an alert through his speakers, as well as touchscreens. If he touches one of the touchpads, it will turn on the TV and set it to CNN. He also uses the script to monitor the weather.
Overall, the apartment relies on a mixture of Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and X10 devices—for some of the motion and door sensors. “They’re reliable and pretty cheap,” Zac says.
However, the automated features start at the entrance of Zac’s home, where you’ll find the Yale Real Living lock, which can be opened using a key or a touchpad. He can also send commands from his system or his iPhone 5 to unlock the door, as well as find out the status of the lock. Upon entry, Zac is greeted by his system, which is an upgraded part of HomeSeer. It’s text-to-speech, so it can basically say anything he types in.
The lighting portion has options from both Z-Wave and Philips Hue. However, in the living room, Zac has put Z-Wave and Hue bulbs into every fixture. That way, he can opt for automated lighting or automated lighting with a bit of color.
All of the apartment’s music is routed through a Squeezebox player, can will play tracks off a hard drive or via Rhapsody. That is tied into Autopatch software and HomeSeer. This setup allows Zac to play the Squeezebox through any of the 10 speakers set up around the apartment. There’s even a “follow me” feature, which is also part of HomeSeer.
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Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.