It’s the ultimate dream, and we’re not just talking about having the money to afford a luxurious spread in the desert. This homeowner runs his business from his home, thanks to a high-definition telepresence system that enables him to videoconference with his executives like he’s right there in the boardroom.
And there are plenty of other high-tech goodies that enable him to work from this inspiring desert retreat.
“It’s the ultimate dream, and we’re not just talking about having the money to afford a luxurious spread in the desert. This homeowner runs his business from his home, thanks to a high-definition telepresence system that enables him to videoconference with his executives like he’s right there in the boardroom. And there are plenty of other high-tech goodies that enable him to work from this inspiring desert retreat.
“He felt that he had to get away from the day-to-day and focus on business development,” says Jim Miller, president of electronics installation company Desert Sound & Security in Phoenix, Ariz. “He wanted to stay in touch with his executive team and employees, and he envisioned being able to do a podcast while sitting at his desk. Employees could come into work in the morning and get a message from the president of the company.”
From AMX touchpanels, the owner of this desert oasis can tell if the doors are closed… and locked. High-tech installation company Desert Sound & Security, Phoenix, Ariz., rigged the doors with devices that could tell the AMX system and the homeowner that his house is safe and sound. The company fitted Albertini doors that have three-lock mechanisms with magnets that detect when mechanisms in the lock move in place to secure the door. For doors without the three-lock mechanism, the company installed push-in contacts to determine if they are locked.
But why settle for a podcast, when he can sit at his conference table in suburban Phoenix and talk to his employees in Bellevue, Ill.—live?
This homeowner’s commute may only be a walk across a courtyard, but it starts when he wakes, presses a button and a TV in the bedroom turns on to the morning news. He can catch up on more of the news on a 26-inch TV in the master bath, and when he’s done preparing for some time in the office, a door from the master bath senses his approach and automatically opens. He descends the stairway, crosses the courtyard, enters his office wing and presses a button on an AMX touchpanel to start the Cisco telepresence system, then initiates the call on his Panasonic phone. Within minutes he’s talking live to people in his Illinois office.
Although it looks simple when he conducts a videoconference, several different pieces have to work in unison to transmit quality high-definition images across 1,500 miles and allow all the participants to feel as if they’re in the same room.
Desert Sound & Security had to deal with a host of lighting and audio/video issues to pull this off. A 65-inch plasma screen was originally planned for the conference room space, but a Cisco TV was required to properly integrate with the telepresence system. Only Cisco didn’t have a screen that size—until the company made this one.
Miller’s company had to dismantle the pedestal system the TV came on to mount the display above the fireplace, where homeowner wanted it. Small speakers that fire from the bottom bezel were swapped for better-quality custom-made speakers from Triad. Desert Sound also disassembled the side panels and rebuilt them so they shine light from slots, and the crew worked with a lighting designer to get just the right amount of light on the subject.
Proper lighting levels and fixture locations are crucial to having a quality telepresence experience, because without proper illumination the subject can appear washed out or with dark shadows covering portions of his face, or the background can look poor. For additional lighting, Desert Sound added some fixtures to a leg of the chandelier and pointed them down. Lights in the ceiling also adjust to different levels, depending on what is being done in the room.
To tame sound reflections in the room, Miller and his crew added motorized draperies that close when it’s videoconferencing time. All of it can be controlled by a 10-inch AMX in-wall touchpanel.
The homeowner or a visitor can also show presentations on the TV from a laptop, by plugging into jacks mounted underneath the conference table.
For impromptu face time with his employees, the homeowner can also access the telepresence system on a second, smaller screen that rises out of his desk in an adjacent space.
More Work and Play
Our busy homeowner isn’t tied to working in his office and conference room. He can work anywhere in the home or by the pool. “He has multiple computers, and wanted spaces outside where he could go and work,” says Miller. “He wanted a document to be available on different laptops in different areas.” So seven T-1 high-speed data lines, some of which are redundant and used for backup, several Cisco switches, and about 15 wireless access points were installed. He can be on a document on one computer and simply go to another and continue to work on the same file, says Miller.
There are plenty of techno-goodies for quality down time, too. More than 20 zones of audio/video deliver entertainment content to Runco and LG displays from a Kaleidescape media server, DirecTV receivers with DVRs, Blu-ray and HD DVD players. There are his and her iPod docks that play through Sonance’s Invisible Series in-wall speakers that fire from behind thin coats of plaster, and the lady of the house can stream music to the speaker in the Kohler shower, which features multiple jets with preset soaking scenes. And when it’s time to relax at the end of the day, a motorized door opens to an outdoor family room equipped with a TV and speakers. EH
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.
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