December 06, 2007
| by Lisa Montgomery
The Lifeware media server has unlocked other conveniences for the family as well. For instance, while one server handles the entertainment, another automates the lights, thermostats and other devices. The dedicated Lifeware home control server displays a similar Media Center–style interface on the Clearwaters’ TV screens. “We just click on the lifeware icon, and we’re in control of our house,” explains Keith. Using a handheld remote to navigate the control menu, the family can operate their Insteon light fixtures, DSC security system and Aprilaire thermostats. Engaging the camera icon displays images from three surveillance cameras on the TV screen.
To make things even easier for the family, Imperium Smart Systems programmed several scenes into the Lifeware software. These scenes allow the Clearwaters to command multiple devices by clicking on just one button on the Media Center interface. A particularly useful scene to the frequently traveling Clearwaters is goodbye. That command arms the security system, turns off the lights, and sets each thermostat to an energy-saving mode. When they’re hanging out at home with friends, entertain can gussy up the house in seconds, piping songs from a preselected CD at a preset volume level to every speaker, turning on lights in the main living areas, and adjusting the settings of the thermostats.
Critical to the Clearwaters’ whole-house Media Center setup are Media Center extenders. Without them, DVR recordings and music, movies, and photos stored on the Lifeware media server would never be able to travel to multiple TVs and computers. As long as a display has a Media Center extender plugged into it, it can receive anything on the Media Center entertainment network. In the Clearwaters’ case, the Media Center extenders take the form of Xbox 360 gaming consoles. Given the ages of the Clearwater children—22, 19, 14 and 13—having an Xbox on every TV has turned out to be an added bonus for the family. “We can play the same game on every TV,” explains Keith. “It’s such a fun way to play that my son’s Boy Scout troop will be holding a housewide video competition here in a few days.” The Clearwaters’ system was also recently named the winner of the Microsoft Ultimate Install Contest. Selected from entries nationwide, it’s a badge of honor the whole family can be proud of.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.