March 12, 2009
| by Lisa Montgomery
It takes a powerful automation system to bring together a home’s lights, thermostats, audio/video and security systems into one seamless network. Sometimes, all the pieces must come from a single manufacturer, or a professional home systems installer must spend countless hours programming the system to get all its disparate pieces to work in harmony.
To homeowner Mike Kreaden, these prospects seemed limiting and complicated in 15 years of living in his contemporary 1950s home, so he had never considered having an automation system installed.
Meeting of the Minds
It was a chance meeting at a local home show with a company called Exceptional Innovation that changed his mind completely.
“When I saw how the company’s Lifeware software melded the entertainment experience with automation, I was sold,” he says. The fact that the software used Microsoft Media Center as its operating platform didn’t bother the avid Apple Macintosh user. “Media Center’s open nature would offer me an infinite number of possibilities in terms of control, management and entertainment content,” he says.
Ready to cash in on those possibilities, Mike contacted a local Lifeware dealer, Gordon van Zuiden of cyberManor in Los Gatos, Calif. It was the perfect time for Mike to hire a home systems installer. He and his wife were planning a major home renovation, which meant the cyberManor crew would be able to install all the necessary wiring while the walls and floors were exposed.
CyberManor would also build a special equipment closet for the various processors, servers and other essential equipment. Most importantly, van Zuiden and the Kreadens would have ample time to discuss the types of features the family wanted for their home and formulate those ideas into a rock-solid electronics plan.
“I wanted to control as much as possible in the house,” Mike says. Per van Zuiden’s suggestion, the Kreadens exclusively chose products designed around Microsoft’s Media Center operating platform. This would allow the products to integrate easily into Lifeware’s own Media Center-based control scheme. The well-rounded electronics assortment included a Russound CAM 6.6T whole-house audio system, 11 Aprilaire 8870 thermostats to control the radiant floor heating system, and a Lutron HomeWorks lighting system. A dedicated Niveus n9 hard drive was chosen to run the Lifeware software.
There would also be enough additional space on the hard drive for the Kreadens to store nearly all of their digital entertainment content. “We ripped our entire CD collection onto the drive and downloaded lots of iTunes into it,” Mike says.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.