Renovated Home Gets Automation Update

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Credit: John Faier

Friendly software allows these homeowners to tweak their AMX system with ease from any of the 7,000-square-foot home's touchpanels.


Sep. 08, 2010 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Once most high-end home control systems are programmed and installed, there isn’t much homeowners can do to reconfigure the settings other than call their electronics contractors—and that usually means additional labor charges. The owners of our home of the month never worry about that expense, though.

Thanks to a web-based software application provided to them by their custom electronics professionals (CE pros), they’re free to modify their system whenever they please, and without financial repercussions. Called LivSystem, it’s provided these homeowners a simple set of tools to manage and maintain their own home control system from their computer, iPhone and other Internet-connected devices. It’s also saved the CE pros at Chicago–based Integrisys hundreds of hours of manpower.

The software resides on an AMX NetLinx home control processor, but can be accessed from any of this 7,000-square-foot home’s 14 touchpanels.

Beta Testers
As one of Integrisys’ first clients to use LivSystem, the owners of this renovated home have already done their share of tweaking.

Ordinarily, an adjustment like this might require that we roll a truck to the residenceIntegrisys founder, George Velazquez

Take the SPORTS button found on any the home’s wall-mounted and portable touchpanels. The button was originally programmed by Integrisys so a high-def satellite DVR routed prerecorded Green Bay Packers games to every flat-panel LCD and plasma display in the house. However, the family can always log on to their online LivSystem Configurator tool to have the SPORTS button do something completely different—like send the game to the TVs only in the kitchen and home theater.

“Ordinarily, an adjustment like this might require that we roll a truck to the residence,” says Integrisys founder and owner George Velazquez. Other programming adjustments in the residence could involve the lights, thermostats, motorized shades, audio equipment and security functions.

Big-Time Video
The control options in this tricked-out house seem endless, given the number of electronics tied to the AMX processor and LivSystem. The video distribution network alone could entertain a small village. High-def video from 23 DVRs, four Apple TV players and three Kaleidescape media servers are transmitted over a network of high-speed cabling to any of 14 flat-panel TVs and the home theater’s Runco 1080p video projector. The family didn’t hold back on the size of their displays, either. There’s a 9-foot motorized screen in the theater, a 60-inch plasma in an upstairs media room and a 70-inch Sony Bravia LCD TV in the kitchen. Even the two guest rooms are well appointed, each with its own 42-inch display.

While video is a family favorite, the screens that pepper the residence are remarkably understated. They had to be, says Velazquez, given that the turn-of-the-century brownstone sits in a protected historic landmark district. Integrisys employed several clever installation techniques to prevent the big displays from marring the home’s architectural character. A 26-inch TV in the master bathroom, for example, was mounted behind a Séura vanity mirror. The image from the TV appears through the glass only when it’s turned on; otherwise it’s invisible. In the den, which features original wood paneling, a TV was tucked into an alcove above the doorway so it’s only noticeable when the owner is sitting at his desk.

Even the mammoth screen in the theater is undetectable at times. It rolls up into a ceiling cavity on command from a handheld remote, touchpanel or iPhone—or it can disappear automatically, based on the time of day.

Simple Controls
The AMX touchpanels, however, were left out in the open. As the owners’ direct link to LivSystem and all the electronics in their house, the control panels need to be easily accessible, explains Velazquez. Therefore, nearly every room has its own wall-mounted unit—and most areas also boast handheld remotes.

Integrisys used its LivSystem software to ensure that the most relevant controls are at the ready. For example, the 10-inch wall-mounted panel in the garage defaults to commands that pertain mostly to the security system. “This is the area where the family enters and leaves the home, so having security controls up front and center made sense,” Velazquez says.

The menu on the screen in the theater presents a completely different set of options: WATCH TV, WATCH MOVIE and LEAVE. Of course, the family can always drill deeper into the offerings to access commands for other rooms. And they can enact global commands that impact the entire house. MORNING, EVENING, GOOD NIGHT and GOOD NIGHT WITH GUESTS all arrange the lights, thermostats, motorized shades and security systems differently. The homeowners can use the scheduling feature of the LivSystem software to program a whole-house mode to activate at a certain time of day, or the family can override the internal timer and activate the mode on a whim.

All Mapped Out
If the owners need to do something specific, such as brighten and dim the lights on the Lutron HomeWorks system, they go to a preconfigured lighting page. Commands can be issued from a touchpanel, but in a house where hundreds of fixtures are tied to the system, it’s easier for the family to hit buttons on the lighting keypads that replaced old light switches.

The intensity levels and fade rates of every light were programmed into the HomeWorks system by Integrysis, but again, the LivSystem software is there for any adjustments the owners wish to make. In the case of lighting, this is pretty much a given, says Velazquez. A new piece of artwork or a rearrangement of furniture, for example, can call for a different lighting setup. To change the settings, the owners call up a map that identifies the position of each light within a room. From there, they touch the lighting icon and use simple tools like sliders and clock timers to change the intensity, add it to a group of lights, or put in on a schedule.

Automatic Updates
Having lived with the AMX NetLinx system and LivSystem software for more than a year, the family has molded the operation of their electronic components to fit their lifestyle.

That’s not to say that things won’t change, though. The engineers at Integrisys are continually refining and adding new features to the software—and the updates can be pushed to the owners’ system remotely from the Integrysis server. The family doesn’t have to do a thing other than give Integrisys the go-ahead.

As tricked out as this home is, it doesn’t appear there would be much to add, but according to Integrisys, in the world of automation there’s always something new to explore, such as the LivSytem’s energy management application. The homeowners haven’t expressed a need for it yet, but it’s there when they’d like a way to monitor and manage their energy use, says Velazquez. Recent downloadable upgrades include the ability to control the house via an iPad as well as through the keypad of an IP-enabled telephone system.


Systems Design and Installation
Integrisys
Chicago, Ill.
www.integrisys.com

Architect
Olsen Vranas Architecture and Design
Chicago, Ill.

Interior Designer
Bianne Bishop
Chicago, Ill.

Equipment List
Home Control: AMX
Heating/Cooling: Carrier
Whole-House Audio: AMX Autopatch
Whole-House Video: AMX Autopatch
Lighting & Shades: Lutron
Home Theater: Runco, Stewart Filmscreen, Integra and Sonance
Displays: Runco, Séura, Sony, LG
Security: Elk Products



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