September 08, 2010
| by Lisa Montgomery
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.
Ordinarily, an adjustment like this might require that we roll a truck to the residenceIntegrisys founder, George Velazquez
As one of Integrisys’ first clients to use LivSystem, the owners of this renovated home have already done their share of tweaking.
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.
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.
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.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.