The equipment rack holds not one media server but two. At the front door there’s a fingerprint scanner, a surveillance camera and an intercom nestled within a sleek, modern pedestal. Outside, a weather station instructs the draperies and thermostats to adjust. And those are just a few of the innovative high-tech features in Wolfgang and Cornelia Haerle’s 5,000-square-foot automated home. “We considered every possibility before we started building,” says Wolfgang. He and his wife even went so far as to place an LCD TV behind a two-way mirror in the powder room. The 15-inch monitor activates automatically when the door shuts and can be tuned to any video source by pressing a button on a wall-mounted keypad.
The Haerles had good reasons for going all out. First and foremost, they wanted a self-sufficient home that would give them more time to spend with their children Julian, 11, and Maja, 9. This meant investing in a system that could handle routine household chores such as locking the doors, turning off the lights and shutting the drapes. Also important to Wolfgang and Cornelia was that the house feel comfortable and safe. Last but not least, the well-appointed home would need to serve as a living laboratory where Wolfgang could test new systems for his Gulfport, FL–based electronics installation business, MaJul Total Home Technology, and a place where he could bring prospective clients to experience a wide array of technologies in a realistic home setting. “It definitely makes a difference when people can see the systems working in a house rather than in a showroom,” says Wolfgang.
Embracing the Differences
That difference is apparent the second you step to the front door. Mounted adjacent to the entry is a stylish intercom station featuring a biometric fingerprint scanner. The scanner precludes the need for a traditional door lock and keys, as it grants access into the home by reading the pattern of a visitor’s fingerprint. If the device recognizes the fingerprint, the door unlocks; if not, the door stays shut. Wolfgang programmed the fingerprints of each family member into the Siedle door station and added a few lights and security sensors to the scenario. When the Siedle station trips the lock, select interior lights flip on and the security system disarms.
In the foyer, Wolfgang and his guests are presented with another control station, this one a security panel from Home Automation Inc. Here, touching a home button sets in motion a completely new sequence of events. Additional lights engage, motorized draperies open, music plays and the temperature adjusts to a comfortable setting.
Taming the Technology
From here on out, an assortment of Crestron touchpanels take over. Wolfgang peppered a combination of wall-mounted and portable units throughout the residence, and he programmed all of them to synchronize the operation of hundreds of devices, including lights, security sensors, audio and video components, motorized TV lifts, drapery tracks, and swimming pool and hot tub equipment. Remarkably, it takes only a few button taps to adjust them all. A spa command, for instance, activates the hot tub, whole-house music system, and exterior lights. entertain, meanwhile, lights up the interior and exterior of the house to welcome guests. Engaging the play button on the office touchpanel lowers the shades, dims the lights, spins the ceiling fan, and powers up the Xbox 360 and the 50-inch LG plasma TV for a serious gaming session. The Crestron home management system is even on call during the wee hours of the night. Touching the midnight snack button, for example, instantly illuminates a pathway from the third-floor bedrooms to the kitchen.
Firing out a single command to control dozens of devices is certainly an efficient way to run a household, but there are some changes that happen automatically for the Haerles. For example, when the outdoor temperature reaches a certain point, the Davis weather station signals motorized draperies throughout the house to close to keep out the heat. The station also disengages the sprinkler system temporarily when there’s been a recent rainfall. A connection to a weather website also prevents the Rain8net irrigation system from watering the lawn by disengaging the sprinklers if any precipitation is forecasted over the next 72 hours.
Even when the Haerles are vacationing, the Crestron system keeps things in order. Having been fitted with special software, the system lets Wolfgang and Cornelia monitor the status of every integrated device and alter settings remotely from a laptop computer or a mobile device such as their Pocket PC–based cell phone. “Whatever I can do while I’m inside the house I can do while I’m away,” Wolfgang enthuses. For example, should the system show that the house is too warm, he can bump up the AC and close the drapes from anywhere in the world.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.