A Home that Talks

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When most people want to find out what’s happening in their day, they either consult the electronic calendar on their phones or the old-fashioned paper version posted on the door of their refrigerator. The busy family who lives in this automated home, however, is benefitting from a calendar that’s gives them the low-down verbally. The reminders, which play through the built-in speakers peppered through the house, occur automatically as programmed into a schedule on a Control4 home control system by custom electronics (CE) pros at Global Custom Integrations (GCI), Hawthorne, N.Y.

After consulting with the homeowners, GCI programmed customized audible reminders into the Control4 system so that it “talks” to the family to remind them of important events. “Things like a family member’s birthday or that it’s trash day are announced at preset days and times,” explains GCI president Dan Hong. The announcements can also be set to broadcast only through the speakers in a specific area, like the kitchen or master bedroom, for instance. And for even more prodding, graphics—like an image of a garbage truck—can be displayed on any and all of the home’s Control4 touchpanels.

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The audible reminders may be one of the niftiest electronic features of the house, but the Control4 system handles many more tasks for the family. It manages numerous flat-panel TVs, more than 80 lighting elements, eight audio zones, and a complex security system. The homeowners are able to control the equipment from from touchpanels, on- or off-site computers, cell phones and iPads.

As the project evolved, so did the clients’ needs. “The family business includes several restaurants, so they work 24/7,” Hong says, adding that Control4 system allows the wife to turn on the house lights from her cellphone when coming home late at night. Likewise, the husband can check specific security cameras from his cellphone to ensure that the wife and newborn entered the home safely. Even if a specific event is triggered—such as “nanny entering back door” or “nanny locked front door”—the security system sends the homeowners email alerts that include a time and date. “Being remotely accessible is very important to them,” Hong says. As a bonus, either spouse can lock or unlock any door from inside or outside via a touchpanel, cell phone, computer or iPad.

Equally important to the owners was accessibility to music, as the owners like to entertain when they’re not working. GCI married a Sonos multiroom music system with Control4 to provide crystal-clear AM/FM access on any radio station in the world (not an easy feat when living in the country). In addition, the owners can access Pandora Radio and Sirius XM Radio with simple button presses on a touchpanel, iPad or cell phone.

Serendipity Pays Off

When Dan Hong, president of Global Custom Integrations (GCI) in Hawthorne, N.Y., was researching motion sensors for the owner of this home, he came across a water sensor and thought it would be a good thing for the family to have.

Two months after the clients moved in, one of 2010’s big snowstorms caused a nearby underground spring to overflow—and 3 inches of water poured into the basement. Thankfully, the water sensor detected the incoming water and the clients were notified immediately via email and through the home’s intercom system (real-time images of the incoming water also appeared on every television and touchpanel).

“It turned out to be a lifesaver,” Hong says. The owners have since added motion sensors throughout the house for enhanced security. EH

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