There is so much about home technology that revolves around sound: music systems, security systems, even something as simple as an IP-enabled doorbell that emits audio can add enjoyment, peace of mind, and convenience to our everyday lives. These benefits often go unrealized in automated home owned by people who can’t hear. But it doesn’t have to be this way, as proven by the deaf owner of this 4,000-square-foot concrete masterpiece in Vancouver, British Columbia. Thanks to a specially designed and installed Crestron home automation system and other innovative smart home devices by the Vancouver-based home systems integration firm Coastal Integrated, the tech-savvy homeowner can now hear the phone, doorbell, security alerts, audio from the TV, and music from a whole-house audio system no matter where he happens to be on the property.
Hearing Aids thru Home Automation
The audio signals from these devices and others travel via radio frequency airwaves to a Crestron home automation processor that was installed with other electronic systems during the construction of the contemporary home. From there the audio is converted to a WAV file which is transmitted directly to the owner’s Cochlear implant and then off to his inner ear. For this transmission of audio to happen flawlessly, Coastal implemented a custom antenna switching system to activate broadcast antenna in various places on the property. “It created a direct link from the house to the inner ear,” says Coastal founder Colin Bradley, and would preclude the need for the homeowner to wear a microphone, which is the typical way that Cochlear implants pick up sound. “It was the first time we had ever integrated a human being with home automation.”
Delivery of extemporaneous sounds like doorbells, phones, and alarms reach the owner’s ear automatically; other types of audio, like that from a TV or music system, travel to the implant when the owner accesses a Crestron mobile app on a smartphone and selects a specific audio source, such as Internet Radio, Cable TV, Apple TV, and gaming console.
Admittedly, designing a sophisticated system of this sort was something completely out of the norm for Coastal, but the homeowner was more than happy give the ingenious solution a test drive. Having lived in automated homes since the time when computer programs on floppy drives controlled a home’s electronic systems, he felt privileged to be a part of something truly innovative, customized, and cutting edge, and most importantly be able to fully appreciate the audible features of the high-tech systems being installed in his home.
Expanding into New Tech Territory
But the innovation didn’t end with the Creston connection to the Cochlear implant. “Throughout the project we kept adding features. It was the classic case of scope creep,” Bradley says. “We started out with some basic A/V and lighting control, but by the end of the project everything was automated.” This would include every light; numerous door locks; thermostats; several motorized windows, doors, and gates; a full-fledged security system and surveillance cameras; intercoms; and a wide assortment of audio and video components. Taking the scope of integration even further, per the owner’s request Coastal programmed the Crestron system to also keep an eye on the liquor cabinet, medicine cabinet, and wine cellar. “The only way to unlock the doors to these areas is by entering a secret code into a Crestron control device,” Bradley explains. Controls for every integrated device are incorporated into an easily navigable menu that’s accessible on touchscreens, iPads, and iOS smartphones and tablets located throughout the house. “There’s more integration per square foot than any other home we have every done,” he adds.
Custom Hardware Enhances Electronics Gear
As much as technology plays a critical role in the day-to-day functionality of this house, the owner wanted to be sure that nothing would detract from the home’s unique design or its natural surroundings—or make the highly protected home look or feel like a fortress. “It all had to feel natural and work seamlessly within the home,” Bradley elaborates. Throughout the residence, Coastal utilized security cameras, intercom stations, and flat-panel TVs were fitted with custom-hardware to help them mesh with the home’s wood, stone, and other natural finishes. For example, for the intercom station by the front door Coastal built a custom faceplate and recessed the entire intercom flush with the wall surface. In the great room they built a stainless steel arm that on command from a Crestron device would swing a 42-inch TV 90 degrees and around the corner of a cabinet.
A sophisticated system of motorized windows assists in the seamless union between form and function, opening up the house to the outdoors at the touch of a button. This one command signals banks of motorized shades roll up into custom-designed pockets and the windows slide open for a seamless connection between the interior and exterior space. A custom-designed Free Air Mode, which can be engage from any Crestron control device, opens the top windows so that cool, fresh air can supplant the home’s cooling system on temperate summer days.
Extensive Wiring Ties Everything Together
Bringing the myriad of exterior and interior technologies together under the aegis of the Crestron control system was no easy feat, despite the fact that Coastal was introduced to the project from the very beginning and on a typical project could have installed the necessary low-voltage wiring easily before the interior shell was complete. For this home, however, huge banks of windows, a concrete foundation and exquisite wood paneled walls and millwork would require a completely different wiring approach. Most of the wiring, says Bradley, weaves underneath the floor which sits about six inches over the concrete slab. This highway of wiring terminates connects keypads, thermostats, surveillance cameras and other components to a central termination point where all of the Crestron processors, audio/video switching components, amplifiers, and other components are located.
From its ability to “talk” to its hearing impaired homeowner to its knack for fostering harmony between the interior space and its natural surroundings, the Crestron home automation system has proven to be a valuable addition to the uniquely designed home. It’s not just a luxury item, but an amenity that has a positive impact the homeowner’s quality of life, making his day-to-day routines easy and enjoyable.