I spent a lot of my teen years interested in my car, my music and my friends. However, Matthew Lieberman isn’t your average 17-year-old. He’s an avid technology buff, who never misses a CES and longs to attend the CEDIA Expo. He’s also possibly the only teen that has helped to automate a 4,000-square-foot house in the Hamptons.
His family’s recently completed summer home was new construction, which took about two years to build. Yes, Matthew started planning this system at the ripe old age of 15, using the pages of Electronic House and his “mostly self-taught” computer programming skills.
“I’ve always been interested in technology, my whole life,” he says. “It’s been my biggest passion, ever since I was like zero. It’s all I can ever focus on.”
This summer house project finally gave Matthew a place to channel that focus. The family’s main residence is an apartment in New York City, which doesn’t have a lot of room for a lot of technology. Even though he’s installed Insteon-controlled lighting and Nest thermostats there, this was a whole different playground for his programming skills. “Most of this is all new to us,” says Matthew. “This is our first house with such a full and complete home automation system.”
By day, Matthew channels his passion for technology into his school’s computer science AP class, where he’s currently working on Java development and different programming languages. When he’s not in school, he spends a good amount of time checking out c4Forums.com, an online community where he can find all sorts of new and interesting features for his summer residence. One of those discoveries included the Recluse AV Text to Speech Driver, which can translate text to speech for certain actions in the home. However, Matthew says that his favorite part is that the driver allows for “variables.” For instance, when someone in the master bedroom wakes up, they can get a message alerting them to who else is up around the house, as well as current weather information. When one of the residents enters the house, the Control4 system will greet the person by name and welcome them home.
“It’s kind of a tight-knit community of like-minded Control4 enthusiasts and we all work together to share ideas and collaborate on different ways to enhance our Control4,” Matthew says of the online support. “I heard about the driver through that website.”
Adding in voice prompts is just one of the many features that Matthew programmed by himself, with help from the aforementioned online forums and Home Technology Experts, an installation company out of Southampton, New York.
“Yes, it was in conjunction with the dealer,” he says. “I don’t have access to Composer Pro, which is kind of like the higher level of the software. There’s certain things you’re restricted in with Control4, in the Composer Home Edition.”
HTE was the right installer for the family, but it wasn’t their first. An anonymous installer tried to tackle the job, but wasn’t too receptive to Matthew’s ideas. Matthew then touched base with HTE’s Alex Karoussos. “We just clicked right away,” he says. “I knew that this guy really knew his stuff.”
Matthew knew that they had found the right installer. However, Karoussos didn’t know that he had found one of his toughest customers. Matthew says that they went through about 15 revisions of the system during the install. “He [Karoussos] says I’m one of his worst customers because I wanted the most revisions,” Matthew says.
That worst title may be up for debate, but no one can say that Matthew isn’t one of the company’s most innovative clients to date. After all, he’s always in search of new options for the family’s Control4 system. He even hacked his own way of adding in AirPlay, which wasn’t supported by Control4 at the time of the installation. (Since then, Control4 has added AirPlay support via the Control4 Wireless Music Bridge.) “I have so many different intricate programs that are running. I’ve spent so many hours working on so many details,” he says. “I’ve put so much extra programming into the system; it’s personalized just for them [his parents].”
To create this personalized summer paradise, the house has several Control4-branded light switches, as well as nine keypads sprinkled around the house. Some of the third-party systems that are integrated into the setup include hardwired Aprilaire thermostats and a Honeywell security system. The audio setup also has a Control4 8-zone matrix amplifier connected to Spitfire ACE speakers.
“Music sources for the system include the Control4 system itself for announcements, an AirPlay device that streams music wirelessly from your phone through the system, and Sonos integration,” Matthew says. “And the cable boxes and Apple TVs are also integrated into the audio system.”
Although most would consider the home to be completed, Matthew always seems to be working on new features. Currently, he’s trying to integrate Siri into the system, as well as add in HouseLogic’s VoicePod. Despite his age, Matthew pretty much has carte blanche when it comes to adding new tweaks to this system — and his parents usually appreciate his efforts. He was actually the one to suggest Control4 to his parents. “My parents were kind of interested in the idea. They didn’t really know much about it,” he says. “I started educating them more about the benefits.”
One thing Matthew’s parents appreciate is being able to access the home remotely. This is a convenient feature, seeing how the family isn’t there year-round. It’s also one that allows Matthew to tweak from afar, although he says that he does spend most of his on-site time installing additional programming.
Matthew’s passion didn’t just result a super-cool summer home. It’s also resulted in an interesting summer opportunity, interning for HTE. “I’m interested in this whole industry, in home automation” he says. “There’s something about it that’s so intriguing to me.”
To get a better peek at this house in the Hamptons, check out our slideshow for 17-Year-Old Automates Hamptons House with Control4.