home automation
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By: Thomas M. Ciesla

Security in the smart house takes a quantum leap beyond today's standard monitored system. A common scenario of integrated secuirty would allow your smart house to turn on pathway lights, automatically unlocklthe door, turn lights on in certain rooms and start playing your favorite music when you press a button on your key chain.

Lighting systems can interact with the security system to turn certain lights on when someone approaches the house or when the front door is locked. Surveillance cameras can be integrated to snap photos of the area where a perimeter sensor has been tripped, allowing you to view the picture over the Internet from your desk at work. Your phone system can also be linked, allowing you to pick up any phone in the house to answer a call from the front door speaker box.

More sophisticated installations integrate biometric devices to identiy someone using fingerprints, face scans or similar means before being allowed to enter your property or household. If your profile isn't in the system, you're not allowed access.

The Nuts and Bolts
Don't feel bad if you find yourself a bit overwhelmed by all this technology. Tthe typical homeowner will need help to design their smart house system. The key is to do some homework, then select a contractor that is familiar with all aspects of the smart house, from structured wiring to audio/video components and security systems. Simplicity, flexibility and redundancy are three excellent guides to help you.

Design Your System
A smart house can cost anywhere from $4,000 to over $1 million, depending on how far you want to take the technology. The most important factor controlling the cost and function is the timing of the installation. Running structured wiring in a house under construction is very economical. Trying to install it into an existing home is often physically and financially prohibitive. "We encourage architects, designers, builders and homeowners to install structured wiring during the construction phase of a house to future-proof it," says Wesley Jayne, CEO of ClearMedia One. The company's subsidiary . Architronix, is a smart house system company with offices in Houston and Dallas.

Fortunately homeowners in existing homes can use X-10 technology tha allows home automation over the existing electrical wiring in the house, You won't get the level of sophistication available in a structured wiring situation, but X-10 technology offers an impressive level of automation without tearing out drywall. However, power spikes or thunderstorms could adversely afect system reliability.

On a more basic level, CompUSA plans to begin offering Leviton Decora Home Controls (DHC) products through its retail stores later this year.

DHC products are power line carrier-based controls that use the existing AC wiring to automate lighting and applicance control. The DHC lighting packages include, "Welcome Home," "House Sitter." and "Home Theatre" kits to offer remote and automated control of different areas of the house.

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Structured wiring 'homeruns' to the various components of a home theatre allow house-wide access.

A Web page serves as an interface for Internet access to your smart house system.

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