Smarthome Discovers "Smartest Home in America" for the DIY Consumer

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Smarthome Discovers "Smartest Home in America" for the DIY Consumer
About the AwardsSmartLabs Inc., the parent company of Smarthome.com, created the "Smartest Home in America" contest to find out how homeowners are using automation to improve everyday life in their homes. The grand prize is a $1,000 shopping spree at Smarthome.com, while second prize is a $500 gift certificate and third prize a $250 gift certificate. The objective of the contest was not to find the most expensive or lavish connected home; instead, the judges wanted to hear from do-it-yourselfers who had taken it upon themselves to electronically improve their homes and their lifestyles. The winners were chosen based on the originality and imagination shown by the contestants in implementing their electronic home improvement projects."We are a do-it-yourself generation," says Rajeev Kapur, president of SmartLabs. "Whether it's simply replacing one or two electrical switches or installing a full-blown home automation system, we wanted to hear about the most interesting ways people are using home automation to upgrade, personalize and interact with their homes."The "Smartest Home in America" winners profiled below used home automation to increase the convenience, safety or "fun factor" their homes. Grand PrizeCory GranseeMesa, ArizonaPRODUCTS: INSTEON PowerLinc v2 Controller, LampLinc v2, SwitchLinc v2 (6), Icon on/off switch (10), Indigo software using Indigo Widget and a custom Web page for remote control, Ademco Vista 15-P security alarm with X10 integration, X10 Universal Module with magnetic contacts for garage door status, ChannelPlus 3025 2-channel modulator (to modulate TiVo and baby camera to all televisions in home), TiVo (to automate recording of favorite television shows), custom TiVo interface to allow for control of devices/scenes using TiVo, remote baby monitor (video camera /audio) PROFILE: It all started a year and a half ago, when Cory Gransee, a computer consultant in Mesa, Arizona, decided to install a basic timer switch to control the lights on his front porch. Little did he know that this simple step would start him down the path toward the "Smartest Home in America."The timer was set to turn the porch lights on at the same time every evening and then turn them off after a certain number of hours. It all worked well for about six months, and then the timer began behaving erratically. The lights would sometimes come on during the day, and sometimes not at night-or they would come on too early or turn off too late. Cory knew there had to be a better solution, but like most people he didn't know where to start. So, he turned to Google, which led him to Smarthome.com. He knew very little about home control technologies, so he called Smarthome's technical support line and asked for some advice. He looked at competing wireless home control technologies, but what got him hooked on INSTEON was a call to Smarthome's customer service department. "I felt that if they (Smarthome) were this helpful with me, someone who knows very little about home automation, then when they would be more helpful if I got overwhelmed at some point," said Cory.Intrigued by the possibilities of home automation and impressed by the INSTEON technology and its compatibility with X10, Cory purchased a PowerLinc v2, and a SwitchLinc v2 and downloaded the trial version of Indigo software for Mac. "The result," he says, "was nothing short of amazing. I was able to replace that unreliable timer with a switch that turns itself on or off based upon sunrise and sunset times and even keeps itself off during the day and on during the night when accidentally bumped."From that simple beginning, his home has become progressively smarter. As his command center, Cory uses the PowerLinc v2 Controller with Indigo software. Indigo Widget and a custom Web page enable remote control over the Internet, allowing him to monitor and control a wide variety of systems and devices-anywhere, anytime. The home control network includes all major light fixtures and fans (all INSTEON controlled) as well as the security system. The garage door status (open/closed) is monitored using an X10 Universal Module and a pair of magnetic contacts. Because the security alarm has X10 capabilities built in, Cory was able to program it so that the status of any of the 13 door and window sensors and motion detectors can be used to make decisions or perform actions. For example, when the alarm is armed during the day, it assumes the homeowners are leaving the house and shuts everything down. When the alarm is armed later in the night, it assumes it is bedtime and initiates the "Night Mode" scene, which turns most systems and devices off and turns on a few fans. To further extend the usefulness of the network, Cory installed a 2-channel modulator that can broadcast any device to all televisions in the house. This modulator has built-in infrared capabilities so the remotes for these devices also work with any television. He usually modulates TiVo on one channel and - because he and his wife, Julie, have a newborn - an observation camera in the baby's room on another channel. Because he can access TiVo from any room with a television, he uses a custom interface that allows individual lights and scenes to be controlled using a TiVo remote. Although Cory had no prior experience with home automation beyond the installation of the initial timer switch, he was able to set everything up himself. "Thanks to INSTEON," he says, "it just works!"Second PrizeJohn ConraderMount Dora, FloridaPRODUCTS: KeypadLinc v2, SwitchLinc v2, DSC Alarm System (including the PC5401 RS232 communications module), Mier Drive Alert, Phidgets USA I/O kits, X10 MR-26, Black and Decker Freewire, Indigo software for Macintosh, Sonos music systemPROFILE: John Conrader is using his current home as a testing ground for automation technologies he wants to implement in the new house he is building - which he is convinced will be one of the smartest homes around. John has decided that all the light switches will be INSTEON switches (a combination of KeypadLinc v2 and SwitchLinc v2). He is also testing some Black and Decker remotes, some X10 motion sensors and an MR-26 receiver. Also in the plan is a DSC Alarm System that will include the PC5401 RS232 communication module. The Mier Drive Alert driveway sensor will be connected to the Phidgets USA I/O kit to provide notification of approaching company, while the Phidgets USA 8217s I/O and servo kits will be used to automate the blinds on the windows.To tie everything together, John has selected Indigo software running on a Mac. This software gives him the flexibility to connect and control all the X10 and INSTEON devices and allows the DSC Alarm System to be integrated via the Serial Bridge software (from the makers of Indigo). Everything is easy to use, he says, "and the smart part comes from how everything ties together and works to make my life easier." Motion sensors determine when someone is in the room, and then Indigo decides how best to light the room depending on the time of day. This setup has worked well in John's current home and will be incorporated into his new home. Certain lights, for example, are controlled based on a schedule for weekdays, weekends or every day. "This has really been a time-saver," says John, "because we don't have to walk over to the switches when it gets dark in a room. The only time this was not helpful was when the kids plugged the vacuum into one of the INSTEON lamp modules. I had to go a week without that light coming on, and it made me appreciate how necessary my automation system has become!" "I have been into home automation since they came out with some of the first X10 devices," said John. "There have been a lot of changes since then. Smarthome has made it easy to stay up to date with some of the best technology. The INSTEON system has made a huge difference in the reliability of my home automation projects."Third PrizeTodd WostrelRoads, TexasPRODUCTS: INSTEON KeypadLinc v2 (4), SwitchLinc v2 (5), Icon Dimmer (5), Ocelot ADICON 16-Zone IR Module PROFILE: Todd Wostrel uses INSTEON KeypadLincs to control the SwitchLincs that manage his home's lighting and to control the operation of his home theater. A KeypadLinc broadcasts X10 signals to theOcelot ADICON 16-Zone IR Module, which controls the home theater equipment hooked up to it - for sports, TV or movies. Todd is currently working on adding IR input to the Ocelot in order to turn ordinary IR remote controls into X10 and INSTEON controllers.




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