Intelligent Structures, Inc.

Home and Office Automation Specialists

Home Mission / Profile Benefits What Is an Automation System?
In Depth Wiring Tips News Partners Contact

Back to Automation In Depth

Changing Attitudes About Automation

By Michael D. Murdock

Home Automation means Toys and Gadgets and Buttons…

But that's not how it's products are marketed and that's not how they're usually sold. Yet that's how most home buyers view them. "Are we really getting that lazy?", "It's like something from the Jetson's!", "I can't even program my VCR, I'd never be able to turn on the lights". These are just a few of the initial reactions I hear when speaking on the possibilities of Home Automation. Since they are viewed as toys, automation products are usually put at the bottom of the Options List by the new home buyer.

What Is Automation

Defined, it is the automatic operation or control of a process, equipment, or a system. Home Automation on the other hand is more than that and should never be discussed or defined in such dry, unemotional terms.

Home Automation is a lifestyle enhancing process that is based on the fundamental human elements of safety, control, communication & convenience. It's based upon, and is as different as, the habits, patterns and lifestyles of each individual family.

For years we have automated the workplace. We automate any redundant tasks that might allow us the time to be more productive. Now that it is affordable, easy to use, and readily available, it is only natural that we would want that technology in our homes.

Automation & Integration

In most homes today you press one switch and one light or one set of lights come on. In homes that are automated, pressing that same switch could control lights throughout the home and set them to different levels of brightness to create Lighting Scenes. Another automated system may announce through a kitchen or patio speaker, "there is a car in the drive" as guests or unexpected company arrives. The trick is to combine them.

Integration is a method of combining automated and non-automated systems to make them work together. Lets say that you disarm your security system at 9:00 p.m.. With integration capable systems, such as the "Amp On–Q™", the security panel would not only disable the security contacts, but could send out the control signals to turn lights on based on your traffic patterns as well as turn on the radio or TV to your favorite station. All automatic, all because you did something you normally do, and all because your builder wired your home for the future.

Structured Wiring

The standards set for structured wiring are: 1 Computer, 1 Telephone and 2 Video Cables run to every major living area within the home. Needless to say, you don't need to understand all of the technical properties of these cables, but here are some of the terms of the trade:

Homerun: each cable goes from it's point of use (an outlet) back to a central location and is not cut and/or spliced.

Cat 3: A category for installing Phone and Data cable capable of supporting 10 Mb per sec / 16 Mhz bandwith.

Cat 5: A category for installing Phone and Data cable capable of supporting 100 Mb per sec / 100 Mhz bandwith.

*NOTE: The categories of cable relate not only to the cable itself, but to the strict standards to which it is installed.

RG-6 Quad: Quad shielded Video cable capable of supporting 1 Ghz bandwidth.

The Basic Systems

If we operate under the premise that the list of automation and integration possibilities are limitless, then every piece and part of your home can be part of your system. But for discussion purposes we'll include the following: Security, Lighting, HVAC, Audio/ Video, Computer, Telephone and Control Systems.

Security: Until such time that your home is broken into, your security system really doesn't do very much for it's monitoring fee. An automated system however can use those contacts on the front door to turn on lights or call you when your children get home from school. It can trigger messages such as "Garbage Day" or alert you using occupancy sensing i.e. if a motion detector doesn't sense movement in my mothers kitchen within 14 hours, call me, because something is wrong.

Lighting: Automated lighting can turn all the lights on at once in case of emergency or turn lights off to conserve energy. It means never coming home to a dark house or it can be used to enhance the appearance of your home and is self-adjusting for sunrise and sunset.

HVAC: From any phone in the world you can change the status of your thermostat. On the day you stay at home (security system is not in "away mode") the setting isn't changed. On the day it wasn't supposed to snow, but did, and you're coming home early, call home and turn the thermostat up before you leave.

Audio / Video: The key here is "distribution". The video from the VCR, Baby-Cam or front door camera can be viewed on any TV. You can listen to your favorite radio station in the study while your children listen to their CD's on the patio. With a distributed system you only need to own 1 Stereo, 1 VCR, 1 Satellite Receiver, 1 DVD Player, etc.

Computer: With a network in your home you are no longer tied to a specific room with the printer as your only company. You can work via notebook from any room and all the computers in the house can share resources such as a CD-ROM, drive space or printer.

Telephone: The telephone takes on new roles in the Future Ready home. It becomes a Room-to-Room, Front Door and/or Gate intercom and controller. It allows for 4 phone jacks per Cat 5 cable and supports high speed internet access, phone systems that take messages, route calls, faxes and plays music on hold. Control Systems: The greatest advances in home automation have come in the form of Human Interfaces. You can control your home systems with wall switches, touch screens, hand held remotes, RF & IR transmitters/repeaters, via telephone, with the TV or computer and even with your own voice. The controllers of today are much easier to use and can make all the difference when it comes to enhancing your lifestyle.

I'll admit that some of the products on the market may be "toy-like", but Home Automation truly means more than toys. It means security, peace of mind, control, savings in energy costs and redundant system purchases, and it means the one thing we all seem to have so little of today - Time.

I.S.I. is proud to be the area's only AMX Dealer

AMX Take Control