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The Holy Grail of Our Industry

Reaching Level 5 of custom smart home integration.

In Charlie Kindel’s Control4 CEDIA Expo keynote presentation last year, he discussed the “5 Levels of the Smart Home.” Specifically, he described the following home intelligence infrastructures:

  • Level 1: Traditional Home — 0 network devices, nothing in the home is smart
  • Level 2: Piecemeal Accessories — 1–3 network devices, promised as DIY solutions but difficult to integrate
  • Level 3: Integrated Accessories — 1–25 network devices, multiple apps, professional integration needed to simplify overall control of the home
  • Level 4: Built In — 40–1000 network devices, devices integrate well across the entire home, strong network backbone infrastructure
  • Level 5: Ambient and Invisible — 40–1000 network devices, the use of technology is personalized and seamless

I thought this was a great overview on how to gauge the current state of our clients’ smart homes and how we could best move them up to a Level 3, Level 4, or even Level 5 home with our increasing suite of professional skills and hardware/software solutions.

The Level 5 Smart Home: Ambient and Invisible

It was Charlie’s discussion and description of the Level 5 home that most intrigued me. In my opinion, reaching this state in the home is the “Holy Grail” of our industry, which is a home where the installation of technology accomplishes the following goals:

  • It is out of sight and seamless. It knows exactly what each member in the family likes and when and where they like it. The technology enhances the entertainment, comfort, safety, and control of their homes.
  • It works reliably and repeatably all the time, by voice, touch, or gesture, or even just by movement in the home.
  • It learns and understands the time of day and needs of the home’s occupants and responds with the appropriate lighting, room and water temperatures, and music selections.
  • It promotes healthy living at home, including the improvement of air and sleep quality.
  • It maximizes the use of renewable energy solutions and runs the home at the lowest possible cost.

There are a number of professionally installed technologies that are available today that get us closer to this “Holy Grail.” cyberManor has installed many of them in our New Home Technology showroom so that we can test, demonstrate, and recommend these Level 5 solutions to our potential clients and our builder partners. Here’s a closer look at six of these solutions:

Adaptive Lighting Control

With the Control4 centralized lighting system and DMX-controllable under-cabinet kitchen lights we can provide customized dimmable lighting scenes for different times of the day to simulate outdoor lighting conditions. We’ve also installed automated stairwell nightlights to minimize sleep disruption when one gets out of bed in the middle of the night. In the master bedroom, Philips Hue nightstand lights, connected to the wake up time programmed for the Bryte intelligent bed, mimic the morning sunrise to promote the feeling of a healthy and refreshed morning wake-up experience.

Also by Gordon van Zuiden: Technology Solutions for Healthy Living at Home

Voice Innovation

All of the connected electronics in the New Home Technology Center can be controlled by voice, including the kitchen and laundry room appliances, the Meural digital pictures frames, and even the Kohler hydrotherapy shower. Voice control provides the most natural user interface for all of the home’s technologies and provides several very compelling usage cases such as “I’m home” and “I’m leaving.” These commands provide a simple-to-use interface that triggers automated control of the centralized lighting system, shades, skylights, HVAC systems, audio, and security systems. Voice commands are also the ideal control solution for hands free, healthy living at home.

Improved Indoor Air Quality

To improve the indoor air quality, cyberManor has installed Velux’s intelligent solar powered skylights and Haiku’s Big Ass Fan. cyberManor has also installed the new Panasonic Cosmos Whisper Green Select fan in the guest bathroom. When an unhealthy odor is detected by the Cosmos IAQ Foobot sensor in the kitchen, it automatically turns on the nearby guest bath fan to exhaust the contaminated air. Soon we will be programming our Control4 system to use the Cosmos IAQ unhealthy air trigger to open the Velux motorized skylights and turn on the fan that is adjacent to the kitchen to automatically remove the unhealthy air.

Enhanced Sleep Technology

Created with the latest scientific understanding of sleep, the Bryte bed in the master bedroom of our New Home Technology Center introduces a new category of product — Active Sleep Improvement. Powered by Restorative Intelligence, the Bryte bed actively measures, learns, and applies what works best for each sleeper. Over the course of an evening’s rest, the bed intelligently moves over 100 coils in the mattress several hundred times per night to actively contour and shape the bed to relieve each of the body’s moving pressure points — resulting in the world’s most natural sleep experience.

Customized Water and Hygiene Experience

Kohler is a major sponsor of the cyberManor showroom and we have installed their intelligent Kohler Konnect line of products in each of our bathrooms. The intelligent Kohler Konnect DTV+ shower technology installed in the master bathroom provides a massage-like hydrotherapy experience from the eight programmable, connected valves in the shower. The Kohler intelligent Veil toilets lift and close their lid based on proximity and incorporate UV light to disinfect the bowl after each use. Healthy home “hands-free” hygiene practices are supported by the Kohler Sensate faucet in the kitchen, which can be turned on or off with a simple hand wave or by voice command.

Also by Gordon van Zuiden: Reflections on 20 Years of Networking the Home

Intelligent and Renewable Energy Solutions

Implementing sonnen’s intelligent 10KWH ecoLinx energy storage system greatly enhances the value of the home’s solar panel production by storing the unused energy generated from the sun and powering the home at night or during an electrical outage. Installing SquareD Schneider Electric controllable circuit breakers with the Adapt Energy Management platform allows cyberManor to intelligently turn on and off circuits in the home as a function of electrical usage and battery capacity. In case of a power outage, we can automatically manage the solar usage during the day to power the home and store excess solar energy in the battery to keep the lights on at night or until the electrical grid comes back on. One of the best features of our energy automation solution is that we give clients touchscreen control of electronic products that can be individually turned on and off depending on the home’s essential power needs and how long the outage will last.

As custom integrators, the better we understand, design, and install these intuitive intelligent technology systems in the home the closer we bring our clients to the smart home they have always wanted from our industry. Not just a connected home, but one where the home’s intelligence creates a better, healthier, and safer life for our clients and their families. During these pandemic times when all of us are spending more time at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19, helping our clients get closer to a Level 5 smart home status is a goal that is in all of our best interests.