Is there a smart home in your future?

For my dream house, I wanted the usual smart home technology - audio, video, security, surveillance, communications, and other control functions I would probably never use. The catch was that I also wanted it to be easy to use, upgradeable, integrated, an

About 25 years ago, a coworker and I brainstormed about designing home automation into new home construction. I think one of us did a paper on it for business school, or maybe we worked on it together; I can't remember. What I do remember is that I couldn't stand accounting and quit the MBA program. Maybe that explains why I only got to be a CEO for seven months.

At the time, computer and network technology was all big iron, so robust, cost-effective home automation was a long way off. Nevertheless, we had hopes and dreams, and one of mine was to someday build my dream home with lots of cool technology built-in.

Fast forward 25 years. My wife and I are near completion of a custom home. We put our hopes and dreams into this house, which my wife designed. Our architect and builder had a mastery of every aspect of the process, except for one: smart home technology. That kind of left me in charge of dealing with that aspect of the home.

Since I'm somewhat of a computer geek, I didn't have too much of a problem with that. After all, I knew what the technology was capable of, I knew the tradeoffs, and I knew what I wanted. I also knew when a contractor was blowing smoke up my butt, which came in handy.

There are lots of options for smart home technology. For some folks it's all about the tunes, while others want surveillance video of every square inch of their property at the touch of a button, or 57" LCD displays in every room. You can even program a room to identify you and turn on preset lighting, music, the fireplace, whatever you like.

For my dream house, I just wanted the usual stuff - audio, video, security, surveillance, communications, and other control functions I would probably never use. The catch was that I also wanted it to be easy to use, upgradeable, and reasonably well integrated - meaning I wanted all the subsystems to be controlled by a consistent interface through various input means, like a PC, a TV with remote, or a touch panel.

I didn't think I was asking for too much.

I was wrong.

After months of research and meetings with contractors that do this sort of thing, I got a dose of reality. First, every contractor specializes in one area and dabbles in the others. Mostly they're audio/video folks.

Second, everybody talks about integration, ease of use, consistent interfaces, upgradeability, and all that. But talk is cheap, the real thing isn't. Sure, you can do it. You can do almost anything in terms of home automation these days, for a price.

And keep in mind, I live in Silicon Valley, the Mecca of high-tech. This is not the badlands of South Dakota. Whatever was out there, I had access to it. But even that wouldn't be enough to fulfill my hopes and dreams.

To be continued tomorrow ...

 

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