of programming your stereo and alarm system from your computer? It's not so far
off in the future. Thanks to technological development ten years in the making,
"smart" or programmable home technology is becoming more practical and affordable.
Many home builders are installing wiring to allow security, heating and cooling,
audio-visual, and other systems to be controlled from a central location, says
The Washington Post.
Let's say you're working at your computer while the
baby sleeps in another room. You hear the baby crying on the monitor. On your
way back from the nursery, you make a detour to the thermostat to turn up the
heat. While you're at it, better turn down the stereo. Consider the same story
using smart technology. Junior's cries come over your computer's speakers. Using
your mouse, you lower the volume control on the stereo graphic equalizer on your
computer screen, and then tweak the thermostat on your comfort control display.
Pretty advanced, eh?
The good news is that what seemed out-of-this-world a
few years ago is becoming available. What has made Smart Home technology impractical
till now is the cost of wiring required to run it. Today, the price of that wiring,
called Category 5 data- communications wiring, is down substantially. Category
5 wiring consists of four pairs of wires that can transmit voice and data signals
quickly. Combine that with upgraded coaxial TV cable for carrying video signals
from your TV and computer monitor, and you can wire your home for the smartest
The price of installing Category 5 wiring used to be
exorbitant-- around 10,000 to 15,000 dollars. Nowadays, it's around 700 to 2,000
dollars, cheap enough for many builders to offer homes compatible with smart technology.
What's currently available in home command and control systems? In addition
to centralized electronic controls for your home's systems, how about integrated
security systems that detect intruders as they approach or enter the house, flick
on floodlights outdoors, and trigger an audible alarm both inside and outside
the home while notifying the police or security monitoring services? These systems
include fire protection measures that detect smoke, shut off the furnace or A/C
to prevent spreading smoke throughout the house, wake you up, alert the fire department,
turn on the lights to aid your evacuation, etc.
The bad news is that most
existing homes are not compatible with the technology, unless you're willing to
tear out the walls. If you're planning a major renovation anyway, installation
could be "wired in" to your construction plan. In the meantime, home builders
are taking advantage of smart wiring to attract buyers concerned about home security