First Look: Technology in HGTV Smart Home 2014
For all of its efficiency and livability, the smartest aspect of HGTV Smart Home 2014—and the highlight of every tour its future owners will give their guests—is its cutting edge technology.
"We went full tilt with smart features," says project technology designer Jason Moore, "but only proven ideas, nothing that's still in its '1.0' stage, because it takes a few generations of a new product to iron out the bugs and get things right." Smart Home is not a place for beta testing every new gadget on the market; it's about creating a high-tech experience that's just as trouble-free as it is state-of-the-art.
The smarts start with the interface used to operate the home's electronics. All of the technology in this house, and there's a lot of it, can be operated from the tablet and smart phone that come with the property (or from any computer or smart device). So, there's no need to stand up—or even to be at home—to walk over to a light switch, thermostat or window shade. Family members can fine-tune everything via an app. Sometimes they won't even have to do that; many of the devices are smart enough to adjust themselves.
Rather than typical banks of on/off switches, the lighting throughout Smart Home 2014 is on dimmers with wireless connectivity. Using any smart screen, the homeowners can create various pre-set scenes, for different activities, and also make on-the-fly adjustments. That includes turning off all the lights in the house with one click and illuminating different lights on different nights when the family is out of town.
Similarly, the thermostats can be adjusted remotely, so all it takes is a smart phone to set the heat or air conditioning temperature from anywhere in the house, or from the car while on the way back from that family vacation.
The security system—which includes burglary, fire, and carbon monoxide protection—can all be operated remotely, as can the front-door lock, the hardwired outdoor cameras aimed at each entrance, and mobile wireless interior cameras, which can provide additional burglary detection (or serve as baby monitors or nanny cams).
"If you're at work, you could see the plumber at the door, shut off the alarm, and unlock the deadbolt for him, and then button everything back up when he's done," says Moore.
From the 120-inch high-definition projection screen with 7.1 surround sound (7 channels, plus 1 woofer for deep base sounds) in the media room to the built-in speakers located throughout the home—and even the two outdoor spaces—this house is loaded with audio-visual equipment.
All can be operated from any touch screen, of course, and can stream movies and music from the Internet or from a dedicated hard drive loaded with the homeowner's own collection.
One of the house's TVs, designed for teleconferencing, retracts behind a cabinet in the dining room/office, and rises on command. The TV in the great room swings out on an automated mechanical arm for viewing from the adjacent kitchen.
And the draperies for the great room's two-story windows are motorized, so family members can close them to prevent glare on that TV screen. The shades in the master bedroom go even farther—they can be preprogrammed to raise and lower at certain times, or to simply follow the day's sunrise and sunset, which they know based on latitude and longitude settings.
High Tech Sleepers
Even the house's beds are smart. The comfort foam mattresses are adjustable, and can be positioned for sitting up to watch TV, enjoying breakfast in bed, or sleeping without back stress. And there's never any hunting for the beds' dedicated remotes, of course, since they, too, adjust by app.
Smart Tech Design
To simplify upgrades and maintenance for so much technology, all of the hardware is organized on easy to access wall racks in a second-floor closet. From there, hard-wired components are connected with high-speed Ethernet cabling inside the walls and mobile equipment operates on a wireless network supported by signal repeaters in key locations to ensure a strong network throughout the living space—and even the porches. That way, the touch screens will always be connected, and the family will always have Smart Home 2014's technology at its fingertips.