The Current Outlook
In today’s news, we are focused on reports from both Washington and Wall Street, looking for improving signals on the economy. This week provided positive news about the long-awaited bank “stress test,” where most of the large banks proved reliable performance in projected future economic conditions. Many analysts look at today’s economy and see a possible turn towards the better. Firstly, the stock market has recuperated quite a bit. Since early March, the S&P 500 has risen by 30 percent, financials have risen 74 percent, and industrials have gained 44 percent. Though this does not mean that there won’t be inevitable pullbacks, the trend is definitely on the upside. Secondly, The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index™, which had posted a slight increase in March, improved considerably in April. The Index now stands at 39.2, up from 26.9 in March. Thirdly, it looks like China and other developing regions are starting to experience the results of their well-executed stimulus plans.
So, what is a systems integration company like ourselves doing by sending off newsletters about the economy?
Answer: This industry is based on our vision of the future and the associated excitement that promotes innovation. The cornerstone of “smart homes” and “smart businesses” is the belief in technology’s ability to improve our lives while providing fun and uniqueness. Do you remember the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? Do you remember the scene when Dr. Haywood Floyd made his iconic phone call to his daughter from a video phone booth somewhere along the corridor of the international space station? Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick created a vision of the not-too-distant future that set 2001 as a benchmark date of “the future.” Most of us who are old enough to remember the era of the 1970’s looked towards the new millennium as a beacon of great achievements in technology yet to be experienced. Today is that “future.”
Now that we are in year 2009, we look at the various achievements of the last thirty years, and we see quite a few accomplishments. Yet, the exuberance has waned a bit, where you would think by now, we should have video phones, motorized doorways, robotic attendants, automated living spaces, and other high technology in every home across America.
Diversifying Control Capabilities
Many of you readers have a control system, and others may be in the process of learning about system’s integration. Overall, a large percentage of these installations are based on controlling audio/video systems. It starts with removing a cluttered table full of complicated remotes, and then we move towards distributing audio and video signals to various other rooms. From there, we address lighting, then perhaps climate control or pool/spa control. Further out still is landscape irrigation, gate control, and access control. With today’s cautious consumer, how can we reawaken America's inner George Jetson?
With the investment of a control system, the benefits increase as the system communicates with more living environment subsystems. For example, a small home theater with a well-running control system and matching remote or touch screen is pretty sweet. The same controller that was purchased to operate this one theater room could also be used to control several other living areas with lighting, HVAC, and monitoring. Since these additions are usually a fraction of what was spent on the original audio/video system, the benefits grow substantially with each incremental system control capability.
For example, a typical Control4 system controller costs $699, and with labor to connect and program the system, the job may cost a total of $900. Adding three light switches to the system at $129/each would add another $387; figuring an hour of labor to install the new dimmers, this may total $500. Fractionally less than the original install, a $500 lighting addition to a $900 control system has now provided automated lighting and likely power savings. Adding a wireless thermostat for $250 further increases the functionality of the existing system. Now you have a smart home, not just a home theater.
This practice can be duplicated over-and-over. Think of a control system as a building block set. Little bits and pieces can be added here-and-there to build outwards, where it applies best to your personal taste. Once the “base” controller is installed, that base can grow to create a very extensive integrated environment. How diversified is your system?
Measuring System Diversity
I use a measuring system to judge the depth of a control system’s diversity, which is a simple ratio. A 1:1 ratio would mean that a customer owns a control system that only controls one aspect of the living environment. The controller is the first “1” on the left. The system it controls, such as a home theater, is the other “1” on the right. If the customer adds lighting to the room, then the system has a ratio of 1:2. Adding the wireless thermostat raises the system to a ratio of 1:3. Got the picture?
My feeling is that all control systems should be at least a 1:3 diversity ratio. We have some systems boasting a 1:6 ratio or higher, which is an environment close to what you imagined back in 1968. Consider these possibilities:
Ideas to Increase Your System's Diversity Ratio
Card Access has a $495 Garage Automation Package that consists of garage door roller sensors, wireless relay device, power supply, and 5-button key fob. With everything you need in a single box, the Card Access Garage Automation Package contains all the necessary gear to completely integrate monitoring, operation and remote control of up to two garage doors into any Control4 project—and with a minimum amount of wiring.
Card Access also has a $350 Doorbell and Phone Event Package. The package includes all the gear to create events for one or two doorbells and one phone line with little to no wiring requirements. We have a number of custom doorbell sounds and phone announcements that can be added to your system with a very small time investment.
Both Mechoshade and Solar Shading Systems provide wireless control integration for shades and drapery systems. Shade and drapery control contribute to your home’s energy conservation while providing increased comfort and aesthetics.
In previous newsletters, we discussed Green Solutions, IP Video Capability, and Hidden Actuation Systems. Other control possibilities include monitoring kids as they leave and arrive from school with email notifications from a Wireless Motion Detector or sensing whether your dog, Pluto, jumps up on your bed with a Sofa/Bed Occupancy Sensor.
Building a higher diversity ratio provides a new character to your living environment. My first exploration into systems integration in 1996 led me to build my own home test facility. I noticed our house starting to behave like an ordinary family member or pet. With greater integration diversity, you experience your home or workplace operating with choreographed events during the day; it can wake you in the morning with Rhapsody Online Music, engage the sprinklers before you leave for work, send you notices with the mailman’s delivery, advise with a picture email with the kids’ school return, set the lights upon your arrival from work, and ease you to sleep with timed lighting sequences. The diversity of these behaviors create an organic personality, and the home feels more like a living entity, more than just wood, stucco, and glass.
As you add more diversity to your system, you also benefit from the increased ROI (return on investment). Our living environments can be like those we imagined in 1968, and we can realize the benefits in “building block” steps over time. Now that the economy is starting to warm up and spring improvements are on your mind, get excited about the future today.
We look forward to
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Cliff Roepke's Personal Page:
Where are we now from 1968?
Is this the living environment we imagined back in 1968? We can experience the future today with affordable products and logical steps.
Start With a Base System
An affordable $699 Controller can be the basis for an extensive system . (click image to view product information)
Control Building Blocks
This new Control4 7" Wireless Portable Touch Screen is very slick, but it gains more value as it communicates with more subsystems (click image to view product information)
Think Beyond Audio/Video
Something as simple and inexpensive as Control4's Wireless Thermostat at $249 is an easy way to increase system diversity. (click image to view product information)
Garage Automation Package
This $495 Card Access Wireless Garage Automation Package can be installed with very little wiring. The key fob controls lighting functions even before entering the garage. (click image to view product information)
Motorized Lifts and Shades
This bedroom has both motorized lift and shade systems. It was highlighted on MTV's "Cribs" Television Program. (click image to view the show)
Doorbell & Phone
Card Access has a $350 Doorbell and Phone Event Package that allows you to play custom sound files on your system. (click image to view product information)