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My Integrated Home Was My Electronic Crutch


By Joseph C. Colangelo, President of C&T Systems

     It was Thanksgiving night and we had eaten a turkey dinner with all the fixings, watched some football, and played two rounds of what has become our family’s annual setback tournament.  My sister-in-law was pulling brisket out of the oven and preparing us for a post dinner snack.  Our dog Sox was in the backyard doing his business and as I stepped onto the rear deck to check on him, I didn't quite maneuver correctly around the icy second step of the deck, slipped and popped my right patella tendon.  That’s right, I popped my patella tendon; like a day old balloon. After a ride in the ambulance, some time in the ER and a surgery to repair the tendon, I found myself in a full leg cast and in a blossoming relationship with the couch. Unfortunately this newfound romance was one-sided.

     I own a small business that I share with my wife and five employees.  We were a traditional electrical contracting firm that grew up to become a three-part business including standby power systems, electrical contracting, and home systems integration.  That last one was the saving grace.

     Unfortunately it took an accident to make me realize how hard life becomes when one of your legs is rendered temporarily useless.  Pulling on socks, washing up, getting a drink, moving from one spot to another all required the help of another person.  I started thinking about people I knew who were as immobile as me, but in a more permanent way due to an illness, aging, or an accident.  The shoe was on the other foot now, but only if my wife helped me with it! 

You have a serious realization of how "shelved" you become when you can't move with the crowd.  I hope my memory serves me when I'm back on my feet and I recognize someone who needs to be helped off the shelf.  We all need to help that person.

     Here's some good news.  My home is fully integrated.  With my iPhone in hand I could adjust the room’s temperature, turn the lights on and off, play music and video content, look around my yard and inside my garage with cameras, open the garage door to let people in the house, open and close shades, set the security system, and oh yeah, answer the phone. 

     My wife Lisa spent a few days taking care of me at home, but needed to get back to our shop once I was reasonably capable. We setup a temporary office for me in our den, which became my spot for the next two weeks. Our business office is also integrated, so I could make the same changes that I did at home. I became connected. I could watch the guys loading tools and parts on their trucks in the warehouse, see when they came and went, and discuss jobs with them.  I was able to access the server at work and create proposals and invoices.  And I was also able to do our scheduling and post it to a shared calendar.  The fun part is that our den is an informal home theater, and I ripped through as much video content on Netflix, Crackle, VUDU, and the cable box as I could while still doing a reasonable amount of paperwork.  I did some reading too, but it's hard not to watch seemingly unlimited video in surround sound on a great monitor when it's staring at you all day.

     The focus of our company is to provide solutions for our customers that are most effective to their personal needs and are value oriented.  The design process is part entertainment and part functionality.  Admittedly, it's hard not to start from the entertainment side first because everyone can appreciate that. Now that I have seen first hand how important the functional part is, my design sense has gained an enlightened perspective.

     One day after my operation, I started bleeding through my splint and bandages.  We got to the ER and they patched me up.  At 2AM the next morning I woke up on the couch in a puddle of blood with my dog Sox next to me.  He's a good dog, but not exactly "Lassie".  I was on my own.  My wife was asleep on the second floor, worn out from this ordeal.  I grabbed my iPhone, opened the home integration app, and flashed the lights in our bedroom until I heard her feet hit the floor.  I made a path of light from her to me, and moments later she was in the den.  We got back to the ER and patched up again.  No screaming from floor to floor and creating panic.  Instead, it was a simple use of technology.

     Apply the same thought process to your home.  For example, you may have an in-law apartment that your 85-year-old Mom lives in.  The smoke detectors go off.  Your integrated home is smart enough to gently flash the lights in her bedroom, and create a pathway of light for Mom to get out of the house, and flash all of the outdoor lights for emergency services to recognize your home easily. 

That same scenario applies to your young children too.  Everyone can "operate" the house, easily and intuitively with local controls or smartphones.  It can be done onsite or offsite.  Your house can communicate to you as well with text or email warnings that your house temperature is too low, or moisture is sensed on the cellar floor.  Lights can be rolled back (bathroom, garage, outdoor) automatically for energy savings.  Setting your alarm can automatically turn lights off, create a temporary pathway of light to egress, close shades, adjust temperature, turn off all media, and set a time clock for lights to respond from dusk to dawn from an astronomical time clock that lives in the processor and knows your latitude and longitude.  You can also create "home", "away" and "vacation" modes with specific parameters.

     Your house becomes an electronic haven for you.  The components you see and interact with are aesthetically appealing and match any decor.  The "hidden" gear is robust, time and field proven, durable and can be accessed offsite by your home integrator for changes in programming, repairs, and upgrades.  The company you hire to design and integrate your home systems should provide simple and comprehensive access to your home systems helping you avoid the “walk around” process of controlling lights, temperature, shades, alarms, entertainment, and surveillance.  I found myself unable to do the “walk around”, but maintained control of my home because of a well designed and easily accessed home integration system.  The casual control of my systems became critical and helpful to me.

I always feel like I'm working on my house, but when I slowed down because I was forced to, I realized my house was working for me.  I leaned on it and it responded helpfully, easily, and intelligently.



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