This month, we interviewed Mark Vyain, president of Digitech Custom Audio & Video, to find out what’s new in the A/V and home automation industry. Digitech is a 26-year old company that has a long history of providing McKenzie Collection customers with state-of-the-art electronic entertainment, security and intelligent home systems.
One of the most popular products offered by Digitech today is intelligent home systems: technology that brings together a home’s audio/video, security, HVAC and lighting systems into one, easy-to-control user interface that can be accessed from Apple, Android, computer or remote control devices.
You might recognize this as a “home automation” system from days gone by. But Mark Vyain says the industry is rebranding this product to avoid the “push back” they tended to get from homeowners when they would bring up the term “automation.” It’s also a better reflection of how far these products have come in the last few years with technological advances.
“These systems keep getting better and better for both the installers and the end users. We want to make it painfully easy for people to use these systems and we think ‘intelligent systems’ is a better description,” he says.
Easier installation, more accessible intelligence
Intelligent home systems have evolved from a code-intensive program that took days to install to one that practically programs itself, according to Vyain. “Our programmers are now able to commission systems in a fraction of the time of earlier products making new systems much more cost effective,” he explains.
Not only has the price gone down, but systems have become much easier for a homeowner to use. Gone are the days where a home automation system was a box on the wall that required extensive training to understand. Today’s intelligent home systems have become part of the mobile generation—housed in a hand-held remote for in-home use or available through a mobile phone or iPad app when homeowners are on the go.
“The new technology gives you the ability to manage the systems in your home while you’re away,” explains Vyain. “You can raise and lower your thermostats and blinds, turn lights on and off, even lock and unlock your doors.”
Leaders in the residential technology market
Vyain favors Control4 and Savant systems for residential customers. “Control4 offers great new residential technology and the most bang for your buck. For the luxury client who doesn’t mind spending more for the best user interface available, we typically recommend Savant,” he says. Both systems are engineered to interface with a wide variety of product lines, opening up lots of possibilities for homeowners to create customized home intelligence programs.
Intelligent home systems can run the gamut from basic A/V integration to a fancy web of lighting options, HVAC controls and even window treatment management. Vyain says most homeowners start with the A/V sound system—typically in a home theater—and centralize all the individual remotes in one device. The next step might be adding the security system. “It’s not a big up-charge to add security if the system is already there,” explains Vyain. He says the most popular add-ons for security systems are interior and exterior cameras and the ability to lock/unlock doors.
Vyain says it’s also simple to add lighting controls to an intelligent home system by replacing traditional dimmer switches with “smart” switches. ”You can program different sequences for different times of the day, which is much more energy efficient than leaving the lights on all the time,” he explains. “You can also create different pathways in the house that are controlled by motion sensors or timers if you are coming in late at night or are out of town.”
The personalized, programmable home life
In the future, Vyain anticipates that buyers will see intelligent home systems programmed to recognize individual users and adjust environments to their personal preferences. Vyain says systems are already set up to integrate occupancy sensors and issue complete automation sequences. “For instance, a client can push the ‘home’ button on his iPhone as he’s approaching the house and a pathway of lights comes on between the garage and kitchen,” explains Vyain. “The security system disarms and the The Eagles’ Pandora radio station starts to play in the kitchen zone. These types of integration scenes are very easy for us to program even right now.”
Farther down the road, Vyain says to expect even more intelligence features to come through our phones. “It’s hard to completely imagine the types of things engineers will come up with but I think it’s safe to say that continued development of cell phone integrations will be in the forefront,” says Vyain. “Voice commands using a Siri-type interface will certainly become more relevant to control systems. It only makes sense to integrate that in some way to the device that everyone already has in their pocket.”
For more articles on trends in the audio-video and home installation industry, visit Digitech’s informative blog.