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FOR UNIVERSITY CITY MAGAZINE:  Christopher Paradis uses his computer screen to control his security system, remote control thermostat, and remote control lighting. For a story for University City Magazine about "smart homes," which use technology which allows appliances and other devices to "communicate" with each other.   DIEDRA LAIRD-dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
FOR UNIVERSITY CITY MAGAZINE: Christopher Paradis uses his computer screen to control his security system, remote control thermostat, and remote control lighting. For a story for University City Magazine about "smart homes," which use technology which allows appliances and other devices to "communicate" with each other. DIEDRA LAIRD-dlaird@charlotteobserver.com DIEDRA LAIRD

Imagine you just crawled into bed after a long day, only to realize you have forgotten to enable your security system. You reach over to your nightstand, and with a single touch, your alarm is set and you are ready for a peaceful night of sleep. The next morning, you wake up to your favorite song playing through the bedroom wall speakers. The light in the bathroom turns on as you approach. Then, as you make your way to the kitchen, sunshine greets you through blinds that automatically opened at 6 a.m.Such a scenario may sound like a glimpse into the future – or your latest million-dollar-home fantasy – but for many this level of comfort and convenience is now becoming a reality. Smart-home technology connects systems such as security, lighting, sensors, heating and air-conditioning, and audio-video – enabling automatic or remote control of these features. The technology improves comfort and safety in the home, and offers convenience to the homeowner. Even more importantly, this technology offers a way to better manage energy consumption.“As our communities become more energy-aware, this type of control system will be expected,” says Tom Harris, founder and vice president of The Integrated Home. “Homes that have the ability to monitor occupancy and adjust lights or HVAC accordingly result in energy savings. Energy awareness should be a big part of the automated home. If we can show you your energy consumption hour by hour in real time, people learn how much certain activities and lifestyles cost. Just this awareness can significantly reduce consumption. Technology now exists that will allow your meter to talk to our system and give you this feedback.”Concord resident Thomas Christopher, a client of The Integrated Home, enjoys the entertainment aspect of the technology.“I think the nicest feature is that you can turn on a TV anywhere in the house and watch any show from any DVR or from the Blu-Ray player,” he says. “The television hangs on the wall, but doesn’t require an attached box. All of the televisions in our home are attached to a central rack.”Christopher, who lives with his wife and two 14-year-old twin daughters, says he would still like to add a lighting system that would allow access to all the lights in the house.“The kids are great at turning the lights on, but not so good at turning them off!” he says.Christopher Paradis had his automated lighting system installed in his home in the Huntersville area for security reasons five years ago when he began traveling nearly non-stop for his consulting career.“From 2001 to 2005, I consulted exclusively for First Union/Wachovia. In 2005, my contract was winding down and I found myself traveling more than 200 days a year. Considering the investment that I just made in my home, I wanted to have a way to be able to monitor the ‘health’ of my house from anywhere in the world,” says Paradis.Kim Amster, whose company Simply Smart Technology provided Paradis’ smart-home technology solutions, explains that automation can even be monitored online when homeowners are away.Security cameras can also be accessed from a computer, she says. The system can shoot the homeowner an email that includes a snapshot when a car pulls in the driveway. Garage doors can also be controlled remotely, even enabling package delivery when homeowners are out of town.Paradis confides, however, that the smart-home entertainment features are equally valuable to him for those times when he is in town.“I also had an amazing 6-zone Sonos music system installed,” says Paradis. “Over the years, I have been continually amazed at the options that the system gives me in terms of accessing my own music as well as what feels like an infinite amount of Internet music.”Amster, whose company serviced approximately 50 homes in the Charlotte area last year, says that Sonos is one of their most popular products. Through this system, homeowners can access any digital music on their network, as well as approximately 25,000 radio stations online and services like Pandora, Rhapsody and Napster. They can also choose to listen to different music in different zones, she says. All of this can be controlled by the homeowner’s iPad or iPhone, or they can choose to have a controller dedicated to the system. Harris, who says The Integrated Home has supplied clients with projects for as little as $1,500, explains that smart-home technology doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive.“The great thing about our industry today is that you can do a tremendous amount of home control for a reasonable budget,” he says. “Anyone can start with a basic control solution for their TV and add audio distribution, lighting control, HVAC control, security integration and even remote access to these features via an iPad or other handheld device like an iPhone or Android.”Paradis, whose house is currently on the market, says he is glad he invested in smart-home technology – and plans to do so again in his next home.In fact, Paradis may even step up the technology in his next place: “I might go as far as to have some cameras, which could be monitored remotely, installed.”

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