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Developer to sell “security smart” homes

A Toronto developer has opened sales offices at Mountain Trails in Collingwood, touting the development as the first smart neighbourhood in Canada where every townhome will include automated technology to control temperature and lighting levels, monitor home security, smoke detection, and a water sensor to detect flooding, as well as enabling energy management.


March 30, 2009
By Jennifer Brown

“The system we’re providing is very user friendly and the homeowner can
control these functions from a centrally located in-wall touchscreen
when they are in residence,” says David Hirsh, president of Brandy Lane
Homes.
Wherever they are in the world, the homeowner can connect to their home
system via telephone or Internet using a Snap-Link USB key drive which
plugs in to any Windows-based computer. Snap-Link offers the ability to
securely access and control the home, using 128-bit encryption similar
to that used by banks.

The USB drive can be plugged into any PC (cannot be used on a Macintosh
computer) and connects back to the home with full visibility of cameras
(an upgrade), temperature, doors and window security and lighting.
“I’ve always been very interested in home automation and target
marketing this community to a weekender buyer — someone who enjoys
skiing and hiking and activities all year long,” says Hirsh.

The 136-unit development offers townhomes, which range in price from
$300,000 to $375,000 are 1,800 to 2,200 square feet in size. Hirsh
estimates the home automation features are valued at $13,000 to $14,000
with the structured wiring and motion detectors in the house and a
touch screen station that delivers messages about the home.

In doing his research, Hirsh says he found potential buyers of vacation
properties were concerned about the maintenance of the home and
worrying about what was going on when they weren’t there.

“I started looking at the feasibility of creating a smart home
community. I thought this market would want to monitor their homes
remotely with total control over heat and air conditioning and lighting
to give the house a more lived-in look.”

Hirsh also found that security was a concern but not from a perspective
but a break-in but whether a pipe had burst or something malfunction of
the home.

The system being installed at the Brandy Lane homes is manufactured by
Home Automation Inc. (HAI), established in 1985 in the U.S. which
manufactures home control products.

System designer and home automation integrator Total Home Automation
Inc., of Barrie, Ontario is working with Brandy Lane Homes. Hirsh
approached King about eight months ago to work on the project.

“To date, the bulk of our clients are installing our systems in their
high-end custom homes or in commercial applications,” says Aubrey King
of Total Home Automation. “Mountain Trails is the first to put this
system in as a standard feature.

Many of the buyers will be using the townhome as a second residence or
weekend getaway and the remote control aspect is seen as a plus, says
King.

At Mountain Trails, the standard system uses Cat5E and RG6 cable in
principal rooms that are fully networked and ready with high-speed
Internet to each home.

The townhomes will also include a security system with front and rear
entry door contacts, plus three motion detectors (one per level). If
there is an intrusion, the designated smart lights automatically switch
on and the system calls the first of up to eight pre-programmed
telephone contact numbers.

If the smoke alarm is activated, the system will automatically shut
down the homes’ HVAC system to prevent smoke from spreading throughout
the home, and then dial one of the specified emergency contact numbers
until a person or voice message is reached.


Lighting is programmed using an astronomical clock, which takes into
account such factors as when the sunrise and sunset occur, day of the
week and time of day.

 “Our owners will appreciate the convenience and safety of arriving at
night to a home with the outside lights on and opening the front door
which triggers the interior lights to switch,” says Hirsh.

Another nighttime lighting safety benefit is that hallway lights are
programmed to sense motion and come on at 50 per cent to provide lit
passage between rooms.

Temperature is controlled with The Omnistat2 thermostat, that functions
as a programmable thermostat, but when connected to the system enables
the indoor climate to be controlled remotely via the Internet and
telephone.

“Calling your home from the ski slopes to turn up the heat is just one
of the possible benefits and a contributor to controlling energy use,”
he adds.

In addition, a freeze warning is pre-programmed to alert owners when
the internal temperatures reaches levels low enough to cause plumbing
pipes to freeze. The Omnistat2 thermostats have the ability to
communicate with an electric meter (if the electricity provider uses
compatible smart meters) to show the current cost of energy, how much
energy has been used, and how much the utility bill will be this month
and to display real-time energy usage in graph format.

The touchscreen (HAI’s OmniTouch 5.7) can also be programmed to remind
homeowners of particular dates like recycling or garbage collection,
scheduled service calls and other appointments.

The touchscreen comes with Scenes Buttons programmable for example to
Movie Night – lights dim and the room temperature adjusts – not unlike
the way cars offer pre-programmed seating positions for different
drivers.
In the case of a power loss to the home, a back-up battery system is
included, and upon detection, the home system will call and advise the
owner of the problem and will follow up with updates when power resumes.
To fully orient clients to the benefits of their built-in system,
support includes a complete system demonstration with assistance to
adjust settings as owners create their new living environment.

Hirsh admits he has concerns selling in a down real estate market but
is confident that the homes are priced to a recession market.

“The smart house idea, aside from having great benefits to the homeowners, gives us a unique selling proposition,” he says.

Additional upgrades from Total Home Automation will include cameras, distributed audio, intercoms and keyfobs.
“We can set them up with a monitoring company, but if they choose not
to, they can program up to eight telephone numbers the system will call
you, your spouse or your neighbours until it actually reaches someone
if you lose AC power, a break-in happens or frozen pipes and there is
no monthly fee attached to that,” says King.