ORLANDO, Fla. (MarketWatch) — The most technologically savvy homeowners bask in crystal-clear television screens when they’re home and can control the lights while they’re out of town. Without moving an inch, they can decide what music is playing in each room and can monitor the well being of their aging mother in a different city.
So says Greg Hoshaw, owner of High Definition Systems in St. Charles, Ill., who presented the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association’s top 10 “must have” technology trends for homes at the International Builders’ Show here this week.
Making the list:
- A home theater or media room. A home theater is a room dedicated solely to the viewing of movies and programs, designed with aspects such as sound quality in mind. A media room is incorporated in a home’s living space and is more of a multipurpose room, where a homeowner can watch television, read a book or play a game. Home theaters can run anywhere from $15,000 to $150,000 and more depending on the components; one package displayed at the show from Lifeware included a media center, audio-video receiver, 200-disc DVD changer, 50-inch plasma television, six speakers, automated lighting control, remote and software for $31,000.
- Home health-care products and installation. As the population ages, there’s more demand for health-care products that take advantage of advances in technology. Patient-monitoring systems can allow a caregiver to check up on an elderly loved one from afar. Biometric monitoring devices can keep constant watch on a patient’s vital signs.
- Media Center Edition (MCE) computers. This audio/visual computer can help manage a home’s various media sources, providing such features as surround-sound processing, as well as access to Internet radio and the one-touch recording of TV shows. A top-of-the-line Dell media center system fetches at least $5,500. Hewlett-Packard’s HP z565 Digital Media Center starts at $3,000.
- Microdisplay-based televisions. High-definition televisions are hot, including LCD (liquid crystal displays), DLP (digital light processing), LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) or LCD-based rear-projection TVs. Depending on size and type, prices for these products run the gamut.
- Lighting and automation. Homes can be set up with the ability to control lighting and other features throughout the house from any room — and any part of the world. Systems can also create lighting schemes and automation that might, for example, turn the lights down and close the curtains when a DVD is started, Hoshaw said. Honeywell and Home Director are two companies that offer such systems. Lifeware’s deluxe system, which includes audio, lighting, HVAC and security controls in addition to its media capabilities, is priced at $54,000.
- Security systems. New systems can protect a home while the owner is away by taking a snapshot of light usage in the house over the past two weeks, then mimicking the series while the owner is out of town.
- Media servers. Homeowners are increasingly loading all of their media, including music and movie files, on one server, making files accessible in a central location. Hewlett-Packard has developed its HP MediaSmart Server, with the capability to handle 10 accounts on your home network, although the product is not yet for sale.
- The iPod revolution. Many people have the popular music player from Apple — or a competing mp3 player — but increasingly homes are adding docking systems that allow more flexibility in using the device’s media libraries. The Keyspan AV Dock for iPod, for example, will connect the device to a computer, stereo or TV and retails for $64.99 on Amazon.com.
- Smart sound systems. Multiroom, multisource sound systems allow a homeowner to control the sound piping through rooms. Often with a touch of a key pad, a homeowner can control what’s playing in each zone, independent of the rest of the house. Bose installed such whole-house systems in two of the showcase houses built specifically for the builders show.
- Gaming rooms. They’re not just your run-of-the-mill ping-pong table in the basement anymore. Video-game spaces have become increasingly common in a home, and are often set up around more traditional games, such as a billiard table.