By BUILDER Magazine Staff. Home automation took a leap forward in March, when the Cary, N.C.-based Home Director released the latest version of its Control Point automation server. The server, an Internet gateway that manages and distributes audio and video, makes Home Director the first company to use a new home operating system called SYS, from Premise Systems in Redmond, Wash. (

SYS manages relationships between different manufacturers' devices. It's based on the Microsoft-led Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) initiative: When someone connects a UPnP compliant device to the network, SYS automatically adds it.

That should do for automation what Windows did for PCs. "In the early days of the PC, connecting a printer was iffy at best," says Premise president Dan Quigley. A different driver was needed for each brand of printer. Today, the PC sees it has a new printer and automatically installs a driver that will work with that printer. "That's the goal we have for every device in the home," says Quigley.

Premise's Jim Hunter demonstrated SYS for BUILDER in March. Underneath the program's simple interface lies a control screen resembling Windows Explorer--not surprising for a Microsoft-compliant product. We were impressed with how simple it was to build automation routines by dragging lines to connect different parts of a subsystem. Hunter says that the control screen can manage nearly any automation scheme a homeowner would want. Underneath, its object-oriented system lets hard-core programmers go even further.

Home Director isn't the only company using SYS. It's also part of VIP Systems' all-in-one Web pad (See "All In One"), GE Smart's home networking system, as well as Lite Touch's and Lutron's lighting controls. Home integrators can buy it for $749. The integrators we've spoken with seem impressed. One told us that, in a high-end home, an automation job that used to cost $40,000 can now be done for as little as $10,000.