A FAMILY OF FOUR DECIDES TO SPEND the first night in their new home watching a movie. After dinner, they retreat to the entertainment room to try out the new media server and voice command system from Honeywell and its partner, software maker DigitalDeck.

Dad issues a command to the home entertainment system to bring up The Empire Strikes Back and instantly the lights dim, the motorized shades drop, the movie screen lowers, the projector turns on, and the DVD changer retrieves the selected movie. To complete the scene, the system kicks on a hot air popcorn maker that has snacks ready just as it's time to settle into the movie.

Is this level of automation available today? The short answer is that home technology integrated with voice recognition software is coming soon. Jayman Master Built, a Canadian-based builder of about 1,500 homes annually with projects in Calgary, Edmonton, and Denver is displaying the new Honeywell/DigitalDeck system at model homes in Calgary and Edmonton this year and in Denver next year. The system will also be rolled out in model homes of roughly 50 builders across the United States during the second half of 2005.

David Bengert, Jayman's director of purchasing, says the company may offer an introductory version of the system as standard in 2006, but much will depend on the continued strength of Jayman's local housing market.

“For now, only Honeywell's FutureSmart structured wiring system will be standard [for us],” says Bengert, who adds that Jayman first showed the new technology to the public at the Foothills Hospital Home Lottery, an annual fundraiser for the Calgary hospital in which ticket holders could win one of three Jayman show homes.

“People were amazed,” says Bengert, who notes that about 35,000 people saw the Honeywell/DigitalDeck technology displayed in the $1 million grand-prize home from February to early June. “They didn't realize that voice recognition software that can control anything in the home is available now,” he says.

John Lattion, CEO of Calgary-based Creative Home Systems, Jayman's home technology integrator, says that rather than a standard “good, better, best” system, Jayman will take a phased approach to offering the new technology.

“There are so many options and combinations of how people want the technology that it's hard to classify it into good, better, best categories,” he says.

WARM AND FUZZY: Homeowners can view and manage family photos on a plasma screen over the Honeywell/DigitalDeck home technology setup.
WARM AND FUZZY: Homeowners can view and manage family photos on a plasma screen over the Honeywell/DigitalDeck home technology setup.

Lattion says most people will start with the Honeywell Automation Server, the core product, which is a PC-based server that includes the Home Automated Living voice recognition software, which lets homeowners issue voice commands to program and play consumer electronics devices. The software also lets homeowners manage any device on the network by speaking into their telephones or a microphone, or by using a touch-screen. The PC-based servers come loaded with features such as TV listings, contact and phone call management, weather updates, sports scores, stock quotes, and the ability to play and manage MP3s. Of course, to maximize the system a broadband Internet connection is required.

The next upgrade is the DigitalDeck media server, which is a digital video recorder with TiVo-like features that lets homeowners archive and access digital photos and distributes video in up to three rooms. With a DigitalDeck device in three rooms, a different movie can play in each room. Lattion says the basic PC-server with the Digital-Deck software runs about $7,500.

From there, homeowners can add automated lighting, HVAC, and security. Costs will vary, says Lattion, because a starter lighting package may cover only the outdoor lights and the main floor, and because some homeowners will not want all the available home automation features.

One other note: Homeowners who want voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service can run VoIP phones over a broadband connection without having to install a landline to send security signals. Lattion says Honeywell Ademco's AlarmNet service can run security signals over the Web, and his company has run successful tests of security signals over VoIP.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Denver, CO.