The world may not look like the Jetson's yet, but new technology is everywhere. It is in our vehicles, our homes, the games that we play. Whether it is Hi-Def, 3-D TV or the latest in smartphones and e-readers, consumer electronics are the eye-candy that catches our attention. Just as advanced, however, are the behind-the-wall systems that enable our tech-toys to work seamlessly in our new homes.

There are two essential issues at work: control and flexibility. As homebuyers become more sophisticated in their use of home electronics and more aware of home energy costs, they want better control over both. At the same time, they want systems that will change with and accommodate their lifestyle. They want to take advantage of new design trends and the next generation of electronics, without requiring a complete rewiring.

Professional builders, in tune with the latest home automation trends, know that the first step to providing both control and flexibility is the structured wiring system (SWS). Also referred to as low-voltage or advanced wiring, SWS distributes high-speed, low-voltage wires and cables from a central hub to each outlet that will accommodate a variety of consumer electronic devices. The wires, cables and outlets at which they terminate are universal, meaning they will work with any device. Homeowners can simply "plug and play" as they wish.

In addition, the design of an SWS will also allow compatible appliances, consumer electronics, and other systems to communicate through wireless hubs that broadcast a wired or satellite signal to boost both convenience and function. Today's tech savvy consumers can use their mobile phone or other wireless handheld devices to send signals from a remote location directly to the home electronic system. With this technology and a wireless hub, owners can initiate lighting schemes, change the settings on their security system and adjust the home's heating or cooling.

Builders are also delivering control and flexibility with wall-mounted touch-screens. Designed to be easily installed, removed or replaced, these small screens can be used to control whole-house or room-specific audio, lighting, security, heating and cooling, and even adjust the window shades. The latest versions allow homeowners to select a designer background, which is simply swapped out as their tastes change.

In fact, almost every electric and electronic product in a new home today, from the garage door to the refrigerator, incorporates automated features for better homeowner control and enhanced quality of life. As sophisticated as home technology has become, it appears we are just scratching the surface. As home automation continues to evolve, we seek to stay on top of the latest in technology so we can "future-proof" our clients' homes for whatever is on the digital horizon.


Art Elliott