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Former World Bank vice president Armeane Choksi holds an iPad, which he uses to control devices in his home.

Matt McLain • Washington Post,

Choskiís sitting room is seen at left. He can preset drapes in various rooms to open and close at precise times, which can help protect his rugs and furniture from harsh sunlight. Illustrates SMARTHOUSE (category l), by Michele Lerner, special to The Washington Post. Moved Friday, April 12, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Photo by Matt McLain for The Washington Post.)

Choski’s sitting room is seen at left. He can preset drapes in various rooms to open and close at,

Smart houses are getting even smarter

  • Article by: Michele Lerner
  • Washington Post
  • October 5, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Armeane Choksi acknowledges he’s a bit of a “gadget freak” in explaining his need for an uber-connected house.

Whether he’s sitting in his second-floor home office or vacationing out of the country, Choksi can control just about every major component of his mansion in northwest Washington, D.C., by touching the screen of his smartphone or tablet.

He can preset his drapes in his dining room, living room and family room to open at 4 p.m. and close at 10 a.m. to protect his rugs and furniture from the harsh sun. While he’s in the kitchen, he can lower the screen in the basement home theater and begin playing a favorite movie so that it’s ready for him when he gets there. And he can turn on, turn off or dim practically any light in the house.

“This system is completely comprehensive and controls the front-door camera, cable TV, the Kaleidescape video-distribution system, Internet radio, satellite radio, lighting, temperature, the shades and security,” says Choksi, 69, who served as vice president of the World Bank before founding two investment firms.

Smartphones and tablets have made luxury more convenient to those with means, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re the type of person who struggles with the TV remote, you may not want your entire home controlled by technology. And some over-the-top features can become outdated quickly, requiring expensive updates.

Being able to operate “online has lowered prices and made these systems more accessible,” said Tom Wells, president and founder of Integrated Media Systems in Sterling, Va.

Neither Choksi nor Wells would disclose the cost of the system. But experts say such technology can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Wells says the new systems can do 50 percent more than they used to for 30 percent of the cost. “Now everyone can start with a Web-based device instead of needing to install a special touch panel. That brings down the cost tremendously.”

Although this technology may seem frivolous, it has some practical applications.

Joshua Baker, founder and co-owner of Bowa, a luxury-home renovation and remodeling company in McLean, Va., says handling things remotely from a tablet or smartphone is particularly important for people who travel frequently or have a second home.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular smart-home devices:

Lighting: Baker says Bowa frequently installs lighting “scenes” that can control an entire house.

“Most people only have a few ways that their home is lit, so we can set up standard weekday scene, a weekend scene and an entertaining scene,” he said.

Security: Multiple cameras allow owners to remotely monitor their homes and to allow people to enter.

Derek Goldstein, principal and chief executive of Casaplex, a technology-services company in Kensington, Md., says some homeowners are adding keyless entry systems; a regular key is a backup.

Energy efficiency: A temperature sensor will record your preferences and learn over time how to optimize your energy use. You can also get a monthly energy-use report from the system.

“You can tie your HVAC to your mobile phone’s GPS, so that when the GPS shows that you’re 4 miles from home, the heat will automatically go on,” Goldstein said.

Home monitoring: You can set sensors to check for a leak in your basement, to alert you if your plants need water and even keep an eye on your kids.

Entertainment: “Consumers want their entertainment to be tech-friendly, too, so they’re including the ability to stream video and audio services anywhere in the house,” says Wells, of Integrated Media Systems.

Appliances: “Some of the new ranges and refrigerators have a built-in ability to look up recipes and set the temperature and timer for you,” Goldstein said. “They have internal diagnostic systems that e-mail the dealer and the homeowner if servicing is needed.”

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