Intergrating Home Systems for Comfort and Control

Three years ago, when Toronto-based Magna Security Systems Inc. decided to explore opportunities for expansion, management turned an eye to systems integration. The company figured it could leverage its know-how in wiring homes and tap its established base of technology-savvy clients with deep pockets.

After six months of exhaustive home system research—and enough in-house product testing to impress a Consumer Reports staffer—Magna began offering options in home systems integration. Today, the company’s separate home networking/home automation division, Magna Syber Systems, has successfully installed several Phast home systems and at press time was nearing completion on four more.

Demand for home networking solutions today isn’t limited to the highest peak of the high-end housing market. HDTV, satellite TV and DVD players—along with high-speed Internet solutions such as digital subscriber lines and cable modems—are helping boost sales of structured wiring systems for new home construction.

Such broadband applications make the old “quad” and POTS (plain old telephone service) cabling seem like hopelessly antiquated bottlenecks. And security dealers—nationwide giants and local, family owned independents alike—are proving the security industry is uniquely suited to install the structured wiring systems that can handle tomorrow’s home networking needs.

Systems Adapt to Consumers’ Lifestyles

A year ago, SecurityLink from Ameritech began offering customers IBM’s Home Director system. Family members in homes equipped with Home Director can easily network their PCs to share files and printers, and can also dis-tribute video, data and telephony functions throughout the home. For example, a signal from a DVD player in the living room can be delivered to a TV in a bedroom upstairs.

What IsStructured Wiring?

A residential structured wiring system typically consists of two principal elements: coaxial cable (most often quad shielded RG-6) and telephony/data cable (Cat 5 unshielded twisted pair). The system is built around a service panel or box that serves as a hub for all connections.

All drops are homerun—in other words, they extend from the outlet in each room to the service panel. As a result, there’s no daisy chaining or looping.

Pinpointing Clients’ Electronic Needs

When someone with expensive taste walks into a Mercedes dealership, chances are, he or she has a ballpark price in mind. But that’s not always the case with high-end home systems integration and automation. New clients often have no clue how much money a high-end, custom-built home network costs to design, install and program.

Home Networking Future Looks Bright

Today, an estimated 650,000 homes in the United States have some form of networking, according to the Boston-based Yankee Group, which specializes in infor-mation technology research. But the Yankee Group projects that figure will soar to almost 10 million by 2003, reflecting a compounded annual growth rate of 95 percent during the next four years.

Of the nearly 10 million homes expected to have networking solutions by 2003, the Yankee Group predicts that the majority of these will employ PC-based networking.

“Simple home networking solutions and new protocols that link devices within the home will be at the heart of a technology evolution for consumers,” says Craig Mundie, senior vice president of Microsoft.

Cathy Stephens is a freelance writer based in the Los Angeles area.

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