June 23, 2006 1:54 PM PDT
Building blocks for the smart home
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Using 5E and RG6 coaxial cables good for broadband signals, the Smart Connection Center, which is a 20-inch or 37-inch box, connects all the data, voice and video services for a home and distributes them to separate rooms via media outlets. The system works with FM radio, XM radio, and CD, DVD and MP3 players.
GE also offers a whole-house intercom and security system, complete with a liquid crystal flat-panel display. Users can see who's at the front door by viewing the camera activity over the Internet or television. They can also tack on a whole-house vacuum system for, presumably, keeping dust mites at bay.
The full system is scheduled to be available in the fall.
Sony's version of the all-in-one system is similarly priced, but focuses mostly on integrating home entertainment.
The top-of-the-line model, the Sony New Home Solution 3020, incorporates a 400-disc DVD changer and player, a 400-disc CD changer and player, a combination DVD recorder and VCR, a five-disc DVD player and an AM/FM tuner. All of that allows separate movies or music to be played in any of up to 13 rooms.
Sony is emphasizing the system's prepackaged nature. Previously programmed and prewired into a rack, the NHS is meant to be installed in a wall right out of the box.
The system can also be customized by adding two additional high-definition sources, such as HD cable or satellite, and a Blu-ray Disc player. A security camera can also be added.
Targeted for semicustom and custom homes selling for $750,000 and above, NHS models can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $40,000 for whole-house systems.
"Ten to 15 percent of homes come with audio/video included," said Neal Manowitz, director of marketing for Sony consumer systems and applications. "We want to expand on that."
USTec, a privately held company based in Victor, N.Y., also had an all-in-one digital media device at the show, this one using Apple Computer's FireWire to distribute up to 16 streams of data to flow simultaneously.
Requiring only a single high-speed, Category 5 cable, the TecStream allows one home to have an entire network built around the idea of streaming HD content. For a three-room setup, the TecStream costs between $3,500 and $5,000.
A cheaper option is Channel Vision's pop-out iPod wall dock, which can hold and charge all iPod models except the Shuffle. At $220 to $275 per station, the gadgets let one iPod distribute music to the whole house.
While the popularity of the flashy home electronics gear may be limited by its price, Landmark Communities' Peterson said the slowing housing market might be the most to blame.
"Builders won't throw this in as a standard in a soft market," Peterson said. "Everything needs to be perceived as an advantage--as what they need, not just what they want."
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