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Home Systems No Longer Separate But Equal

9/15/2006 09:15:00 AM Eastern

Denver —At least two more companies —Colorado vNet and start-up Savant — are giving installers the ability to integrate control of all home systems into a single in-wall controller.

Here at the CEDIA Expo, Colorado vNet announced a fourth-quarter firmware upgrade enabling its in-wall 7-inch color touch screen/amplifiers to control its previously separate Aura lighting and control system, which was controlled by dedicated keypads and touch screens. The 7-inch touch screen/amplifiers are part of the company’s Ethernet-based Vibe multi-room audio system, which ships audio over Ethernet cables to the touch screens. The touch screens convert the audio signals to analog, amplify the signal and power architectural speakers in the same room.

For its part, start-up Savant unveiled a multi-room A/V system that integrates with other suppliers’ home-control systems. Due in March, it is said to eliminate days of programming, reducing a customer’s costs by as much as $10,000 to $15,000 on a hypothetical system whose installation and hardware costs would run $150,000.

To program a system, installers click and drag icons of various Savant and other-brand products to create a block diagram. The installer then hits a compile button to configure the system’s software. For each component, installers select the features they want to use, and the features appear on the system’s touch panels.

The brain of Savant’s system is a multi-zone-A/V preamp/surround-processor/controller with video scaler and video switching. It’s controlled from in-wall touch panels and handheld RF remotes. Savant also offers a multi-channel amplifier, home theater amplifier, and music server. Audio signal is routed through the house over speaker cables, and video is routed over various types of video cables, including HDMI.

In another systems-integration announcement, Control4 upgraded the operating system in its multi-room-audio and home-control system to run 3x to 5x faster, allow installers to download firmware upgrades without a truck roll, and enable homeowners to control their home’s systems remotely from any Web browser.

Control4 uses wireless ZigBee to control home A/V, lighting, and other home-control systems, including legacy systems that lack ZigBee. The company also uses wired and wireless Ethernet to distribute music to amplified tabletop clients. The company’s products include a music server.

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