Corrections or additions?
Author: Douglas Dixon. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 5,
2000. All rights reserved.
God Bless Our `Connected Home’
Wires and cables and cords, oh my! Are all the wires
running around your house driving you crazy? And now there are even
more wires coming into the home, including multiple phone lines, cable
television, and Internet connections. So wouldn’t it be nice to be
able to access these services from anywhere in the house, so you could
listen to your CDs in any room in the house, or keep watch over the
sleeping baby from any TV, or connect to the Web from any computer,
including a roaming laptop?
This is the vision of the wired home, with video and audio,
and control, and computer connectivity available throughout the home.
A new company in Skillman, Home Animation, is helping to build these
capabilities into new homes by providing design planning and wiring
installation services. "Installation during construction is by
far the most cost-effective," says John Romanowich, president
of Home Animation. "It’s important to do it before the walls are
up, before the house is completed. And you can include the wiring
cost in your mortgage."
Home Animation has joined with Toll Brothers as its first partner
for offering wiring and media design and installation services to
new home buyers in three different developments. Mike McGlone, project
manager for Toll Brothers at the Preserve at Princeton Walk off Route
1 in South Brunswick, reports a high amount of buyer interest in home
"The homeowners are all over it: eight to ten at this site
Walk) have begun to choose options, and another half dozen at another
site," says McGlone. Princeton Walk is a single-family development
with 110 units, averaging 3,000 square feet, and from around $300,000
to $550,000 in price. It is "selling fast," around 35 per
year, and should be complete in another year and a half.
"We are excited to be the first in the area to offer these
to the homeowner," says McGlone. "Out west they are expected,
but the east has been behind. Our homeowners are very educated, and
we can give them what they want. Now we can get you ready for anything
coming in the new millennium."
In the early 1980s everyone predicted that "future wiring"
would be common home construction practice by the 1990s. That did
not happen, says Peter Clinton, a Princeton-based architect and
of million dollar-plus home, because there are too many systems.
needs to be a national standard before it can sell bigtime," says
Clinton. "They still haven’t settled on a U.S. standard for whole
house control." Clinton’s 15-year-old firm, TenEyck & MacKenzie
Construction (U.S. 1, October 12, 1994), has been putting these
into large, luxurious houses for several years.
Home Animation is the brainchild of Romanowich, an
product design and manufacturing consultant with a masters in
engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. His partner
is Kathy Kinka, director of marketing, who is an independent systems
consultant with 25 years of sales and marketing experience with Xerox,
Digital Equipment Corporation, and Sarnoff. "We’ve been involved
with this for over a year," says Kinka. "Everything just fell
together. It’s the right market at the right time, and the need is
Companies like Intel, IBM, and Lucent agree. They have joined with
15 leading technology companies to sponsor the "Wiring America’s
Homes" campaign under the Home Automation Association trade group.
This campaign is focused on educating home buyers and builders on
the importance of designing homes to accommodate both current and
future needs for the "connected home." "It’s all about
the comfort and convenience of your home," says Romanowich,
growing into the future. You can have whatever you want in every room,
and control and interact with the world."
Wiring the home opens up a wide range of possible services, including:
such as printers and scanners, among multiple PCs.
Web at the same time. By moving your Internet connection to a cable
modem or the new DSL phone service, you also can have continuous
that is always available (with no waiting to dial), has significantly
faster access time, and avoids tying up a phone line.
lines within the home, and digital-ready lines for fax and data
and audio entertainment throughout the house, including cable and
satellite television, VCR and DVD movies, and CD audio. Home Animation
can do the wiring alone (stereo and home theater equipment not
for somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000, says Romanowich.
monitor children in the nursery, and watch swimmers in the pool. You
can view this video on any television, or even in a window on your
computer screen. The wiring might cost as little as $1,500, but to
get everything on Home Animation’s price list — the equipment
and computer networking included — can cost as much as $40,000,
lighting and save energy. Home Animation installs programmable
for about $150; lighting automation for $600.
first sit down with the home buyer and discuss the specific needs
of the family, and then design a custom solution. "You need to
make it simple," says Romanowich, "so sight and sound can
just be there, available in any room in the house. It needs to be
ubiquitous, but not overpowering, not in your face." This requires
discreet placement of outlets and controllers and even speakers, as
needed in each room.
There are other partial solutions for providing specific services
such as Internet, video, and control signals around the home. These
are particularly useful for retrofitting older homes, where snaking
wires through walls can be very difficult. Many of the same industry
players are establishing other trade groups and selling consumer
for home networking using both existing phone and electrical home
wiring, and by using wireless radio communications. However, an
solution using dedicated wiring not only offers a complete solution,
but should be more secure, more reliable, and offer faster throughput.
"The alternative is very piecemeal," says Kinka. "There
are people who install only certain types of wiring. We pull it all
together into a complete solution, starting with a media plan, and
putting the right outlets in each room." The Home Automation
the industry trade group, estimates a recommended wiring solution
could range from $750 to $2,000, depending on the homeowner’s needs.
"People want well-integrated solutions at a fair price," says
Romanowich. "It’s a BMW kind of service. Everything is taken care
of, it looks good but is practical, and provides good mileage and
good performance." Adds Clinton, the luxury homebuilder:
is a very good deal. You couldn’t possibly bring this wiring in after
the house was built for that."
Home Animation supports the recommendations issued by the Home
Association for "whole-house structured wiring" solutions
(http://www.homeautomation.org/wah.htm). The basic approach is to
provide service throughout the house using high-quality wiring, which
supports faster communications with less interference. The wiring
is typically designed with a star configuration, distributed to each
room from a central service center where the outside services enter
the home. To protect the wiring, and to provide easy access for future
changes, the wires can be installed using a "home run"
where the wires are bundled together in a common conduit protected
within a PVC plastic pipe.
The specific recommended wiring for different services is:
5) or better, with 2 or 4-pair wires for multiple lines in the same
wire. Category 5 allows you to network your computers up to 100
without cross-talk in a local Ethernet network.
which eliminates hiss even at loud volumes, for distributing modulated
"two RG-6 for cable, two CAT 5 for phone, and two CAT 5 for
Ethernet connections. You also can use one of the cables for a remote
control or an IR repeater." An IR repeater, an infrared remote
control, is used to operate equipment from a distance — even from
a different room.
One of the great advantages of this type of wiring is its
"You wouldn’t see speakers or anything," says Romanowich.
"So if you had an antique interior it wouldn’t be intrusive."
Romanowich, who grew up in Paramus, has always been "fascinated
by electronics and how things work." His father was a dental
and had him playing with electronics at around age five or six. "I
loved it, winding electromagnets, building buzzers, crystal radios,
and ham radio." His three sisters have also gone into technical
fields, working on Web programming, flight control, and digital
communications. His idea of play extends to motorcycles, motocross,
skiing, and his new passion, snowboarding.
Romanowich earned his undergraduate degree in computer electronics
at NJIT, Class of 1987, where he also received his masters in optical
electronics while working at Sarnoff. He then went to IBM in East
Fishkill, N.Y., to work on video inspection systems. But he saw a
downturn at IBM, and started his independent consulting business.
"I went into electrical engineering because I could see how I
could start my own business," he says. Over time, he was
back to Princeton" by his projects, for companies including Intel,
Samsung, and Sarnoff and its SRTC spin-off.
His consulting business, Synthesis Electronics, has grown into a
design and manufacturing organization for moderate-volume products
(between 200 and 20,000 annual units). It specializes in the design
and cost-reduction of controllers for embedded systems like cameras
and heating units. In 1995, for example, Synthesis designed and began
manufacturing a heating system controller that continues to ship
3,500 units a year.
"John is sharp," says Toll’s McGlone, "I met him when
I built his house. He’s a straight shooter, and thorough. This is
a good arrangement for the homebuyers. They can meet with him and
describe what they want, and then pay for it like any other
And the timing seems perfect, from McGlone’s point of view. McGlone,
an NYU graduate with a double major in building construction
and philosophy), has worked for Toll for seven years. He is now also
managing Bedens Brook Estates and Montgomery Green in Montgomery
Township. "Toll is looking for solutions," he says, "and
this is something our current electricians cannot do. The company
has given me the latitude to find something that works."
And Clinton, the builder of the high end houses, argues that the
for such wired homes will be even brighter. In the past, Clinton says,
"we typically explain the cost and people have not really gone
for it," not even the people who otherwise are paying in the seven
figures for their house. "The closest I’ve come is to do master
lighting control, where you punch a button to light a path to the
kitchen and turn out the lights behind you. That system for a
job was tens of thousands of dollars. At this stage it is very labor
intensive. In the future you will run everything through one CPU and
control all lighting from one computer."
The market will become broader, Clinton predicts, when the fixtures
themselves become "smart." Says Clinton: "You can make
the wiring smart but the fixtures are not smart." Smart fixtures,
with receptors that automatically key into the system, might be ready
to install in luxury homes in 10 years. "Now, if you want to do
a pathway of lighting you have to make all the wiring conform to the
system and the fixtures do not conform," says Clinton.
"People have asked me what it would cost to have heating and
centrally controlled to be able to call from a car and raise the
says Clinton. With five different HVAC systems, common in a luxury
home, that would cost thousands of dollars. "For one system, Radio
Shack would sell you the components for a few hundred dollars, but
that is not whole house automation. In whole house automation,
runs up and back and some central processing unit keeps tabs, so you
can look at the screen that tells you everything that is on."
Romanowich’s goal for Home Animation is to create "a nation-wide
company recognized for advanced uses of technology in the home for
convenience and pleasure." The company is named Home Animation
because "the more animated your home, the more fun you have."
He and Kinka are energized by the opportunity. "I’m having a blast
every day," he says, "this really pulls me out of bed in the
609-333-0331; fax, 609-333-1219. John Romanowich, president. E-mail:
Does your business have technology that is transforming our personal
or business lives? Send your suggestions for this column to U.S. 1
Newspaper, 12 Roszel Road, Princeton 08540, fax 609-452-0033, or
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