Manifest Technology

Mike McGlone

Kathy Kinka

John Romanowich

Peter Clinton

Corrections or additions?

Author: Douglas Dixon. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 5,

2000. All rights reserved.

God Bless Our `Connected Home’

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Manifest Technology

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,

communications

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

wiring solutions.

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Mike McGlone

"The homeowners are all over it: eight to ten at this site

(Princeton

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

services

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

developer

of million dollar-plus home, because there are too many systems.

"There

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

systems

into large, luxurious houses for several years.

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Kathy Kinka

Home Animation is the brainchild of Romanowich, an

independent

product design and manufacturing consultant with a masters in

electrical

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

tremendous."

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,

"and

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:

Computer networking, so you can share data, and hardware

such as printers and scanners, among multiple PCs.

Internet access, so multiple computers can access the

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

service

that is always available (with no waiting to dial), has significantly

faster access time, and avoids tying up a phone line.

Home office phone service, so you can have multiple phone

lines within the home, and digital-ready lines for fax and data

services.

Distributed video and home theater, so you can enjoy video

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

included)

for somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000, says Romanowich.

Video cameras, so you can see visitors at the front door,

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,

says Romanowich.

Environmental automation, so you can automatically control

lighting and save energy. Home Animation installs programmable

thermostats

for about $150; lighting automation for $600.

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John Romanowich

Home Animation’s approach to providing these services is to

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

products

for home networking using both existing phone and electrical home

wiring, and by using wireless radio communications. However, an

integrated

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

Association,

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:

"$2,000

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

Automation

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"

approach,

where the wires are bundled together in a common conduit protected

within a PVC plastic pipe.

The specific recommended wiring for different services is:

Telephone service: twisted phone wire, category 5 (CAT

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

megabits

per second.

Data service: also CAT 5 quality, for high speed

communications

without cross-talk in a local Ethernet network.

Audio and video service: RG-6 quad-shielded coaxial cable,

which eliminates hiss even at loud volumes, for distributing modulated

RF video.

"We recommend six outlets in each room," says

Romanowich,

"two RG-6 for cable, two CAT 5 for phone, and two CAT 5 for

computer

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

invisibility.

"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

technician,

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

cellular

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

"dragged

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

product

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

around

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

option."

And the timing seems perfect, from McGlone’s point of view. McGlone,

an NYU graduate with a double major in building construction

management

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."

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Peter Clinton

And Clinton, the builder of the high end houses, argues that the

future

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

renovation

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

cooling

centrally controlled to be able to call from a car and raise the

temperature,"

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,

everything

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

morning."

Home Animation, 50 Blue Heron Way, Skillman 08558.

609-333-0331; fax, 609-333-1219. John Romanowich, president. E-mail:

SynthCosul@aol.com. Home pages: http://www.HomeAnimation.com

and http://www.SynthesisElectronics.com

Wiring Americas’ Homes (WAH)

http://www.homeautomation.org/wah.html

Home Automation Times, an online home automation

publication, http://www.homeautomationtimes.com

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

E-mail

info@princetoninfo.com or ddixon@acm.org.

Corrections or additions?


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