Installations: The Home of Tomorrow is Here! Page 4

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You don't need to dig out a manual or run a tutorial to do all this, by the way. Tapping your way through the intuitive screens makes your smart home playfully obedient.

You'll soon be able to write even more elaborate scenarios as a variety of Lifeware-compatible smart appliances is introduced. A TMIO intelligent oven ($7,495) - which, among things, refrigerates food until a programmed trigger tells it to start cooking - is already available, and household essentials such as ranges, refrigerators, washers, and dryers are on the horizon.

A system this sophisticated in a house this big doesn't come cheap, of course - the ticket on Moorer's installation is a hefty $500,000 - but Lifeware is really meant to handle just about any size home in need of sophisticated automation. And to help make its products easily accessible to anyone who wants to check them out, EI is featuring Lifeware in simulated home environments in Magnolia Audio Video stores, starting with two new locations in Santa Clara and Santa Monica, California.

But all this praise for Lifeware's execution doesn't address the 500GB gorilla in the living room. Everybody knows that computers crash, and who wants to have to reboot his house - especially when you have everything electronic, including your security system, wired into the network? But there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • No system is foolproof, and high-end proprietary rigs are as prone to operating glitches as any Media Center PC-based installation. Also, the more third-party gear a proprietary system has to assimilate, the more prone it is to acting up.
  • When a Media Center PC is dedicated to running a home-automation system (as opposed to being used by every member of the family to do homework, pay the bills, and perform all kinds of other conflicting tasks that can cause system crashes), it can be extremely robust. But for anybody who still worries about having a PC in charge, EI offers a Windows XP-driven Lifecontroller ($3,500) to handle system-management chores so that the computers become just another part of the system, not its hub.