DSI ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEMS, HOME AUTOMATION
By Gina Dostler
While roaming through an annual home tour last year, I distinctly remember a beautiful home in Newport Beach.
What fascinated me the most – besides the incredible view – was when the volunteer host smiled and touched a screen on the wall beside her and instantly the huge living room patio window opened up like a garage door, the fireplace turned on, the lights dimmed and Sinatra started crooning overhead.
Atmosphere in one touch.
I found out later that same panel controlled the computer, phone and water filtration systems. Hi-tech is settling nicely in home tech.
I contacted DSI Entertainment Systems and spoke with Josh Christian, their Marketing VP, to find out more about making homes smart.
Q: Describe DSI Entertainment Systems?
A: We are a custom Electronic Systems Contractor that was founded in 1994 on the principle of making the home theater systems easy to use. By 1999, we expanded beyond our home theater roots to embrace home automation systems as a key offering. In 2008, DSI Entertainment Systems became the largest custom audio video integration firm in Southern California.
Since then we have expanded our enterprise to include a dedicated IT/computer networking department. DSI stands at the top with a complete dedicated staff in engineering, project management, programming, installation, computer-IT services, and separate customer service department. A member of the trade organization CEDIA, Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, DSI has established itself as the leader in the marketplace. Just this year we opened up a new location in Newport Beach.
Q: What is a smart home and how does it work?
A: A smart home or home automation system, allows access and control of all your home’s subsystems such as: audio/visual, lighting, security, and climate through a combination of wireless handheld and in-wall touchscreens. This “smart home” technology is also referred to as “systems integration,” allowing each subsystem to “talk” to each other.
It starts in the programmed control processor, the brains of the control system, and then is wired to the other subsystems, the various in-wall touchscreens throughout the house, and to the Internet. Automate your lights to come on, your motorized drapes and shades to go up or down, your music to start , or your security system to engage. There are hundreds of different customized scenarios we can automate around your home.
Intuitive touchscreen icons allow total control of your home with no instruction manual needed, it’s that simple. You can even utilize a computer, your Android, iPad, or iPhone through a downloaded app to control your systems all over the world literally through its 3G/4G system.
Q: What technology is behind a smart home?
A: DSI Entertainment Systems represents such leading companies in the home automation controls industry as Crestron, AMX, and Control4. Ideally, these control systems are wired in the construction phase of the home, though there are wireless retrofit solutions available depending on the complexity, size, and number of subsystems you want to control. Newer homes fully wired with CAT5 or better cabling (fairly commonly used over the past decade) can sometimes be retrofitted with a hardwired home automation solution.
Q: What are the benefits to automating a home?
A: Smart homes have the ability to create ease in your life and provide a much needed convenience in this fast-paced world. How great is it to be able to control lighting, entertainment and even heat up the jacuzzi from your couch. Or touch a screen before going to bed and set back the thermostat to an energy conserving mode, activate the security system, close the drapes and shades, and turn off the lights. It can also bring peace of mind by alerting you to any emergency at home while you are at work or vacation.
Smart homes provide energy efficiency savings based on your needs through programs that turn on or shut off. Electric bills are reduced when lights automatically shut off when you leave the room, and rooms can be heated or cooled based on occupancy. Another incredible asset to having a smart home is an easily controlled automated system for those with disabilities or a limited range of movement.
Q: What are the most common things to automate?
A: The four basics are audio/visual, lighting, security and climate control. The rule of the game is anything that can be controlled with a switch, infrared remote control, contact closure, IP, EIA-232, EIA-485, EIA-422 (the last four of these being specialized communication protocols) is up for automating. Here are some examples: pool and spa, motorized drapes and shades, motorized anything, newer smart appliances that are networked connected, sprinkler systems, automatic garage doors, gates, awnings, fireplaces, and even automated feeders that give your pet a preset amount of food at selected times per day.
Q: Are there some interesting smart home tricks?
A: Vacation Mode: interrupts the thermostat schedule and puts it in an energy conserving mode; triggers a macro to make the house looked lived-in by making all the lights, viewable from the street, turn on and off based on the homeowner’s schedule. Another great program is to wire up sensors to the control systems and notify you if something goes wrong.
For example, a client on vacation in France received a call on the phone from his home automation system that the flood sensor had tripped. He pulled up the security cameras via the Internet and confirmed that there indeed was water flooding in his basement. So he called his plumber back in the States and had him go out to the house. Because the client had electrical gates and door locks, he confirmed the plumber’s presence via Internet video, buzzed him through the gates and unlocked the door for him to enter his home. He felt comfortable letting the plumber in because he had security cameras located throughout his property and was able to watch the whole thing back in France from his laptop.
There was also another client who had sensors placed in his mailbox so when it opened, a message popped on the control screen inside his home to notify him the mail had arrived with the time and date posted.
Q: Do I need to be an Einstein to run the system?
A: No mega IQs required! Any system is as good as it is programmed and that is where we make a difference. We make it simple and easy to use. We use our own touchscreen interface, interpret the software and program it in a well laid out plan based on your needs. Our highly skilled team makes the systems in your home work seamlessly together. In 2008, DSI Entertainment Systems had the distinction of winning Crestron’s International contest for the “Most Creative GUI” (Graphic User Interface) design.
Q: Tell me the steps DSI takes to automate a house to a customer’s specs.
A It is a very painless process. We meet you at your home, listen to your needs and analyze your home. We ask you a little about your lifestyle, do you travel much, entertain on a constant basis, etc. We also see how to retrofit the wires if your house is not already wired with the Cat5 wiring. We usually can easily retrofit the wiring in the crawl spaces under your home or in attics, it all depends on how your house is constructed. We then provide a proposal for you and after approval, our technicians come out to install it in your home and program it per the specs.
Q: Am I left out to dry if I have problems with my system?
A: Here is a great benefit of DSI. We have a 24/7 support team to fix any problem quickly and hassle free. We can solve most problems via the phone, but also have a response team we can send out to your property. We use our own internal service and programming department and would never hire out a third party contractor to fix your system. When seeking an Electronic System Contractor, that is a key requirement from a company. It is important to note that a home automation system doesn’t become the ‘master’ control over all of the subsystems (climate, lighting, security, etc.). It merely ties them all together in an easy to use way that greatly minimizes wall clutter. These subsystems will still work if the home automation system goes down for any reason. We usually have the thermostats and security panels (things that cause ‘wall acne’) hidden from the common walls and hidden in easily accessible closets.
Q: What challenges might occur when installing a smart home and how are they solved?
A: Probably not understanding the range of capabilities that are involved in the systems and therefore not communicating your wants and needs properly. Reading our home automation page and also watching the videos would be a good tool to help you understand firsthand what is going on. Also, it is wise to choose an installation company that has an in-house programming department to provide prompt customer service in case of any issues or problems. Each house is unique and requires specific attention to its details.
Another challenge, especially in retrofit situations, is that the client may need to upgrade their thermostats, pool/spa controllers, security systems, etc., to models that have the ability to communicate with a home automation system. Another prerequisite to a reliable system is using commercial-grade IT networking equipment in your home, since most of the control systems communicate with the wireless handheld remotes and touchscreens through WiFi. The cheap products at BestBuy won’t cut it since they are not built to the range and reliability requirements needed by a robust control system design. People that have had poor experiences with home automation are experiencing one or more of these problems: 1) wrong control system for client’s needs 2) poor programming 3) poorly designed/consumer-grade IT networking components.
Q: Any new technology in the works?
A: Smart appliances are beginning to make their debut in home automation. Things in the works include refrigerators that create dinner recipes based on ingredients stored inside, or washers and dryers that send text message alerts when their cycle is finished. These will most likely be integrated into home automation systems in the future, along with energy-monitoring and energy-management to minimize the owner’s carbon footprint. To stay up to date with the home automation, home theater, and custom audio video world, subscribe to DSI’s Blog by entering your email on the right-hand column of blog.dsientertainment.com.
Name: Josh Christian
Address: 1024 Bayside Drive #111, Newport Beach, CA 92660