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The new owners of this ultra-modern Harbor Acres showplace never have to fret that their 2,000-bottle collection of fine wines will go bad. A built-in monitor in their floor-to-ceiling glass-walled wine cellar keeps the temperature at 56 to 59 degrees; they’re notified immediately by email if it varies by a degree. 

They never have to wonder, either, if their visiting college-age kids are helping themselves to a favorite chardonnay. A series of secret keypad codes gains entrance to one of the wine cellar’s four doors—each door allowing access to a different level of wine—all of them controlled via magnetic locks, and all of them on camera. “There’s a guest door, the wife door, the master of the house door, etc. The minute one of those doors opens up, he’s notified and he can go to the camera to see who’s there,” says Mark van den Broek, president of Sarasota’s SmartHouse Integration, who designed the tech system that transformed the residence into a house that’s not just smart but a certified genius.

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It seemed like sci-fi a few short years ago, but 45 percent of all Americans either own some smart-house technology or plan to purchase some this year, according to a recent poll by Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate. And more than a third of them say they don’t consider themselves early adopters of technology. The technology is getting simpler to use almost by the minute. And it’s also getting more affordable, says van den Broek. “For $5,000 you can get a single-room setup—audio, video, security, a little bit of lighting, temperature control. That gives you a foundation you can build on later.” 

HGTV’s 2016 Smart Home, a new house in Raleigh, N.C., is packed full of devices that control lighting, temperature, home security and even toothbrushes—yes, that’s right, a company named Kolibree makes an electric toothbrush that monitors how long your children brush and reads them short stories while they’re doing it. It was introduced in 2014 at the CES global consumer electronics and technology trade show in Las Vegas.

SmartHouse Integration won three big awards for its Harbor Acres project at this year’s CES show: Innovation Project of the Year, Lighting Control Project of the Year and Retrofit Project of the year over $50,000. Actually, it cost well into six figures for the entire tech scheme for the home, which was purchased for $7 million three years ago, then gutted and reimagined with bright, bold colors in a collaboration with interior designer Pamela Hughes of Hughes Design Associates.

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Besides its state-of-the-art security system, a landscape lighting system recalculates sunrise and sunset daily to time the outdoor lights. When the sun goes down, a system for lighting the owners’ contemporary art collection kicks in, each light illuminating each painting and sculpture at the appropriate level to avoid shadows. The centerpiece of their living room, an Orb—a giant aluminum sculpture hanging from the ceiling designed by architect-engineer Chuck Hoberman (the owners saw it at the big auto show in New York City and had to have it)—contracts to 18 inches and expands to a full six feet in response to computer commands that also control a Lutron lighting system that surrounds the Orb with changing colors. It’s a piece that has to be seen to be believed.

The living room audio zone, with its high-end JBL system, is “nightclub-ready; it rocks,” says van den Broek. “The owner is good friends with [a superstar rock ’n’ roller who lives in Sarasota], so his directive to me was, ‘When he comes over, I do not want to be embarrassed by the music.’”

It’s important to integrate systems so they work together, says van den Broek. “For example, when they open the garage door, the interior of the home lights a path so they never come home to a dark house.”

Van den Broek used an ELAN Entertainment & Control System which controls everything, and can be accessed via wall-mounted touch panels and the homeowners’ computer tablets.

“It’s a common-sense approach,” he says. “A monkey with a stick has to be able to use our system, otherwise people won’t use it. They’ll be discouraged and unhappy with it.”

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The owners were so pleased with the results that they brought van den Broek back for one more showstopper. He’s been working with the people who designed the fountains at Disney World to create a set of scenes with DMX-controlled LED lights to be projected on the big, white overflow wall of their infinity pool. “We can paint the wall with color, movement, all kinds of fun stuff,” he says. Cool. 

Get Smart

Mark Bolduc, president and owner of Wicked Smart Homes, which designed and installed the systems in a 5,000-square-foot Sarasota waterfront home that Electronic House magazine named the 2016 “Smart Home of the Year,” highlights some advances.

Leak detectors. “We put them in water-sensitive areas like the laundry room, bathroom, kitchen; they’re little sensors that detect water and are tied into the monitoring system. With seasonal clients, especially, if a leak goes undetected for six months it’s a disaster.”

Motorized window shades. “Especially in the waterfront homes with walls of glass that receive a lot of light, we’re telling the shades to raise and lower based on the time of day. It’s a big part of our business, but it’s a bigger ticket item; depending on the number and size of the openings, they can range from $15,000 to a $90,000 project we’re doing right now.”

Independent listening zones. Speakers throughout the home are individualized. “If Mr. Johnson wants to listen to something in the bedroom, Mrs. Johnson can listen to something else on the lanai.”

Security system remote control. “You can arm and disarm the system with an iPad or an iPhone wherever you are in the world. It’s the new standard.”

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