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Mike Riley

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

High Tech Home

April 19, 2009

I recently had lunch with a good friend who announced his intentions to build the ultimate high-tech home.  What would it take to construct such a showcase?

My friend is a world-class programmer and electrical engineer who has built gadgets and electronic inventions that put even the most sophisticated electronics and software projects to shame.  Because of his skill level, he is determined to construct the most advanced, programmatically controlled and maintained residence that smart ideas and currently affordable computing and communications technology can offer.

If it doesn't exist commercially but is scientifically possible and economically feasible, my friend has the technical chops and tenacity to make it.  I asked him if he would be interested if I crowdsourced the talented readership on dobbscodetalk.com and he graciously accepted.  Given that, here are my friend's requirements:

"1 - Network infrastructure : Wireless has worked fine for the past couple years for laptop only access.  However, this is not likely good enough if the network will have cameras (security), HDTV, sound through out the house, control systems.  What should be installed, how many drops per room, POE, phone system?

2 - Phone System : VOIP, Land Land, Mobile, other?  We will not be giving up our mobile phones and would probably just use those though some type of repeater in the home would be nice to ensure a good signal.

3 - Lighting Controls : We want all lighting to be controlled over the net but would also want to have switches on the wall as well.  Should the switches be connected to the network instead of having the power run through them?

4 - HVAC : Require a zoned system or multiple systems with full remote control.  Not sure what type of system we will have but are leaning towards a traditional forced air system.

5 - Power : Would really like to have a stack of solar panels on a tower to get just above the trees.  Would still have a connection to the grid for buying/selling power.  Do I want to have a whole house generator as well?  

6 - Video / Music : Not sure what to do here but will have cable and/or satellite.  Would also like recommendations on music systems for the house.  At least one room will have high end audio gear for good music listening.

7 - Hot water heater or 'on-demand' hot water?

8 - Security: What type of security system?  IP-based? Analog line backup?

9 - Secret Rooms / Secret Passageways : I would like something like this to entertain the kids and grandkids.  Other 'mystery' ideas?

There is one more item, and an important one.

What affordable software is available, if at all, that would allow for design of a home from initial layout all the way through material lists, and wood cut lists?  I would like to be able to make changes and see high quality renderings with little effort or cost."

So there you have it.  Given the opportunity, what would you suggest to satisfy these requests?  Buy or build?  Embedded systems or commodity PC's?  Java, .NET or Python-based?  Looking forward to seeing what the Dobbs code talking community can dream up!

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