There are challenging customers and there are challenging, highly educated customers with maximum expectations. Such was a successful technology CEO who moved to North Carolina’s Research Triangle area after selling the company he started while at Harvard Business School. Upon relocating, he did extensive research to ensure he found the right home entertainment and automation experts for his new home.
The client, Scott Newnam, was so impressed with Raleigh-based Audio Advice he did more than choose the company to do his work. He became a partner with founder and chairman Leon Shaw to help accelerate the growth of the company, turning a first-class organization into a world-class one.
“The result was a partnership that included the development of the automation system used in my home along with substantial operational and customer service advancements,” says Newnam, now Audio Advice president. “The collaboration has produced a fabulous outcome, our Signature Series control system that is now our highly sought after flagship product.”
When Scott first came to Audio Advice, he wanted to enjoy great sounding music and highly enjoyable automation throughout his home. Everything had to have a purpose, however, whether that was improving lifestyle, lowering energy costs, or enhancing the experience of the home. Scott’s wife required that the technology seamlessly integrate with the visual and interior design of the home.
Audio Advice designed different, complementary visual experiences throughout the home to help achieve these goals. These included the central location - a great room measuring 30 feet by 40 feet overlooking a world-class golf course, designed with amazing sound and video but with virtually all equipment concealed. “With retractable art covering the flat-screen television, almost all audio and video is hidden in the room,” Newnam says. “However, when the artwork vanishes and the music comes on, the entire room comes alive with vibrant video and sound.”
Simple user interface and ease of use were recurring themes throughout the system development. This mandate led to the first Audio Advice home control innovation. A combination of wall control panels with four floating Wi-Fi panels was installed. The wireless floating panels can be carried around the home to control any room. This concept dramatically changes the user experience, allowing any level of basic or advanced control from any location in the home.
To achieve true floating panel capability the Signature Series control system and home network needed to be designed together, and needed to exceed any prior performance capability. “Network engineering and programming had to work closely to achieve a rock solid home network, with seamless handoffs from network access points throughout the home,” Scott explained. “Programming then created a back-end solution that could control any part of the home from any panel.” The end result is that level of functionality and ease-of-use not previously possible. But it wasn’t simple getting there.
One décor challenge faced by Audio Advice engineers was the sun setting behind the home in afternoons and evenings. It was difficult to preserve the spectacular golf course views without exposing the interior to heat, glare and sun damage. The answer Audio Advice developed was a combination of a Lutron lighting control and shading system that transforms the home throughout the day while saving energy.
In the afternoon, automated near-transparent shades descend, preserving the view while blocking 90 percent of the sun’s rays. Shades are set with astronomic clocks to change with the seasons. For watching movies, full blackout shades transform the daytime recreation area into a high performance theater room. Blackout drapes are used at the top of the home in the exercise room overlooking the golf course. Finally, lighting control is synchronized with the shading and VisionArt retractable artwork at energy conserving levels through the home for movie viewing, dining, and other activities.
“The automation system required tremendous design and engineering,” says Newnam. Because we do everything from audio, video, and lighting and shading automation to security and networking, with the Signature Series we created a system anyone visiting our home can understand and use within minutes.”