While there were fireworks at the grand opening of the ARIA Resort & Casino at CityCenter, Las Vegas, late last year, there was a glow of pleasure in guest rooms thanks to home automation systems from Control4 that help provide a “wow” factor.
Photo courtesy of ARIA Resort

Is it a short stall or a double dip? When it comes to housing starts and existing home sales these days, the length of a slowdown may not matter that much for some electronic home systems contractors. To offset the economic clouds, some firms have taken the silver lining of home automation technologies and shifted focus to certain commercial opportunities.

The shift can be large scale. Control4, the well-established home controls and systems manufacturer, just launched a commercial business operation in June at InfoComm, and the company separately has already hit pay dirt in the hospitality sector. Or can be more finely focused with “whole home” audio systems for specialized healthcare facilities.

A success story is the fairly new hospitality business of Control4, based in Salt Lake City.

The biggest project so far is in Las Vegas at CityCenter where the firm was asked to bring its tech magic to a 4,300 guest room hotel, according to Antonio DiMilia, vice president global, hospitality for Control4. The Control4 Suite Systems package enables guests to control every aspect of the room environment and interact with entertainment and hotel services, while providing the facility with better control of energy use.

With the same aim as luxury home systems, hotel guests have a single control for numerous applications while property management can control energy consumption in rooms when they are not in use. With an intuitive on-screen view, guests can use the TV to set the systems in their rooms to their personal preferences, including lighting levels, room temperature, television/video systems, music, drapes and guest services. “The key is to make it all easy to use,” says DiMilia, who notes that — different than a homeowner — hotel guests don’t have the time or reason to learn a new system only to check out the next day or two.

However, with a good experience with the technology, which in part is identified as from Control4, there is likelihood that guests could consider the firm’s solutions back at home.

Following the Las Vegas win, the firm then won a similar project at the luxurious Elbow Beach Resort in Bermuda. Each of the resort's 98 guestrooms and suites, situated in secluded cottages scattered across 50 acres of lush gardens, is now equipped with a system. In this case, the hotel can upgrade ZigBee-based wireless with additional capabilities, such as lighting control and energy management, without complex rewiring and additional construction costs.

“We learned two things. Hoteliers are looking for the ‘wow’ factor, rooms that are better or newer than what guests may have at home. It’s a matter of offering a different or richer guest experience,” adds DiMilia. In addition, the hotel as a business has a focus on energy management and reducing cost. “There is also the gain from offering a ‘greener’ stay for guests as more travelers make choices” on such aspects, he says.

Control4 works directly with hoteliers “but we also work closely with an appropriate dealer through our sales agency program.” It takes a lot of project management to bring in the technology and install it so as not to disrupt the primary purpose of the hotel.

Music To Residents’ Ears

Comfort and good experiences are involved in another example of home systems working in an environment somewhat different from a single family home.

Fort Collins, Colo.-based CasaTunes, which designs home multi-room audio software and hardware solutions for Microsoft Windows Media Center and networked PC environments, has its technology in the Cypress Springs Alzheimer & Memory Support Residence, Tulsa.

A system is part of a multi-sensory experience that Cypress Springs offers its residents in a caring community setting.

According to Rob Garrett, principal with Cypress Springs, each of the 66 rooms have a speaker and care givers can program music aimed at the customized needs or wants of each resident, often streamed from the Internet. Music can stimulate a positive response. “When music is appropriate, it can revive memories of family, friends, and events from the past,” adds Garrett.

Experienced in site selection, property management and construction, Garrett has managed the entire Cypress Springs project from the beginning. In the case of music servers, he sought out an easy to use system that could be managed from a central location where the staff can control not only the type of music but also the volume. In addition to having CasaTunes in each resident’s room, music is also played in the activity room.

The community and its care givers provide individual service plans based on each resident's individual life history, developed upon move-in and updated regularly.