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House of Tomorrow, Today

Aug 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

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If you are as old as I am, you might remember the House of Tomorrow featured at Disneyland throughout the 1960s. For those who don't date back that far, the house was built entirely of plastic materials developed by Monsanto, and was chock full of then-futuristic doodads such as hands-free counter, wall, and panel phones; video security screens; and the like. At the time, it was marketed as a “better way of living” — a way that is now a reality for those who can afford it.

In this issue's residential installation profile (p. 62), author Jack Kontney starts with this theme, referencing the “home of the future” built by Bill Gates a few years ago. Although the state-of-the-art private residence Jack profiles might not quite venture into Gates territory, in its own way, it is a house of tomorrow. Think about it — fully integrated audio, video, lights, shades, security, and HVAC systems, all run by a centrally located server and controlled via easy-to-use touchpanels.

But what I find most interesting about Jack's story is the dichotomy between the technology needed to bring these luxuries to customers — technology that comes directly out of the commercial installation world — and the AV professionals who specialize in residential work. Mark Laine of M. Alan Associates, the company responsible for the installation, tells Jack it's relatively easy for industry professionals to nail the technology. When working with residential customers, however, he suggests it's a lot harder for integrators to get the interface right. After all, as he points out, these installations go into people's homes, with no AV pro on site.

And that's the reminder I got from Jack's piece. Unlike the rest of our industry's endeavors, residential installation work isn't about entertaining, teaching, selling, or communicating anything. It's about helping clients sit back and enjoy that better life the House of Tomorrow promised, way back when today really was tomorrow.

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