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MainStreet America: ‘Biggest Home Automation Showroom on Earth’

Houston developer Design Tech Homes bets consumers will pay to browse a dozen model homes in one Disney-like setting. See why vendors like Crestron and Control4 are jumping at the opportunity.

Photos & Slideshow

Julie Jacobson · October 3, 2012
Right now, MainStreet sells only furniture and accessories, but the organization is working with local art dealers for potential relationships.

We wondered: Could you do the same thing with a home theater? Babineaux wouldn’t rule it out, and one of the integrators on the project says it’s in the works - one swipe and that home theater can be yours.

The model could be applied to any number of room solutions, Babineaux suggests: “You walk in. You like it? You can just get it.”

‘Biggest Home Automation Showroom on Earth’

Home technology plays a big role in MainStreet America and most of the 12 homes in the development. As with the homes in general, the technology runs the gamut from the basic to the lavish. There’s so much home technology and such a breadth of it that Babineaux calls the place the “biggest home automation showroom on earth.”

Much of the technology was installed by Houston-based DataSmart LLC, one of the largest integrators in the area and a longtime partner with Feigin. An active member of the Greater Houston Builders Association, DataSmart expects to do about 3,500 jobs this year, primarily production homes.

Participating Technology Vendors
Eaton/Cutler Hammer
GE (Interlogix)
Screen Innovations

It used to be that dealers wouldn’t dare “give away” labor for model homes and other builder projects, given the questionable ROI; however, DataSmart has been doing it with great success over the past several years.

“We’re very entrenched in the homebuilder market,” says operations manager Jonathan Ping. “We staff homebuilder design centers and build technology showrooms so that their clients can have technology consultations. We invest heavily into the success of our partners,” as he calls builders and other trades.

Ping estimates that he has “hundreds of hours” invested in this particular project, mostly divided between two homes, but the company also is being paid to install various gear in the other 10 homes.

DataSmart’s two main projects are the affordable “Energy Plus” home and “the nicest house” in the development, dubbed The Villa Lago.

“That gives us two price points to cover, which is perfect,” Ping says.

DataSmart (Control4, security, other)
IES Residential (various home controls)
ConnectOne (On-Q/Legrand) Refined Systems (Crestron)

DataSmart’s go-to control system is Control4, and its sister company Duncan Security (an ADT-authorized dealer) installs Interlogix (GE Security) and Honeywell systems, which can be found throughout the development. Elsewhere, you can find several homes outfitted with the On-Q Unity system, integrating multiroom audio, cameras and communications.

Not surprisingly, several of the higher-end homes include Crestron automation systems. One of them, featuring a massive home theater, is where we met Ping and his local rep Jerry Langston. They were reviewing plans for the room’s Anthem electronics, Paradigm speakers and Screen Innovations projection screen.

In addition, DataSmart is helping with a dedicated home theater/conference room in the same space that houses MainStreet’s cafe, shops and cooking school (with its eight TVs).

At least two DataSmart employees will be on site almost all of the time, manning the homes and the theater. Like MainStreet visitors, they will be armed with technological artillery that lets them know who scans relevant products in which home … and when.

Ping is confident that his investment in MainStreet will pay off. He already has a good track record with the builder, and expects some heavy traffic at the place. It would be hard to miss by the 340,000 motorists who drive by it daily, what with the giant LED digital signage on Houston’s I-45.

Ping expects that MainStreet will attract plenty of people willing to pay $10 apiece for a glimpse inside.

“They’re going to market heavily to the general public, like Christmas on MainStreet,” he says. “I could see shipping people in via bus.”

He personally intends to hold lighting and automation classes for architects and designers at MainStreet, as vendors have free access to the Guest Center.
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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at

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  Article Topics

Security · News · Crestron · Furniture · Lighting · Showroom · All Topics
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