While smart home control may be convenient or entertaining for a large percentage of homeowners, there are those for whom such devices are a real necessity every single day. Smart home systems offer disabled homeowners control of lighting, climate, door locks and even AV equipment with little physical effort—or even by voice.
That is certainly the case in a recent Richmond, Minn.-based project that called for the customization of a smart home system for a woman who is quadriplegic and limited to voice control only. Digital caregiver integration firm Cybermation, winner of the CTA's 2016 Mark of Excellence Award for Health and Wellness Project of the Year, was commissioned by the state of Minnesota to design and install an ELAN Entertainment and Control System for the homeowner. Cybermation partnered with technology integrators Greg Elsner, Shane Halvorson and Mike Pietersen at J. Becher & Associates for the project.
“We were able to build a customized interface, all controlled with ELAN, that helps [the homeowner] control her television, front door, lights, Internet and telephone,” says Elsner. “Thus far, it has completely changed her experience as a homeowner, giving her a new degree of independence that was previously missing from her life.”
One of the main elements of the project was the integration of QuadMouse with Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. The QuadMouse-based interface connects to the ELAN system controller to automate and control the lighting, telephone, front door with its electronic lock and all elements of the home theater. Theisen Design & Manufacturing (TDM) designed and built the mounting system that positioned the mouse, microphone and a hydration system tube for the homeowner, proving to be critical because of her limited head movement.
“One of the most important elements of this project was implementing a simple door automation system,” says Elsner. “Before automation, it was extremely difficult for her to get to the door, open it, close it, and lock it. Now, with her customized interface, she can lock, unlock or open the door within seconds.”
The Dragon NaturallySpeaking software also allows the customer to browse the Internet and make phone calls via Google Voice. Cybermation installed a special microphone that reads her voice so that she can easily perform these tasks with her voice alone.
“In situations like this, it is absolutely crucial to incorporate a power management system,” says Elsner, who installed a Panamax M4000-Pro Power Conditioner in the home. “Now, if for any reason there is a power surge, all elements of the home automation system are completely protected.”
Even though the customer was pretty Internet-savvy before the installation, Cybermation brought in United Cerebral Palsy of Central MN to provide implementation and training by a specialist in assistive technology. The homeowner reports significant improvement in her experience and ability to manage her home as a result of the project.
“The biggest benefit is the independence in being able to control the television and lights. I feel freedom and empowerment,” she says. “I can use the computer for anything I need. I’m just so pleased with all aspects of the system. I am liberated, and I feel free to do things independently.”
Cybermation plans to make additions to the hardware and software in the future. According to Elsner, this home is the first of many medical-based home automation installations that Cybermation and J. Becher & Associates will tackle together, with four similar projects currently in the works.