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Czech facility demonstrates intelligent building technology

The Centre of Innovations for Technologies of Intelligent Buildings in Prague provides an insight into all aspects of home automation. It's not just about multi-room entertainment - CCTV, alarms, heating, environmental controls, garden watering and more are all tightly integrated, with control via touchpanels or mobile phones. James Christopher reports.

Spanning an area of 4,000sqm, Prague’s Centre of Innovations for Technologies of Intelligent Buildings (CITIB) is a show facility like no other. The creation of Cholupice INVEST and systems integrator Insight Home, this impressive facility is a working demonstration of custom-installed home automation and all its possibilities.

The complex incorporates two family homes and a summerhouse, and comes complete with its own koi lagoon, swimming pool and fully landscaped grounds. Its technical specification is equally impressive, with the properties boasting the very latest in entertainment, access, security, lighting, blinds and environmental systems – the centre even has its own weather station.

The technical backbone to the entire installation is provided by AMX. Providing intuitive control and precision management of all the complex’s automation elements, the AMX system simplifies the way in which visitors interact with the technology – as well as giving an unrivalled insight into the benefits of a centrally controlled, technology-rich lifestyle to all who visit the CITIB, whether end-users or design and construction professionals.

Entertainment, access, security, lighting, blinds and environmental systems – even the central vacuum cleaning system! – are all integrated into one scalable solution, solving the complexity of managing the centre’s complement of technologies and operating platforms.
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Family homes and summerhouse

Both the family homes and summerhouse are equipped with Loewe LCD TVs, which communicate with AMX over RS-232. Sound and video is delivered via Pioneer receivers and the audio system is from Bose. Multimedia, such as pictures, home video, films and music, are centrally stored on a 3TB Microsoft Home Server and distributed via Microsoft Windows 7; Xbox provides a platform for gaming and TV channels are received via a two-dish satellite system. A projector-based home cinema system has been installed for an unrivalled cinematic experience.

All elements are accessed, integrated and controlled with the AMX system. Modero ViewPoint touchpanels (5.2in and 8.4in), 5in Modero wall-mounted touchpanels and Mio Modero R-4 remotes provide fingertip control of the entertainment provision as well as the other automation elements in the two houses. These include control of temperature, lighting and shades to give users the environment they need, when they need it. Lighting systems, both internal and external, are linked by data bus to the AMX central controller; lighting control can be easily configured to suit different needs and activities, through a range of pre-determined lighting scenes.

The AMX technology also integrates seamlessly with the Siemens Synco Living system, to deliver precision control over the heating and environmental systems. With a single touch of an touchpanel or mobile phone, it is possible to check or change the temperature in any given room, increase or decrease the heating throughout the house or change to pre-programmed heating modes. Integrated control stops the heating and cooling systems ‘fighting’ each other, making everything work much more efficiently.
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Weather monitor
The system also interfaces with the on-site Davis Vantage Pro2 Plus meteorological station. This monitors all meteorological information such as wind strength and direction, precipitation, outside temperature, humidity, air pressure and solar intensity, as well as the temperature of the pool and lagoon. The station can also display weather conditions for any selected location and forecast weather conditions up to one week in advance; the Rain-Bird garden water pouring systems then use this information to monitor and maintain the soil humidity. Dynamic feedback as to energy usage and consumption is provided via the AMX touchpanels.

The centre’s Honeywell Galaxy security system has also been fully integrated into the main control system, complete with two-way communication. At any one time, the system can give an overview of all the safety devices within the home, including the alarm system, fire detectors, CCTV system and even the IR beams near the swimming pool that will trigger an alarm if a child get too close. Should something out of the ordinary occur, such as a decrease in the temperature of the fish tank, a power cut or fault with the heating system, the owner can be informed via SMS. After the last occupant leaves the house, the alarm system also automatically activates: the lights go off, sockets not in use are de-activated, the blinds pull down and the HVAC switches to economy mode.

The entire complex is monitored at all times by Panasonic IP cameras, which are connected to a Panasonic video server and relayed onto any AMX screen, TV, computer LCD or internet-enabled mobile phone. An AMX Metreau Entry Communicator at the front gates enables one-way visual and two-way audio communication with visitors. Working over a straightforward Ethernet connection, the discreet Metreau allows occupants to view crystal clear video of a visitor on their touchpanels and TVs, and talk via telephone, mobile wireless touchpanel or their in-wall screen.

Behind the scenes, a high-performance AMX NI-4100 NetLinx Controller is the brains of the entire solution, allowing the large number of devices and components to become integrated as part of the central control system. Additional control capability is provided with a NetLinx CardFrame, NetLinx ICSHub Expander Card and 6 x Dual COM Port Card.

Structured cabling is the key to the AMX networked system. All three houses are connected by optical fibre and structured cabling has been included in every room. Individual rooms, garden, grounds and gate are further connected with the use of intercom and VoIP technology.

With its high-tech specification, the CITIB truly is a showcase for the concept of the smart home and the totality of the AMX system – putting the intelligence into intelligent buildings.