Smarthouse Blog

Sarasota’s SmartHouse Integration creates user-friendly, integrated home networks

Note: This article was originally published at Herald Tribune.

State-of-the-art system features intuitive, accessible controls

One in an occasional series about the region’s growing technology sector.

Smart homes have graduated from a collection of complicated remote controls for each device, cluttering tables and frustrating residents. Today, homes are far more intelligent.

Voice control, preset programs and a central command gadget such as an iPad raise the bar on homes equipped with automated shades, lighting, temperature, security, video and indoor/outdoor audio. Speaker volume can be increased with the wave of a hand.

This is the high-end stuff of dreams.

Mark van den Broek, the founder and chief executive of SmartHouse Integration, located in Sarasota’s Rosemary District, installs the ELAN Entertainment and Control System for his clients here and elsewhere in the country.

SmartHouse is off to a bang-up year on revenue. “This quarter we’ve already done more than we did last year and last year was a record year,” van den Broek said, declining to cite specific gross-income figures. “I don’t want my competition to know exactly what we’re going. But it’s delicious.”

Van den Broek and his seven employees do not lack for work. “We don’t sell anymore. We don’t market anymore. Clients come to us,” van den Broek said. “All of the manufacturers’ websites have our projects on them as examples of what it’s supposed to be.”

So how many clients do you have? “I don’t know. Seriously.”

Award-winning technology

His home-automation and systems-integration company has won more than a dozen national awards from the Consumer Technology Association. The association’s TechHome Division has given 11 Mark of Excellence awards to van den Broek’s company. He recently added to that collection with the 2018 Mark of Excellence Award for Home of the Year up to $50,000 for a custom ELAN installation in a local island home.

The trophies that adorn his office solidified his reputation for high-quality technology and installation.

Robert Archer, the publisher of ElectronicHouse.com, an information center on integrated home technology, said the TechHome honors “mean more than any other industry association award, and they represent the best the technology and installation professional industry has to offer.”

Nick Melone, a Sarasota homebuilder, real estate investor and restaurant owner, works on high-end commercial and residential projects. “We were just really looking for a good operating, smart home system,” he said. He found one in ELAN, which has been in the home-technology business since 1989 and is based in Petaluma, California.

“I’ve been through multiple renovations where I’ve ripped out” other systems, he said. ELAN “is everything you want; it’s everything the other systems are not. … It works.

“It’s simple, easy, not complicated. Other systems I’ve found you go into it and all of a sudden you’re in five or six windows, and you forget how to get back.”

Three years ago, when he built a house for his family on Siesta Key in the Sanderling Club, Melone had SmartHouse install an ELAN system at a cost of $70,000 to $75,000. “Our whole family loves the system. … I’m very happy with it.”

Melone now has SmartHome install ELAN in his residential projects.

Lights, cameras, automatic action

SmartHouse Integration custom designs a system that fulfills a client’s desires using ELAN’s intuitive and accessible controls. Motorized window shades rise and fall with the sun. Interior lights automatically power up to preset levels as the sun sets. Blue lights illuminate the pool. The ELAN mobile app, remote or wall-mounted touchscreens allow temperature changes in any of the home’s climate zones. Speakers spread throughout the interior and exterior in one of a home’s audio zones deliver surround sound without distortion at high levels. Irrigation control and electronic door locks are other options.

Numerous cameras record video from a host of vantage points, and the scenes can be viewed on mobile devices, computers and televisions in the home or anywhere in the world. When someone rings the doorbell, all the touchscreens in the house light up and play video of the front porch.

For waterfront homes, infrared sensors on seawalls trigger outdoor lights and send alerts to the owner’s mobile devices when a boat or individual approaches from the water. Voice control is also available.

During a tour of a SmartHouse project, a 17,000-square-foot mansion on Sarasota Bay, van den Broek described what his team had accomplished there. The ELAN Entertainment and Control System serves as the home’s central network hub. The hardware includes eight 7-inch in-wall touch panels, four smaller touch panels and three HR2 remotes.The HR2 devices, like the panels, control everything in the network and features 46 hard buttons to operate the media system alone.

This project alone won three 2016 Mark of Excellence Awards.

Van den Broek integrated Lutron Homeworks Lighting and Shades with the ELAN Entertainment and Control System so lighting could operate automatically or be set by the homeowners from anywhere in the world. Numerous security cameras alert residents to visitors with video, and homeowners can talk to arrivals from their kitchen or hotel rooms. The smart lighting highlights the art aficionado’s extensive collection and changes at specific times to best enhance the art it emphasizes.

SmartHouse also installed 15 LED fountain lights in the pool’s overflow that shine up on the overflow wall. The lights are programmed and synchronized to the outdoor music system to create an amazing light show, Van den Broek said. The homeowner has 25 buttons he can press, and each launches a unique show, from AC/DC to Alicia Keys.

The company has worked on three projects for this client for a total cost of $350,000. “He just keeps coming back for more,” van den Broek said.

Van den Broek’s most expensive job to date exceeded $500,000. “I’m still surprised at how much money people will actually pay,” he said.

The move to Sarasota

His 20 years of experience in the field began in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He sold that company to his employees and opened in Sarasota in 2005 after a client here sought his work. It was February. While sitting on a dock at a rental place on Siesta Key, the warmth convinced him to move. Plus, he was able to sign up some big clients.

“In the late ’90s and early 2000s, we really started to take off and helped the industry a little bit in terms of future proof of wiring and setting up infrastructures in homes that people would take advantage of,” van den Broek said. Today’s cable networks are stout enough to handle the coming increase in broadband speeds, from the current 4G to the launch of 5G — which is expected to be at least 10 times faster than 4G.

“And that was one of the things we really sold to our early adapters was, ‘Hey, your house will be future proofed,’” he said, and can handle emerging technologies that use higher data speeds.

“Homes that were wired back then with Category 5 cable (which handles networking, Wi-Fi, high-definition video and cameras) are still legitimate today. We can still run the newest, latest technology in homes that we wired 20 years ago.”

Van den Broek is a major proponent of cabled homes since wire can pass much more data much faster than wireless systems, though the latter dominate the current buzz in the smart-home industry. Structured, wired connections afford greater stability, add flexibility for future technology and increase a home’s resale value, he said.

Complicated and outdated home-automation systems frustrated homeowners, van den Broek said. The ELAN system does everything, a very usable, reliable, simple network, he said.

“I’m jacked every day to create something really cool for my clients,” van den Broek said.

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Latest ELAN Project Values the Voice

Note: This article was originally published at Connected Design.

A Longboat Key, Florida couple was recently tasked with finding someone to integrate a system into their home that would allow for total control of their technology by voice command. The music-loving duo elicited Mark Van den Broek for the job who then selected ELAN home automation and Amazon Alexa to make the 8,000-square-foot home become all that they envisioned.

“Mark and his team were the only ones who asked us what we wanted the house to do, instead of just listing what they could do, and then they made it happen,” the homeowner said. “It was like magic!”

Step one in the entire process was to integrate an ELAN controller into the home to act as the “brains” of the operation. Next, Van den Broek and his team installed nine Amazon Echo Dots throughout the home with customized Alexa voice controls to allow the couple to speak to Alexa in a more conversational tone. For instance, the homeowners can say “Alexa, good morning” to turn on the lights, open window shades, turn on the living room TV, and disarm the security system. Conversely, they can say “Alexa, goodnight” to shut off the audio and video on the first floor, turn on the master bathroom lights, turn off the indoor pool fountains and waterfalls, adjust the thermostats to a preset temperature, and dim the foyer chandelier to 10 percent until 2 AM when the lights completely turn off for the night.

With their love of music and appreciation of high-quality audio in mind, SmartHouse Integration also created a 16-zone audio system featuring ELAN amplification and distribution, an Autonomics media server, and SpeakerCraft AIM Series 2 in-ceiling speakers to allow the couple to listen to music from anywhere in their home. Accessing their music selection is as easy as opening the ELAN app or using one of the many ELAN in-wall touch panels.

“We knew that top-quality audio was a make-or-break feature of this system,” Van den Broek said, “so we used the best ELAN and SpeakerCraft equipment to ensure every room sounds fantastic, access is fast and easy, and they can use content from multiple sources simultaneously.”

Like the rest of the home, the theater was designed with the best in audio from three SpeakerCraft AIM Cinema in-wall speakers, a SpeakerCraft Profile AIM center channel speaker, and two Sunfire 10-inch subwoofers.

And with the ELAN remote the couple can change more than just the channel.

A single touch of the remote’s TV button creates a complete ready-to-watch atmosphere. The Sony projector is turned on and displayed onto the Dragonfly projection screen, the surround sound is activated, and the lights are dimmed to an appropriate movie-watching level. From there the couple can access their media services including streaming and downloaded content through Apple TV, Roku, or a cable box. And if you thought the level of detail couldn’t get any more precise, when a program is paused or stopped, the wall scones automatically brighten to 50 percent until play resumes.

“This beautiful island home became a true paradise for my clients,” van den Broek added. “By making nearly every electronic function of the home easier to use, accessible from anywhere, and connected for monitoring, the ELAN system with Alexa voice control has entirely changed their home life. We hope this inspires others to investigate how smart home control can make their houses easier to manage and more comfortable to live in.”

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ELAN Turns On The Waterworks

Note: This article was originally published at essentialinstall.com.

ELAN Control and 2GIG Security Bring 24-Hour Automation to New Waterworks Private Social Club

Sarasota, Florida social club can now almost run itself thanks to advanced automation designed and installed by local award-winning electronic firm SmartHouse Integration.

The owners of Waterworks, a new private social club have taken great care to create a trendy, comfortable, and safe environment where local leaders and business owners can network, relax, and host private events.

In order to deliver all of these benefits while consolidating and simplifying management of the building’s security, lights, TVs, audio, climate, and access control, the owners hired leading South Florida electronics integration firm, SmartHouse Integration, to install the ELAN Control System and 2GIG security system to provide remote control of every sub-system.

According to SmartHouse Integration owner Mark van den Broek, Waterworks has made full use of the ELAN Control System’s capabilities, integrating almost every electronic function in the building and automating schedules to make daily operations as simple and worry-free as possible.

“Waterworks is a shining example of the extraordinary power of ELAN’s automation technology,” Mark says. “From opening to closing, the control system manages every building system, with automatic scheduled events such as the lights turning on at 6:00 AM for the cleaning crew, and the 2GIG security system arming at midnight if the occupancy sensors detect no one is in the building. With this level of integration and ELAN’s simple, powerful control interface, staff can focus on providing the best service to members instead of running around to manually adjust lights, speaker volumes, or TVs.”

Control goals

Since Waterworks’ goal is to foster relationships and communication between members, the technology is used to create a specific environment rather than to offer activities or distractions. That’s why the TVs at the bar play silent black and white movies, and why there is no cell phone use allowed inside after 7:00 pm. The eight-zone audio distribution system plays a central role in the club’s classy ambiance as well, playing background music at low volumes so it doesn’t become the focus of members’ attention.

“It’s more about atmosphere than entertainment,” Mark continues, “and each building system is part of that atmosphere. It’s why we programmed the thermostats and motorised window shades to react to ambient temperature and sunlight, and why we’re integrating ELAN’s new face recognition for door access. These are features that require no staff involvement once they’re set up, and present an ultra-cool, modern environment that matches the club’s high-end aesthetics and services.”

The club’s chandeliers and plug-in lamps are also integrated for simple control, automatically brightening and dimming depending on ambient light levels throughout the day. The ELAN system turns the TVs and audio zones on at 10:30 AM, requiring no input from staff.

As a sister brand to ELAN under the Nortek Security & Control umbrella, the 2GIG security system integrates perfectly. Staff can easily arm and disarm the security system through the ELAN interface, while the 2GIG panel is installed safely out of reach from the guests along with the rest of the system equipment. For ultimate peace of mind, multiple ELAN surveillance cameras provide live and recorded coverage of the property that can be viewed through the ELAN app from anywhere in the world.

Waterworks features a pool room, a cigar room, an outdoor deck, and a bar, and each member can reserve the entire establishment for one day a year to host a private event. SmartHouse Integration also added Chromecast and Apple TV units that allow members to stream presentations or their own personal music during these private functions.

With a nod toward aesthetics, SmartHouse Integration used SpeakerCraft in-ceiling speakers to provide multiple zones of audio. The 40 individually-controllable zones of lighting operate through a Lutron system, which integrates with ELAN for full control through the ELAN interface.

“If a hospitality provider such as a bar, restaurant, hotel or social club, wants to provide the ultimate modern-chic experience for guests,” Mark explains, “ELAN technology can help them do so by eliminating countless minor tasks and presenting a clean aesthetic that uses technology in the background, rather than making it a visible focal point. And since the ELAN system is expandable, constantly updated to integrate with new third-party products, and introduces new features such as voice control and facial recognition, it’s value only grows over time.”

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sunrise alarm clocks

The Alarming Science Behind Sunrise Alarm Clocks

With all the smart home options available to today’s consumers, sometimes you want a natural solution to wake you up in the morning. Sunrise alarm clock lets you avoid harsh klaxons and beeps, allowing you to wake up naturally. To learn more about why sunrise alarm clocks are the right choice to help start your morning, check out this helpful guide!

How Sunrise Alarm Clocks Work

Due to seasonal change or how whether your bedroom has a window to open, it can be challenging to have a consistent level of light to wake you up. Sunrise alarm clocks provide a consistent level of light all year round, and can even sync to your smart home to mimic the current season.

By providing an increasing level of light, sunrise alarm clocks wake you up by recreating the effects of natural sunlight. By increasing the level of light over a thirty to forty minute period, you can wake up easily. Some clocks can be adjusted between fifteen minutes to an hour.

Most people fall asleep when it gets dark and wake up when it gets light. Exposure to light triggers the body’s alert sensor inhibits the flow of melatonin. By keeping your sleep and wake schedule to coincide with a natural program, you are putting the least amount of stress on your circadian rhythm.

Why You Should Get a Sunrise Alarm Clock

If you have trouble waking ups in the morning or you find that regular alarms are not working as they should, your body clock might be running out of synch. There are several environmental and social cues, also known as zeitgebers, capable of impacting our internal clocks. These factors can include levels of exercise, eating habits, and light exposure, all of which can affect your quality of sleep.

Light exposure, in particular, can help or hinder your ability to sleep, especially when it comes to getting up or falling asleep. Waking up in a dark room signals to your brain that it’s still night, which keeps your mind from activating.

By opening your windows and letting the light in, you help your brain reinforce that it’s time to get up and start your day. While artificial light is not as good as the real thing, sunrise alarm clocks help your body and mind to simulate a natural sleep cycle. There are also several different lighting options to help you wake up with either a yellow or white full-spectrum bulb. 

Alarm clocks that rely on sound not only give you an unnecessarily harsh wakeup, but it can also get you into a lot of trouble. Most snooze buttons only last five minutes or so, which means that you can forget you even woke up in the first place. Should you accidentally unplug or break your alarm clock, you could oversleep and be late to work.

Rise with the Sun

If you want your smart home to give you the best wakeup you’ve ever had, make sure to incorporate your sunrise alarm clock. To learn more about making your smart home even smarter, Contact Us today!

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home automation ideas

5 Brilliant Home Automation Ideas You Need to Know

Thanks to automation devices like Alexa becoming more proficient and accessible, turning your house into a smart house easier than ever.

There are so many awesome features and ways to take your house to the next level.

Here are five cool and totally useful home automation ideas you can use to make your life at home a little safer and easier. 

Up and at ‘Em:

If hitting snooze over and over on your alarm is an issue for you, why not think about setting up a smart alarm?

Instead of simply being about to push a button or tap your phone for an extra 5 minutes in the morning, make it so you have to scan a tag or enter a code to turn off the beeping. Just make sure the keypad or tag isn’t in arms reach.

Both the kitchen by the coffee pot or in the bathroom are clever places to place the off switch for the alarm to be. After all, those are the two most likely places you’ll head once you wake up.

A Little Help with the Housework:

Smart appliances can be a great way to keep on top of your housework. Imagine getting a text to let you know your laundry is done or setting a cycle from your phone while you’re at work. Get reminders to take out the trash so you never miss another trash day again.

You can even set up notifications to remind you to change the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This is a great way to make sure you never forget or get to the point where they start beeping to let you know they need a recharge.

Who’s There:

With video doorbells, you can check out who is at your front door no matter where you are. There are a number of models available, some even with motion sensors, which let you monitor who is at your door, even if you aren’t home.

However, it isn’t just the doorbell that can alert you when someone is going near your safe, wandering around the backyard, or just fiddling with back or side doors. CCTV is a great way to record who is there and keep your house safe.

Light Up:

Smart lighting can also be a great way to help keep you and your house safe.

Whether you have designed a fantastic range of great mood lighting for both your indoor and outdoor living spaces or you want to make it look like someone’s home, smart lighting is a great option. 

Much like everything else on this list, your lighting schemes can be controlled by your phone or a special remote. So, no more fumbling in the dark for a light switch in the garage or having the house look empty when you’re on holiday. 

More Home Automation Ideas:

There are way more fun and great ways to use your smart devices to get your dream house.

Some other great home automation ideas can range from climate control for your house to getting notified when there is a leaky or water damage. Having a smart house can help you have a house of the future while also protecting it in the present.

For more ideas on how to update your house, check out our blog. It is full of useful hints and tips on how to create and maintain your dream smart house.

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Smart Home Style Tips With Mark van den Broek from SmartHouse Integration

Note: This article was originally published at yonomi.co.

Revamping your home into a connected smart house can seem like an intimidating task. You might wonder if the place will end up looking like an eyesore, with wires and gadgets everywhere you look. But as technological advances have been made and device designs have gotten sleeker, this is no longer a huge worry. In fact, adding some smart tech doesn’t have to take away from your home’s style – rather, it can enhance it. 

We recently talked to Mark van den Broek, the Founder and President of Sarasota-based design firm SmartHouse Integration about how you don’t have to sacrifice smarts over style. Mark and his team outfit some of the finest homes across the US with innovative designs and stellar smart home device installations. Here’s what we learned on how to meld cutting-edge technology and aesthetic excellence.

Place devices with intention 

There’s a smart device for everything these days – speakers, lights, remotes – but where are the optimal spots to put these devices? 

“Integrating your systems is really a bunch of black boxes that are in a room somewhere in the home. Our approach to integration is based on the aesthetics of it,” says van den Broek. “We ask ourselves questions like ‘What speakers should we use to fit a design? How do we best introduce a TV to a space? Is it in a cabinet, behind a piece of art, or does it pop up out of a countertop?’” 

For an attractive design layout from the get-go, he advises working with an interior designer early to properly place electronics.

Keep it simple

van den Broek stresses the importance of keeping it simple. “Today’s automation systems work so they can be designed to be very user-friendly. A good system design combined with the manufacturer’s updated product designs gives you a clean look,” he says. You’ll find that everyday smart home items have been up upgraded with new capabilities, and also with fresh looks. That means buying fewer products packed with more functions.


If you’re looking to splurge, van den Broek advises that you spend more money on the products you will interact with the most. These essential items include lighting keypads, touch screens, and remotes. From that list, he specifically recommends the beautiful Lutron Palladiom lighting keypads, the ELAN 8” touchscreen with facial recognition, and the easy-to-use ELAN remote.

Get a professional involved

When you’re creating a smart home, there are two distinct paths to take – DIY and custom integration. If you’re looking for a small DIY transformation, van den Broek suggests starting with a Google Home or Alexa and connecting them with any devices you add from there on. 

If you want to “go big” and really deck your home out in smart gear, van den Broek advises getting a professional involved and going the custom integration route. “If smart integration is done incorrectly, your home will turn into into a source of frustration, which is the last thing you want. Hiring an expert will reduce your frustration-level substantially and you will end up with a system you dreamed about,” he says.

No matter what stage you are in your smart home transformation, it’s worth knowing that you don’t have to compromise on keeping your home stylish while integrating new devices. Have you implemented custom integrations in your home, or are you happier going the DIY route? Let us know in the comments. 

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smart thermostat

Top 4 Reasons to Love a Smart Thermostat

Your home should be a comfortable place to reside in. If it’s somewhere where you only eat, sleep, and shower, then there’s something wrong.

You might spend a lot of time outside of your house because the internal temperatures are always unbearable. But that no longer has to be the case anymore. When you have a smart thermostat installed in your abode, you’ll never want to leave.

Here are the top 4 reasons to love a smart thermostat.

1. Keep Your Home’s Temperature Stable While You’re Away

If you live somewhere where the temperature fluctuates quickly, you may worry about it doing so while you’re on vacation or a business trip. With a smart thermostat, you can keep the temperatures stable so pets don’t feel uncomfortable and houseplants don’t wilt.

This also gets rid of the need to hire a housesitter or have loved ones drop in to check on things while you’re gone. Retain your privacy while you’re out of town.

2. Have More Control over Energy Used

You have more control over the temperature of your home with a smart thermostat. So when you compare your bills, it’ll be easier to pinpoint if something’s broken or charged incorrectly.

Also, many smart thermostats come with movement sensors. It can track when and where in the house people are active. You can then adjust your thermostat settings accordingly so you aren’t wasting energy in any particular room.

Some higher-end smart thermostats can even learn to adjust their settings on their own, based on “learning” from the information gained from tracking.

3. Have Different Temperature Zones

Do you run cold while your spouse runs hot? End all arguments about the temperature in your home by creating temperature zones!

By setting each room’s temperature separate of one another, you can create areas that are perfect for each member of your family. This can cut down on family arguments about how hot or cold the house is. Every family member will have their own comfort zones.

4. You Can Use Voice Commands

Too lazy to get up and walk across the room to adjust your thermostat? No problem!

Smart thermostats are compatible with voice command technology. This means all you have to do is tell your thermostat to lower or raise the temperature, and it’ll do it.

Since you can use voice commands, you won’t have to get interrupted with activities, such as a family game night or movie night with your spouse. Enjoy the luxury of adjusting your home’s temperature without skipping a beat in whatever you’re doing.

Get a Smart Thermostat for Your Home

A smart thermostat has a number of benefits you can enjoy for years to come. Together with other smart technologies, it can integrate perfectly with the rest of your home’s ELAN system. The more automated elements you have, the easier life will be.

If you’d like to learn more about how a smart thermostat fits into your smart house plan, then get in touch with us

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simple living

Simple Living: Set-and-Forget Luxury with ELAN-Automation

The July 2019 issue of Residential Systems magazine just ran a nice piece on an ELAN-automated home project we completed recently in here in Sarasota. Learn more about our residential home automation projects here.

simple living
simple living
simple living
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home automation for commercial

Case Study: Home Automation for Commercial

Sound & Video Contractor magazine featured a case study on our work at Waterworks, one of Sarasota’s premier social and business clubs. Learn more about our commercial technology automation projects here.

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SmartHouse Earns Top ELAN Awards at CEDIA Expo 2018

September 2018

CEDIA, the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association, held their annual Expo in San Diego earlier this month. This home tech trade show and conference brings together more than 20,000 home tech pros and 500+ exhibitors for the leading event in connected technology. During the event, they present the heavily sought after CEDIA Awards which honor the best of the best in technical excellence, product innovation, and individual professionals within the home technology industry.

SmartHouse Integration had a very successful week at the CEDIA Expo bringing home two very prestigious awards, the Top ELAN Dealer in Florida and Top ELAN Flagship dealer in North America. Nortek Security & Control hosted the top ELAN dealers in North America for a dinner and celebration of this year’s success where SmartHouse was exclusively honored for being the Top ELAN Elite Flagship Dealer in North America. “This is a huge honor for our company”, states Mark van den Broek, CEO of SmartHouse Integration. “We saw the Flagship program as an amazing value for our clients. A five-year warranty on electronics is unheard of in our industry. Adding this type of warranty to our expertise ensures that our clients have some of the finest designed and installed systems in the industry.”

 

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