In an age of interconnectivity, customized smart homes now offer disabled homeowners a previously unimaginable degree of control over their daily lives. By remotely accessing lighting, climate, audio/video equipment and beyond, smart homes today can ensure control with minimal physical strain on the homeowner. That’s why, when the digital caregiver integration firm Cybermation was commissioned by the state of Minnesota to customize a home automation system for a quadriplegic homeowner in Richmond, they brought in technology integrators Greg Elsner, Shane Halvorson and Mike Pietersen at J. Becher & Associates to design and install an ELAN Entertainment and Control System that would connect and control all of the home’s automated components.
“Smart home control is revolutionizing the disabled homeowner experience with the ability to control elements remotely through an entirely customized interface,” Elsner said. “In this particular home, the homeowner is quadriplegic and is limited to mouth control only. We were able to build a customized interface, all controlled with ELAN, that helps her control her television, front door, lights, Internet and telephone. 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.”
The customized interface and control platform is comprised of a QuadMouse with Dragon NaturallySpeaking software and two joysticks that respond to mouth contact. “This interface is the key to control for the homeowner,” President of Cybermation Thomas L. Ardolf said. “With this extremely customized set up, we were able to achieve an easy-to-use system that caters to her needs.”
In the newly renovated home, the QuadMouse-based interface connects to an ELAN system controller to automate and control the home, including the front door with electronic lock, the lighting system, the telephone, and all elements of the home theater. The homeowner is now able to manage these sub-systems right from her bed with her QuadMouse-based control station.
“One of the most important elements of this project was implementing a simple door automation system,” Elsner emphasized. “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.”
Additionally, the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software allows the homeowner to browse the Internet—which she hadn't been able to do for over five years—and make phone calls via Google Voice. Cybermation installed a special microphone that quickly and accurately reads her voice, greatly expanding her ability to communicate to parties outside of the house.
To ensure that the homeowner’s system is protected in the event of a power surge, Elsner installed a Panamax M4000-Pro Power Conditioner. “In situations like this, it is absolutely crucial to incorporate a power management system,” he said. “Now, if for any reason there is a power surge, all elements of the home automation system are completely protected.”
To complete the project, Cybermation brought United Cerebral Palsy of Central MN and Theisen Design & Manufacturing on board. UCPCMN provided implementation and training by a specialist in assistive technology, while 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.
As the homeowner gets more accustomed to the system, Cybermation plans to make additions to the hardware and software to further customize it. “Since the homeowner had computer skills prior to becoming a quadriplegic five years ago, she was already proficient in using the interface mere days after the installation was completed. She was eager to begin playing Mahjong on her computer again!” Ardolf added. “She is happy with the independence that the system offers her, and that makes us happy.”
According to the homeowner, her experience has been significantly improved as a result of the home automation. “The biggest benefit is the independence in being able to control the television and lights. I feel freedom and empowerment,” she said. “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.”
According to Elsner, this home is the first of many medical-based home automation installations that Cybermation and J. Becher & Associates will tackle, with four similar projects currently in the works. “Customized smart homes bring control to the homeowner. This is revolutionary for people with physical challenges and who may lack the ability to turn on the lights, change the television channel, arm the security system or carry out a multitude of other tasks. I am honored to be part of the transformation that has such a positive impact on so many lives,” Elsner concluded.