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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 1, 2019 9 months ago

In residential real estate, the home is now a tech sector

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New houses are being prepped for the age of automation.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Homebuilders are responding to the rising popularity of “smart home” automation services by prewiring new residences for future-proof high-tech compatibility. Another shift: designing homes with zero Wi-Fi dead zones.

“We map the homes for optimal Wi-Fi coverage as well as optimal bandwidth,” says Sean Strickler, president of PulteGroup’s West Florida division. “Then we offer a package price option for things like Amazon Alexa, a smart thermostat and a garage door opener you can operate from your phone. It’ll run you about $1,500.”

In addition to Amazon, Strickler says PulteGroup has formed partnerships with Honeywell, which makes smart thermostat controls, and Liftmaster for garage door openers. But because today’s buyers increasingly like to shop around and abhor long-term commitments to one particular provider, PulteGroup’s prewired setups are compatible with different systems.

“Everybody has their favorite,” Strickler says. “There are a lot of streaming options for TV service, for example, so making sure your home can handle that bandwidth is important.”

As connected gadgets and systems proliferate throughout the home, a command center, or hub, is increasingly a must-have feature. Tampa-based Atmos Home makes such a device, called AtmosControl, and recently showed it off at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Made to work with five different connection standards — Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave and infrared — the product, Atmos claims, can control more than a thousand different devices. Retailing for about $300, it can respond to commands delivered via smartphone app, voice, touch or even gestures.

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