Linking dreams to technology


If you can dream it, we can build it. 

It sounds like a marketing slogan. But when it comes to smart home technology, what once felt more like fictional thinking out of a movie is becoming both doable and affordable.

“There really isn’t much we can’t do nowadays,” said Sean Stewart, sales marketing manager for Custom Audio Video. “When the concept of a smart home first hit the market, every part of the house was its own silo. Lighting, HVAC, shades, TVs, home audio, it was all controlled separately, but we are able to fully automate the smart home experience now with one touch of a button or a touch pad.”

Stewart said automation and the increased need for top-level home networks have been the top trends his company has been focused on to start 2021.

“So, you have more folks working from home, you have had kids doing school from home, now the major movies are being shown on streaming networks first. It’s more important than ever to have the proper network configuration,” Stewart said. 

hightech2He said that as much as we’d all like to blame the Internet providers, the real culprit for slow network speeds is most often the home network setup.

“Whether it’s an inferior modem or a router not positioned centrally in bigger houses, that’s the real issue,” Stewart said. “Coverage is key. And the more electronics we can get plugged in with Ethernet and off the wireless network, the more bandwidth the devices that actually need it will have. A strong robust network with a combination of wired and wireless access points is the solution most every time.”

Automated shades are also in high demand around the Lowcountry. Kim Klejka, marketing coordinator for Budget Blinds of the Lowcountry, said the trend is being fueled by advancements in both motorization and in full-home automation tech, as well as by the affordability of the home upgrade.

“It certainly was more of a luxury option in the past, but we have some high-end models at very affordable price points now,” Klejka said. “Folks are home more than ever over the last year, so the demand is driving both innovation and a mainstreaming of the products. We see more and more folks surprised at how much they can automate for their budget these days.”

Budget Blinds’ Smart Home Collection is an exclusive collection. 

Klejka said one emerging product trend around the Lowcountry is motorized skylights.

“The need for that crank to open and close those lights is a thing of the past,” she said. “It’s one of those, ‘I wish they had this’ concepts that we’ve worked on with our manufacturers to make it a reality.”

The COVID pandemic has spurred on a rise in home health tech. Video doorbells like the Ettie Smart Video Doorbell also take the temperature of guests trying to enter your home. Touchless doorbells are also available that set off a noise when potential visitors step within view, minimizing the potential spread of germs and bacteria.

Tony Serrato, owner of Lowcountry Electronics, has seen more and more residential customers looking for the tech to make managing the video doorbells all the more simple.

“More home insurance companies are recommending the video cameras overlooking pools, due to many gated communities not allowing fences around pools,” he said. “We now have the automation ability so your TV automatically changes input to show the view of the camera or the video doorbell when it senses activity.”

hightech3Serrato, a longtime resident and former Beaufort County deputy sheriff, has owned his own company with his wife, Ruth, for the past 13 years. He said that he’s never seen such a wave of innovation that gets all the simplest tasks at home done with one push of a button.

“Technology like Z-Wave, it’s created the ability to link so many different concepts,” Serrato said. “We can set up scenes on an automation hub now, which will do a number of different tasks at once. For example, as you pull into your driveway, you use the hub app on your smartphone to turn on the lights, unlock the door, preheat the oven, turn on the pool pump, and set the proper room temperature instantly.”

Serrato has been installing more and more systems where pushing a button or touching a screen isn’t even necessary.

“There are proximity detectors that fit on your key ring that are linked to your Wi-Fi home network, so your network will detect the signal and start that scene automatically,” he said. “The possibilities are truly endless to create more and more simplicity with this technology. When you’ve had a long day and your brain is tired, buying back those five minutes of remembering and doing all those tasks, it can mean everything in the moment.”

Stewart and Serrato said they are getting more requests for frame TVs, flat screens made to look like framed art that actually display art when you’re not watching your shows. 

“That’s been picking up for sure, and so has wall TVs,” Serrato said. “I did a man cave recently where we mounted six different monitors together, so they could either display six different channels or link multiple screens together to show up to a 100-inch size picture.”

Serrato said delivering on customers’ wildest tech wish lists is the coolest part of his work.

“You link the dreams with the technology, and many times, these are homes I don’t want to leave,” he said. “The best part of it is the tech is becoming so affordable, these kinds of tech setups are more and more possible for any sized wallet. We’ve come so far in the last 10 years, it’s a fun time to be in our industry.