Sitting in Rachel and Larry Barasch’s beautiful California craftsman home, it’s possible to feel completely unplugged from the hectic routines of Silicon Valley. The warm wooden wainscoting and cabinetry evoke the calm and gentility of another era. The only tech in sight is Larry’s laptop perched on the polished wooden table where he sits working. Otherwise, there’s nothing to inform the observer that he’s sitting in a home so advanced that it can email you when your kids get home from school.
The Barasch’s Willows neighborhood home is the demo site for their business, Intuitive Environments, an enterprise that aims to bring simplicity and ease of use to our increasingly technology-laden, complicated, 21st-century homes. The tangles of wires, stacks of remote controls and other common traces of modern home tech are all but missing from the Barasch household. A single remote control is perched on a den table; around the home discrete panels replace wall switches. Larry taps a switch and a small monitor comes to life – he quickly checks live video of the front porch and the baby’s room, then sets the house thermostat.
Stepping into the family room, shutters roll back to reveal a large screen television that offers some half dozen icons arranged in a circle that can call up everything from home security cameras to Gone with the Wind to the home video and music collection. The experience is iPod-like in its simplicity; only a few taps of the remote are required to navigate the usual plethora of devices like cable, DVD players, iTunes collections and the home’s (very) advanced features.
“The features of a home like ours used to be available only to high-end budgets and were only practical in new construction,” says Rachel. But technology advances rapidly notes Larry “and now we can integrate these technologies into existing homes, and it’s not just for Google millionaires any more. The wireless tools that have become available are particularly useful for upgrading existing homes.”
The Barasch residence interface is available online via a secure connection – Larry can see what’s going on in the his yard, reset the thermostat and check up on the teenagers hanging out in the driveway from his laptop or smartphone. Want to know if the kids are dawdling on the way home? Just set the front door to message when it’s opened. The possibilities are legion and, more importantly, easy to do.
Larry and Rachel are busy, but will happily come out for a free appraisal of a Menlo resident’s needs and desires. As Larry puts it, “Our goal is to find out how your family lives and find ways to make life easier with technologies that are appropriate and easy to use.”