Give the Gift of a Connected Home for the Holidays

Today, we’re gabbing with Tony Pratte, the director of builder relations at the Sound Room. We’re talking about how a connected home is a great way to control your energy use, be environmentally aware, and increase safety for homeowners. These devices also make great gift options for others or yourself.

What Is a Connected Home?

A connected home includes all of the different devices used in a home, all of which are connected via a hub or Wi-Fi. That may include a security system, door locks, thermostat, lighting, shades, and irrigation, just to name a few things. All of these components communicate with each other through their connection to a central control system, a processor.

A connected home differs slightly from a smart home. A smart home is technology enabled through a variety of apps. This is the first step, and a connected home is the next step. With a connected home, there’s one app that controls all of the home’s devices. Plus, they can all be voice enabled through systems such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple’s HomePod. Essentially, the smart home is what it is; the connected home is what it does.

Connected Homes Increase Safety

While the younger generation may be more attuned to the idea of a connected home due to its cool factor, it can also create a safer environment for older individuals. For instance, if a senior wants to remain in their home and be independent, having a connected home increases not only convenience but safety. Lights can come on, motion can be tracked, and alerts can be sent. And with a voice-activated system, when an elderly person falls, they can speak to the system and tell it, ask for help. The same convenience and independence can be enjoyed by those with disabilities.


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Full Transcript and Audio


Speaker 2:                           Welcome to the Everyday Green Home Podcast, a place to gab with people rocking it in green. Green homes, green living, green companies. Join Marla Esser Cloos, a green home coach and author of Living Green Effortlessly, Simple Choices to a Better Home. And Tony Pratte, the director of builder relation at the Sound Room. Here are your hosts, Marla and Tony.

Marla E.:                              Gabbin’ on the Green Gab today, I am Marla Esser Cloos, and …

Tony Pratte:                       I’m Tony Pratte.

Marla E.:                              And we haven’t done one of these in a long time. It’s just going to be the two of us for this session, how fun.

Tony Pratte:                       You know it’s got to be, wow I mean we had that, and that’s just the two of us.

Marla E.:                              I know, it’s because we’ve had so many fun guests.

Tony Pratte:                       I know, we’ve had a ton.

Marla E.:                              Oh my gosh, yeah.

Tony Pratte:                       A lot of people want to visit, and say hi, and gab about being green and sustainable.

Marla E.:                              So for anybody that’s new to listening to us, we really got a really cool opportunity, and we’re hoping to get a chance to do it again. Where we recorded live at the St. Louis Home and Garden Show. The awesome part, we did about 20 hours worth of content, I think we got about 20 shows out of it. We got to talk to so many fun people.

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah, we did.

Marla E.:                              And so many experts in different ways. We talked to people that were repurposing for arts and crafts and home projects. We talked to people with secondhand furniture. We talked to landscaping.

Tony Pratte:                       Solar providers.

Marla E.:                              Solar providers.

Tony Pratte:                       Builders.

Marla E.:                              Habitat for Humanity, several builders. Just this amazing scope of people that some of them didn’t really-

Tony Pratte:                       Financing, don’t forget financing.

Marla E.:                              Financing, yeah. But what’s so fascinating is some of them didn’t really even recognize that what they were doing had a green sustainable kind of a bend to it, because that was just not the way they ever thought about it.

Tony Pratte:                       Right.

Marla E.:                              And it was so cool to explore so much of that, and help people see maybe a different way of how they were doing business, or talk about things in a different way. And we just, if you get a chance to go back and listen to them, we’ve really had an amazing time getting those out to the world. And we hope you enjoy them half as much as we enjoyed making them.

Tony Pratte:                       Well I think half the fun was just knowing that they were all down there.

Marla E.:                              Yeah.

Tony Pratte:                       We didn’t have to try and arrange studio time, or whatever. Some of them, they came to our booth, and then some you just went out on rogue with a microphone and, “Hey, you got 10 minutes?”

Marla E.:                              So if you, our dear listeners, have a show or an event that you would be interested in having live podcasting. It’s a great way to capture content, make it available to your audience, your members, as well as to the bigger world. It’s a great way to share what you’re doing with the larger world. And actually, they can be made private, but we love the transparency of getting the word out to the bigger world, and helping people to know what they don’t know.

Tony Pratte:                       That’s all you need to know, right?

Marla E.:                              Right. Just know what you don’t know, and you’ll know more than you knew. And that sounds really confusing. That’s okay, I make up words. Hey come on, we inspirated at the show, right?

Tony Pratte:                       Oh yes, and we colloborated, too.

Marla E.:                              We did, we had co-opetition and we inspirated. Okay, so inspirated was inspired and educated.

Tony Pratte:                       Yes.

Marla E.:                              And co-opetition was …

Tony Pratte:                       Cooperate, yet compete.

Marla E.:                              Compete, that was it. So we became masters of inventing new words.

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah.

Marla E.:                              Yeah, it’s just not in the news folks. We’re doing it right here live on the Everyday Green Home Podcast.

Tony Pratte:                       We are inventors.

Marla E.:                              Well Tony, all the changes that’s happened in the past year, year-and-a-half has been wonderful, scary, exciting, but I miss being in the studio with you and Sam. And so I’m so glad we have a chance to do, I mean we’re just doing a couple quick episodes, but I’m very grateful for that, so thank you.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, it’s been awhile, it’s been awhile. And this was fun, we had it down to where this was like our Tuesday morning thing.

Marla E.:                              It was.

Tony Pratte:                       We’d come in, we’d record a few episodes, hang out with Sam, do breakfast or lunch, and then go back about our day.

Marla E.:                              Yep.

Tony Pratte:                       And then boom, it was a weekly thing. So I miss that with you being in Oklahoma City now. But I’m thankful when we can get together and do it.

Marla E.:                              Well, and we’ll explore some new technologies, and figure out what this looks like going forward. So you, our listeners, hey any ideas you have, we’d love, love, love to hear them. I do ask a couple favor of you, our mighty, wonderful, tremendous listeners. Number one, if you’re listening to us on iTunes, please, please go review us. We really need-

Tony Pratte:                       We like reviews.

Marla E.:                              Well, and the reviews help us to gain more listenership on iTunes. So it really helps the show to get out to more people, and it gives it a lot more credibility in iTunes world. If you also are following us on Facebook, on the Green Gab Facebook page, we also cross-post to the Green Home Coach Facebook page, and to our Twitter page, love to hear from you there as well. Any comments or ideas you have for future shows, or if you’d like to come on the show, please let us know. Because we are looking at some ways of doing this completely technology based, and sprinkling in when we are in the studio so we can really look to achieve a new mix. We want to play around with maybe some little mini-Facebook live kind of interviews, so that might be a great way to interact with you. And if you’re interested in coming on, but really only think 10 minutes is your gig, Facebook live can be a great solution for that. Because I like the 10 minute Facebook live videos, I kind of don’t do well listening or viewing for longer than that.

Tony Pratte:                       Right.

Marla E.:                              I’m good listening, because I turn the podcast on in the car when I’m driving a lot.

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah, but you can’t do that while you’re driving, at least not yet.

Marla E.:                              Well podcast, well sometimes I listen to video.

Tony Pratte:                       I’m talking about Facebook live, watching that.

Marla E.:                              Right. Sometimes I listen to videos in the car, but you do lose something not having the video component. So I’m all for podcasting and listening in the car, or when I workout, or whatever.

Tony Pratte:                       When you’re listening, you’re imagining what’s going on.

Marla E.:                              That’s true.

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah, when you’re trying to, when you’re watching video there’s another level of perception and communication that you’re picking up, watching body language, watching the unspoken comment.

Marla E.:                              Right.

Tony Pratte:                       And if you’re just trying to listen to that, you’re missing that part. Because you’re not imagining anymore, you saw what they look like, you saw what’s going on.

Marla E.:                              So heads up mighty listeners, we are going to Facebook live the second segment of today’s show, so check us out there. And the cool thing is we get on Facebook live sooner than we get on podcasts, because the podcasts take a few weeks to get edited, and get into our queue, and work them in with other episodes and stuff. But the Facebook live is a great way to see what’s happening. And seriously, we just really would love your interaction. And we’re really working to see what the next phase, what the next chapter is for the Green Gab.

Tony Pratte:                       Well feedback also makes us better.

Marla E.:                              It does, it does. And it’s funny that we’re talking about hearing and seeing today, because the topic we really want to pick up on is how we can use some of the technology tools that are out there for the baby boomer and greater population, those of us … well, we’re all aging.

Tony Pratte:                       Everybody ages.

Marla E.:                              I know, we’re all aging, that really happens all the time, right? But we have this whole growing senior section, I hate to call them senior. Wait, what’s the new trend, active adults?

Tony Pratte:                       Active adults, yeah. Active adults.

Marla E.:                              Yeah. So this I found an article that I sent to you what, last week?

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah, it was last Friday.

Marla E.:                              It really spurred some conversation. And I’m going to thank the author of this article, so it was Derek Holt from K4 Connect, and I found the article in the Green Home Builder Magazine. So thank you Green Home Builder, we’ll make sure to post out to you guys as well. But it was I loved the title, it really caught my eye, design with smart home in mind, why seniors lead the way. And after you and I had done that presentation at EEBA, the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance Show in March, September? I don’t remember, some time in the last year.

Tony Pratte:                       It was March, it was March.

Marla E.:                              March. But that we’d done that presentation on-

Tony Pratte:                       Disabilities.

Marla E.:                              … connected homes for people with disabilities. So this is all coming together, this conversation is happening a lot more.

Tony Pratte:                       That is correct. And we see this every day with what we do, whether it’s millennials, they get technology automatically. [crosstalk]. When they’re buying a house that the builder is working with us, and the house is already got the infrastructure for being a connected home, meaning the processor is in there. They get it right away, they’re excited.

Marla E.:                              Wait, but go back a second. So you said a connected home already has a processor in it. So explain that in a little bit more lay person’s terms.

Tony Pratte:                       All right, so when we mean connected home, that means all of the different devices that can live in that home are items in the home, whether it’s a security system, whether it’s a door lock, a thermostat.

Marla E.:                              That communicate with other things.

Tony Pratte:                       Television, radio, stereo. If it talks inside that house, it’s connected. It can be connected to each other because they can interact. The only way for that to interact is because that home has a control system that has some sort of processor that all of these items can be tied into.

Marla E.:                              So the processor is the brain.

Tony Pratte:                       Yes.

Marla E.:                              And the systems are the heart would be to a body, or the lungs, or ears, or whatever. So they’re providing a different function for the house. So what’s the difference between a connected home, and this term smart home that we’re hearing out here a lot? And that was used in this article, by the way.

Tony Pratte:                       Well that’s a great question. So smart home is this all encompassing term that’s really a mystery to most people.

Marla E.:                              Okay.

Tony Pratte:                       All it means is some part of my house has an app that I can go on my phone, and I can do something with it.

Marla E.:                              So it’s technology enabled?

Tony Pratte:                       It’s technology enabled, but that’s all it is. I got one app for the thermostat, I got one app for my door lock, I got one app for my Sonos speakers. I’ve got one app for my Samsung TV.

Marla E.:                              So a smart home could have 20 apps to run the house, or whatever.

Tony Pratte:                       I have 20 apps. I sit there, I can scroll through them, do whatever, turn things on, turn things off, turn things on, turn things off.

Marla E.:                              So connected home is the next step.

Tony Pratte:                       A connected home is the pinnacle.

Marla E.:                              Okay.

Tony Pratte:                       So, all that means is there’s one app, everything is landed in that one app.

Marla E.:                              Through the brain.

Tony Pratte:                       Through the brain.

Marla E.:                              Okay.

Tony Pratte:                       And not only that, I can press a button and maybe I have 20 devices tied to it, all 20 of them can do something based on that one device.

Marla E.:                              I gotcha.

Tony Pratte:                       You just have to figure out what it is. Or especially with Amazon having the Echo’s and Google Home coming out, and Apple’s developing their own voice enabled device, those devices can be integrated into these connected homes. And instead of hitting a button, I can give a voice command.

Marla E.:                              And I’m sure we have a voice command on our smart phones.

Tony Pratte:                       Absolutely.

Marla E.:                              Smart device, I have been told no longer to call it a phone, it is a device.

Tony Pratte:                       It’s a device, it is a device, that is correct.

Marla E.:                              And it is, although I talk on mine more than most people.

Tony Pratte:                       Right. But if you’re in the home, instead of going over the wall and hitting a button, or hitting the button on your app, you can sit there and say, “Alexa, turn my house on.”

Marla E.:                              Gotcha.

Tony Pratte:                       And then whatever is tied to that command comes on.

Marla E.:                              Okay, so hold that thought. Let’s take a quick break, and then we’re going to dive into why this matters for seniors.

Tony Pratte:                       Sounds good.

Marla E.:                              Okay.

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Marla E.:                              So we are on the Green Gab podcast today, and we are in studio live today here at Shock City Studios in St. Louis.

Tony Pratte:                       It’s been so long since we’ve been here.

Marla E.:                              I know, so this is actually segment two of the podcast today where we’re talking about connected homes. But we love giving you guys a chance to see what’s going on in the studio. So we thought it would be fun to hop on Facebook live.

Tony Pratte:                       And since we haven’t been in studio in awhile, it’s the perfect opportunity to do it.

Marla E.:                              It has been awhile. So if you are looking for the podcast, be patient it will come out there. We will attempt to repost the live when we post the podcast, just so it will kind of all tie in together. So we really started off talking about, we’ve got this huge technology influx with smart homes, and I say that with air quotes. Because what we’re really learning is there’s a better word, and that’s connected homes.

Tony Pratte:                       Absolutely, connected homes is the proper word, you can also use automated homes. But connected homes really is all the technology inside that house is connected together. And it lives in its own little technological ecosystem.

Marla E.:                              And the reason we care about that, and this is what, I found this article that we really started kind of digging into, it was on Green Home Builder Magazine, and thank you Derek Holt for writing it, we’ll send you a copy of all of this. But what we love, and what she said in this article is that the fundamental issue we see with the current approach to “Smart homes,” is a focus on novelty rather than every day utility. And we see this novelty especially with the younger technology that’s grown up digital, digital and technology is first language to them. But we also see this incredible opportunity to help people live better lives in their homes.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, and that’s a great point. Because at the Sound Room, we sell some cool stuff, we really do. And we show people all the time as they come in for tours, we take them to a demo wall, and there you are turning a light switch on and off from your phone. Well that is cool, there’s some novelty to that. But how often are you actually turning on a light switch from your phone? Not often. Where I really becomes a benefit to people is when things are automated, or they’re tied together and connected.

So at that point, maybe I’m coming home, maybe just by my garage door opening up now all of a sudden my pathway lighting into the house is turned on automatically. So as I walk in, the lights are already on. Maybe the TV comes on, maybe the music starts to play. So these things are automated because they’re connected together. And the benefit is it makes my life a little less hectic, it’s easier. I don’t have to go around turning things on and off. At night, instead of walking around turning things off, I just hit one button on my phone, on the light switch, whatever, and everything that’s connected shuts down.

Marla E.:                              So what I see with that is like I lived by myself for almost four years, well that’s a safety issue. When I come home, I’ve got the lights on, I’m not tripping over the sidewalk, I’m not fumbling for my keys. And it’s like we have keyless entry getting into a car, it’s safer. It’s not just a convenience, it’s safer.

Tony Pratte:                       Or something like this, daylight savings time in the fall, it’s darker. You’re coming home, well now all your lights are on timers, and they’re turning on at certain times. They look like they’re random, but they’re not. So that way, if you’re traveling, it looks like you’re home. But no matter what, you’re not coming into a dark home. You’re coming into a lit home, and it has another level of safety because of that.

Marla E.:                              So particularly what I’m starting to see is like for a senior that wants to stay in their home and stay independent, they’ve got a safety mechanism there. So not just convenience, it’s actually going to help them like if they get up in the middle of the night, the lights could automatically come on. Or maybe there’s pathway lighting, or there’s a motion sensor, some way of responding that says, “Hey I’m going to make this as safe as possible while you’re up in the middle of the night and it’s dark.”

Tony Pratte:                       There’s a few things that you have to look at for the connected home. One, you have for the person that is aging that wants to stay in the house by themselves.

Marla E.:                              We’re all aging.

Tony Pratte:                       We’re all aging. You have too their family members that are worried, “How is mom doing? How is dad doing?” So there’s a peace of mind issue for that as well. So you can have it to where you have motion sensors in the house that track the daily patterns. So they see it, and as they’re walking down the hallway at 9:00 in the morning to the kitchen, son and daughter get a little text on their phone saying, “Hey motion was activated.” So you know it’s their parent on their normal pathway. Well now all of a sudden it’s been half the day and you haven’t seen any motion. You’re on the phone, you’re going to see what’s up with mom or dad. You have another possibility of just the simple Amazon Echo’s, the voice control.

Marla E.:                              Right.

Tony Pratte:                       What’s one of our biggest fears with the elderly, is a fall.

Marla E.:                              So now they can do the, “Help I can’t get up,” to the voice activated.

Tony Pratte:                       Exactly. And now, that sends a little call over to son, daughter, whoever, wherever you want it to go. And it’s alerting somebody that we have an accident.

Marla E.:                              That’s a cool idea. And that’s funny that you had not thought about that, but remember when that feature first came out on cars, and it didn’t stick. I’m not sure it was, I don’t know why it didn’t stick, but the idea was good.

Tony Pratte:                       The timing, timing probably wasn’t right.

Marla E.:                              Maybe. But I remember I had that in one of my vehicles, and oh it was subscription based, that might be a lot of it. But I think we’ve gotten a lot more used to subscription based things now, too.

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah, we are.

Marla E.:                              I don’t think at that point and time that it was as common.

Tony Pratte:                       Well and that little $50 piece, because it interacts with the controllers for a connected home, you can not only take that from the elderly side, but you can also transfer it over to the person with disabilities.

Marla E.:                              Right, and that was what you and I had done our presentation on. And it’s the same thing, it’s back to this there was another quote in the article that fits so perfectly. It says oftentimes, and I’ll paraphrase a little bit here, often solutions are looking for a problem rather than a solution to an actual known problem. Well for seniors that want to live independently, safety may be the actual problem. How do I have someone living on their own, or living with maybe reduced eyesight, or reduced hearing. And aging doesn’t necessarily mean elderly these days, or perhaps it is someone with disabilities. I mean just even hearing loss could play into something like that. So having these technologies, they act as your second set of systems is what I really hear. So it’s a safeguard.

Tony Pratte:                       Well what I’ve found is regardless of whether a person’s disabled, or they’re aging in place in the home. Technology and a connected home can give that person maybe a sense of independence that has been lacking in their lives based on a disability, or aging in place in the home. And if you take somebody, case in point somebody that is wheelchair bound, and maybe they can’t do much. But now all of a sudden if technology allows them to do 10 more things now than they couldn’t do in the past, there’s another sense of independence. And it’s not only for them, but it’s for the caregiver as well.

Marla E.:                              So real quick before we wrap up on the Facebook live portion, I don’t know if you can hold your controller up, but Tony has a control system on his phone. Tony, you, we’re going to see if we can hold this up to Facebook live, you’re probably going to have to get it closer. But it’s cool because you can control everything, there you go, it’s going to be mirrored probably. But tell me what all you can access from that.

Tony Pratte:                       All right, so from this pretty much everything. This is actually one of our display homes that we’re doing with Consort Homes. I can play with the TV, I can change the channels on the TV remotely if I really wanted to.

Marla E.:                              And that’s just entertainment, go to the big stuff.

Tony Pratte:                       Audio, I’ve got lighting, I’ve got thermostat, I’ve got the security system, I’ve got the door locks. Basically in this house, we’re showing anything and everything you can pretty much do in a basic house. The cool thing about this is there is a custom button. I can go in if I’m the sales person at Consort Homes when I’m getting ready to leave, I can just basically lock the door, the sales door, get in my car, hit the goodnight button. And everything that’s tied to this house shuts down, and the security system turns on.

Marla E.:                              Yeah. I think that what is coming is going to probably blow our socks off. I think of what’s happened with what we call smartphones, or now I’m being instructed to call them smart devices. But that little thing you carry in your pocket, and mine is our camera right now, these little things that started off as simple communication devices to be an extension when we were on the go for phone conversations, have evolved into so much. Where they can truly run all aspects, or help us run all aspects of our lives. I hope they don’t replace human beings. But I just feel there’s so many benefits from it that we don’t yet recognize.

Tony Pratte:                       It’s still the potential for technology, especially in the home, is still untapped. We’re in that very first entry level stages, still. We have a long way to go, and that’s where the builder themselves really needs to start making the decision am I a high tech builder, or a low tech builder?

Marla E.:                              And that’s maybe seen as a wow, and that’s cool factor, really has a practical side if you just kind of think a little bit wider, and a little bit more all encompassing. So we’re going to sign off Facebook live, we hope you got a little kick out of seeing us. We will repost this in a couple of places so that you all can find it, because we know it’s kind of hard for everybody to jump on Facebook live in the middle of the work day. And if you want to hear the podcast, please go to the Green Gab on iTunes, or on the internet And you can check out more there as well, and we will be right back on the podcast. Thank you Facebook live audience, see you later.

Tony Pratte:                       Bye.

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Marla E.:                              We’re still gabbin’ here, and this whole topic of the connected home is one obviously we keep coming back to since it’s part of your business.

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah, it’s the majority of our business now.

Marla E.:                              But it’s also really becoming a growing conversation inside of the whole green sustainability and efficiency side because it’s a great way for us to make up for behaviors that we can’t or won’t do.

Tony Pratte:                       Yes, because you can automate these.

Marla E.:                              Right.

Tony Pratte:                       And by automating them, well you take the best behaviors you want. But let’s face it, life gets in the way.

Marla E.:                              Like name a few behaviors, because I don’t know that our listeners necessarily know what we’re talking about.

Tony Pratte:                       I want to make sure that all my lights are turned off, my ceiling fans are on when they need to be on, and off when they need to be off. I want to make sure that the house is set not too cold, but not too hot, at a good temperature that’s not going to kill my energy bills.

Marla E.:                              But you don’t need to necessarily have that running when you’re going to be away at work all day long.

Tony Pratte:                       Not only that, or maybe I’m on vacation. There are different modes in the house, you can have a stay mode, and away mode, a vacation mode.

Marla E.:                              So behaviors typically we talk about with when we start talking about technology, is behaviors where you mainly turn off or on something, or adjust a setting.

Tony Pratte:                       Exactly.

Marla E.:                              And it can even include manual like opening and closing window shades, or blinds.

Tony Pratte:                       Yes.

Marla E.:                              It could include opening and closing a garage door, or a front door, or a back door, or a skylight. So anything that basically a human being can operate-

Tony Pratte:                       They can automate.

Marla E.:                              Oh, I got to remember that statement. Okay. So with that being said, the technology essentially makes up for our-

Tony Pratte:                       Misbehavior.

Marla E.:                              Our misbehavior, we’re going to get all kinds of cool quotes out of this one.

Tony Pratte:                       Well I mean that’s what we do. But yes, technology steps in where your behavior, your preferred behavior stops.

Marla E.:                              And we do stop.

Tony Pratte:                       Yes, we do. Life gets in the way. How many of us have been in the middle of something, got a phone call and then totally forgot about what we were doing until a few hours later and said, “Oh did I do this?” It happens all the time. And with-

Marla E.:                              Can you say evernote?

Tony Pratte:                       Exactly. And with the connected home, either it’s automated, or you open up an app, and you override it and make sure it’s done, because there is a bit of a feedback to it. You can have as much control or as little control as you want. It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish in the home.

Marla E.:                              So what’s so cool about that is I know that so many of us equate technology with millennials. And if you are a millennial listening to this show, please forgive me for the stereotype. Sam, you’re a millennial, I’m okay right? And I apologize for that.

Tony Pratte:                       As he’s looking at his smart device.

Marla E.:                              As he’s looking at his smart phone and ignoring us, I’m just kidding you Sam. But I want to talk about what’s awesome about millennials. And by the way, I have two millennial kids, so I get even awesomer stuff. You as a demographic have been enabled with technology and the digital world since a very young age, or birth. Because of that, I liken it to being bilingual. You think in two languages, you think digitally. I watch what my son and my daughter can do with their apps, and with their smart devices, and it runs circles around me. But it’s because they’re not translating every time. My generation, and you’re kind of in-between I think Tony, because you’re a little bit younger than me.

Tony Pratte:                       I’m stuck in the middle, I’m an Xer.

Marla E.:                              Yeah, and I’m the tail end of the baby boomers. But my generation in particular, and I find I’m fairly tech savvy for a woman of my generation. And I think a lot of that is because I worked for IBM for 15 years. But I’m still translating between oh how did I do that prior to technology, and now how do I do that with technology? Whereas when I ask one of my kids to help me with something-

Tony Pratte:                       They’ve only done it one way, with technology.

Marla E.:                              Right. So when we start talking about a smart home, and I think part of the reason that the term maybe has stuck around, the smart home is what it is, the connected home is what it does. And we now that we’re starting to understand the benefits more of what technology provides us, are starting to speak about it in a different way really.

Tony Pratte:                       Well, and you got to remember the connected home is not only what you can do with it, but it’s also where it’s going. Everything-

Marla E.:                              Oh, I definitely can see that.

Tony Pratte:                       Everything that will be going into a home, within five years, within 10 years, maybe within two years, it’s going to happen, it’s a matter of how quickly. Anything that has any kind of electronic capacity to it will be connected in that home.

Marla E.:                              So we really need to think beyond, I mean things start with the wow factor, that seems to be the path of these things. So we start with the wow factor, oh cool I can tell my washing machine when to wash my clothes, or I can tell my dishwasher to only run in the middle of the night.

Tony Pratte:                       It’s not even that you can tell it, but if you’re looking for true energy saving mode, it’s looking at the grid.

Marla E.:                              For when it’s cheapest.

Tony Pratte:                       It’s seeing when it’s the cheapest, that’s when it’s running automatically.

Marla E.:                              I have a utility tied thermostat for smart hours, and it’s not to that parody level yet. But it does help me to take advantage of when energy’s a bit cheaper.

Tony Pratte:                       This is where it’s going.

Marla E.:                              Right. And this is going to say, and you’re right, this is exactly why the word connected is so important. And for someone of my generation, that gets a little big brotherish. But here’s what I’m learning the younger generation gets, and part of this is because I think they’ve grown up with it, is that they’re willing to give up a little bit of that big brotherish kind of a feeling that oh my gosh it’s seeing everything I do for the benefits that it brings to the general human population. And the big part about what got you and me so excited about this particular article, and conversation, and the presentation we did about senior living, people with disabilities living, and the connected home, we said it goes so far beyond the wow factor. And it truly enables entire populations to live in a much better way than they would have been able to otherwise.

Tony Pratte:                       Oh, absolutely. It keeps them being independent as they age. I mean we all think of the stereotype, somebody’s in their 80’s by themselves in senior living, right?

Marla E.:                              You haven’t met my step father yet.

Tony Pratte:                       I know, but it’s still a stereotype.

Marla E.:                              Yeah, he’s amazing, plays golf like three times a week.

Tony Pratte:                       Where would we all prefer to live? In our own homes.

Marla E.:                              Yep, doing what we love to do, where we love to do it.

Tony Pratte:                       And if technology is what enables somebody to live in their own home from cradle to grave, so be it.

Marla E.:                              Well and even my generation, I’m the tail end of the baby boomer, but I’m an empty nester, I’m starting to think, well what does life look like when we are “Active adults.” Which is the new term for these, really a lot of the baby boomers because we are empty nesters.

Tony Pratte:                       We’re retirees.

Marla E.:                              Well, a lot of us aren’t retired yet, but we’re not necessarily working what we’ve done all of our career. We may be working on a second career, or a hobby job, or we may still be working in our career, it’s all over the place. But it’s a more, it’s a life when we’re making more choices rather than things selecting us.

Tony Pratte:                       And part of the issue is when do you retire now?

Marla E.:                              Yeah, that’s a big question. Especially after the recession.

Tony Pratte:                       But not only that, as you live a longer life, you’re spending more, and more, and more, and more, and more years out of retirement. The whole change is this new generation that’s coming up through grade school now, are they retiring at 75? Just because they’re going to live to 95 to 100, on average?

Marla E.:                              Good point. So by taking advantage of technology that is available right now, today, we can enable people that may have some physical challenges, or even some mental challenges, or just aging challenges all over the world.

Tony Pratte:                       Technology can give a semblance of independence to just about anybody that doesn’t have it right now. Technology gives arms to the person who has no use of his own.

Marla E.:                              Well and talk about the work that y’all have been doing, I’m going to put a little bit of a shameless plug in for you guys. But y’all have been doing some really cool work with the Gary Sinise Foundation.

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah. So Gary Sinise Foundation, their mission is to provide specifically adapted smart homes for wounded warriors and first responders throughout the country. And they’ll partner up with some wonderful companies that do a lot of donations, in particular core brands, they’re the ones that donate a lot of the electronics that go into it that we install. And then they’ll partner up usually with an integrator, like us, and we’re the ones that get to know really how the house needs to be programmed. Now in the design phase, a lot of times we have no idea what is wrong. So because a lot of the stuff-

Marla E.:                              What challenge the person living there who has-

Tony Pratte:                       No idea what the disability is, nothing.

Marla E.:                              Okay.

Tony Pratte:                       So we have to go and prepare for worst case scenario. And basically the worst case scenario is wheelchair, no use of arms, no use of legs, that’s it.

Marla E.:                              Okay. So everything is voice activated?

Tony Pratte:                       Yeah, basically everything is just done. The first one we did the wounded veteran did have mobility, but it was still prepared just in case. But we have to look at it as that’s his forever home.

Marla E.:                              Right.

Tony Pratte:                       So in 20 years, if he becomes wheelchair bound-

Marla E.:                              It’s ready for him.

Tony Pratte:                       We’re ready to make some adjustments here and there, tweak it, and he’s good to go.

Marla E.:                              Okay.

Tony Pratte:                       These are true smart homes, these are true connected homes. These have a central controller into them. So really, a little programming maybe an additional device or two, and we can make it do whatever we want based on how he ages in that house. Now the one we’re currently working on right now we’re talking wheelchair bound, no use of arms, no use of legs. He can control the wheelchair with a straw, but he can talk.

Marla E.:                              Okay.

Tony Pratte:                       Not necessarily long drawn out soliloquy’s, but he can talk enough for voice control.

Marla E.:                              Okay.

Tony Pratte:                       So our goal is if we can give him five to ten things that he can do by himself, it gives him a sense of independence again. But it also gives his caregivers a break.

Marla E.:                              And I truly am grateful for what the Gary Sinise foundation does, and for what y’all do as contributing to part of that, and for the so many different companies that contribute to this. Because I can’t think of a greater way for us to honor the service men and service women that have served our country, and that’s huge.

Tony Pratte:                       There is a large group of people that do this. I was out at the current project on Friday, and the builder was telling me there’s a carving that they put on this outdoor fireplace. And I thought it was a form, a cast, or something. And he’s like, “Oh no, the mason hand carved it and put it in there.”

Marla E.:                              Nice.

Tony Pratte:                       Now this is volunteer time in a house that this guy’s not living in, this mason. And he took the time to hand carve this piece, and it’s gorgeous.

Marla E.:                              Nice.

Tony Pratte:                       And that’s everybody’s way of saying thank you.

Marla E.:                              Well there’s this whole idea of connected homes is here to stay folks.

Tony Pratte:                       Oh, it’s not going anywhere.

Marla E.:                              And it is a wonderful solution now for seniors, for active adults, for people with disabilities. As well as just being cool, if you just want the wow factor, check it out. We’ll post some resources on the podcast notes, and we’ll put some links up there to what the Gary Sinise Foundation is doing. And again, a huge thank you for Derek for writing this article in Green Home Builder Magazine. We’ll put some links up to all of that. And if you have questions about this, or would like to get started, or want to know where to go next, if you’re in St. Louis, please feel free to give Tony a holler, he’d love to chat with you. Or we’d be happy to help you find an organization in your specific area. There’s quite the network throughout, particularly through the Homebuilder’s Association, and some other organizations. But this is an answer to a lot of unresolved situations in many cases. So give it a shot, take a look, it’s going to keep going as our computers and technology keep moving forward.

Tony Pratte:                       In two generations the term connected home won’t exist.

Marla E.:                              We won’t recognize it.

Tony Pratte:                       Because they’ll all be that way.

Marla E.:                              Yeah. So awesome time gabbin’ today about connected homes. And thank you Tony and Sam, we’ve loved being back in studio. We look forward to the next time you catch us on the Green Gab podcast, and have a wonderful day.

Speaker 9:                           Thanks for listening to this episode of The Green Gab podcast. And for joining us on our own personal green odyssey, as we change the world one Green Gab podcast at a time. What did you learn about during this episode? Tell us now by visiting our website at And remember to connect with us via iTunes, Facebook, and Twitter. Links to do all of this are at our website,

Thanks for listening, but more importantly, thanks for rocking it in green.