When I moved into my new house, I realized that I was finally going to be able to do the home automation work I always dreamed of. Our new house was already wired for CAT5e in every room, a lot of A/V wiring, and even in-ceiling speakers in strategic locations.

To be clear, when I say "home automation system", I am not talking about buying some off-the-shelf light bulbs and using an app for that particular automation. I wanted something that automated everything with a single UI, with the ability to define programs that controlled multiple systems at once.

I investigated the options for a while, and came to the conclusion that I had to choose between:

* Systems produced by large hardware companies (e.g. Crestron) that expected an  "integrator" to set up the system and define its UI. These systems tend to be expensive, have hit-or-miss UIs, and are very difficult to customize without involving the integrator directly.
* Systems-in-a-box (e.g. Control4) that try to provide a cheaper solution that comes with a pre-fab UI. These systems also require an integrator to do customizations, and importantly, their UI looks like something out of a bad 90s TV show.

I was started to despair (or consider trying to roll something myself using an OSS solution), when I came across Mile High Automation. These guys were trying for a third model, to use the high-end hardware provided by one of the large hardware companies (HAI) and put their own software on top–software that would both be pretty on the eyes and allow more customization by the end user.

I hit up Josh of Mile High through their website chat (yeah, I know) and chatted for a while about what I wanted to do. He was one of the developers of their software, which turned out to be a web app, and so was somewhat familiar with my work, which was cool.

The fact that it was a web app didn't hurt either: it meant that I would be able to control my home automation system from any web browser, in addition to the more standard fare like tablets included with the system.

Initially, I wasn't sure if I was going to end up using that feature that much, but honestly, I pretty much control my home automation, especially lights and security, exclusively through browsers (both on my computer and the mobile version on my phone). So it ends up being pretty awesome!

One of the things I was especially interested in, even more than the ability to control lights, was whole-house A/V. Our house came with audio in the living room, bedroom, master bath, and outside patio, and I definitely wanted the ability to control those centrally. I also love movies, so I wanted an awesome theater room with in-wall surround sound, a projector and awesome screen.

We settled on a tricked out theater room, a decent setup for the living room, and the potential to expand into a spare bedroom we had converted into an exercise room.

I'm not going to lie, the system was pretty expensive. It was around $30,000 when all was said and done, but about half of that was the AV system. In addition to things like really awesome in-wall speakers, we also got commercial-grade central control–for example, it turns out to be somewhat tricky to take 4 HDMI inputs and send them to 3 HDMI outputs and support fast switching at the same time.

Working with Josh was pretty great. He worked with us from the beginning to scope the project and work with us to figure out how to work everything into the existing wiring. We had a bunch of wiring already done when we moved in, and weren't really in a position to do a huge amount of construction to add more,  having just moved in.

When it came time to install the system, Mile High Automation sent us really detailed instructions that allowed us to put together the rack and rack-mount all of the AV equipment ourselves. My brother came down to Portland to help me do a lot of the work. Unfortunately, my work was slowed down when I fell through the ceiling and broke my back (pro-tip: put down a floor if you want to walk around in your attic).

It took me a while to get back to it once my back was healed. Considering my troubles, Josh was super-great, eventually going above and beyond the call of duty and flew to Portland to help me finish up. He was a class act from beginning to end.

We now have the whole thing set up, from A/V to to lighting, security and irrigation control. Everything can be controlled through a couple of dedicated tablets, but more commonly, through any web browser. I'm glad I got this done, and glad I took the plunge and worked with Josh and Mile High Automation.
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