The DesignWell Podcast #2: Inside Crestron’s Fully Accessible Smart Home
Isaac Rosario is the VP and Lead Programmer of Voyager Home Systems in Oklahoma. Specializing in home automation, lighting control, home networking and home theater, Isaac and the team at Voyager are well-versed in residential installations, as well as working with Crestron systems in particular. According to Isaac, the project at the Price residence gave him and his team an opportunity to look at smart home installations differently. Instead of attempting to use all the technology to make everything look cool, he said, he looked at each piece of technology as a high-functioning tool meant to help Jason live his day-to-day life independently, comfortably and securely.
Jason Price is a professional working in the field of disabilities and the owner of the Price residence. Having been born with Spastic Paraplegia, Jason has long had a vision of living in a home where he can live independently and without it feeling like a hospital or hospice center. Following the payoff of his grand ambitions in the form of his new, fully-accessible smart home, Jason wants to spread the word of what is possible with smart home technology and how it can be used to assist people with disabilities and our aging populations as well.
Hello, everybody and welcome to the DesignWell Podcast. Today I am here with Isaac Rosario, VP of Voyager home systems and Jason Price the owner of our subject for today, which is a absolutely wonderful Smart Home designed with the utmost accessibility in mind.
I am Nicholas Boever, I will be helping out, not so much moderate this time, but join in on the conversation to find out more about this custom solution. But first, before we get into it, I’d like Isaac and Jason to introduce themselves. So, Jason, why don’t you start?
Well, I’m Jason Price. I’m the lucky homeowner in this scenario. I am someone who lives with a severe disability. I have a spastic paraplegia and that causes me to have great difficulty doing almost anything physical. So, I had the idea to develop a sport home in which I can possibly do more independently. And the first problem Nicholas was finding someone who could do that.
Luckily, I have I’m a professional in the disability field and had some resources. So, I basically needed to find a company who could make my imagination come to life in terms of what the potential was, in terms of accessibility, and that company with Voyager. So together, we were able to design a smart home that I think is pretty unprecedented in terms of mobility and all around access.
My name is Isaac Rosario, I’m the VP slash lead programmer here at Voyager home systems. We specialize in usually high end residential custom homes here in Oklahoma City metro area. Been in business here in the metro area for about 30 years, so we go way back with most of the control systems and, and electronics. So yeah, we found Jason, he actually reached out to us, and that’s how we got hooked up together.
So I’m assuming you guys, didn’t really interact with one another before this whole project? Like you had never met in the field before.
We had not.
Well then, Jason what was one of the reasons that made you reach out to Voyager? What were some of their qualifications that kind of stuck out?
Well Nicholas, when I first took on this project, I guess you might call me a tech super novice, or probably more than a novice, but I wasn’t professional, obviously. So, I had a company that I went with and did things in my own home that were pretty rudimentary. And when I decided to buy this home and redesign it, I quickly found out that my, my initial company wasn’t capable of going to the level that I need to go to.
So, I began to look at smart homes, and that was hard to research. It was still in its infancy, and everything would come off the shelf. I just started to look around and I found a company called Crestron and Crestron seemed like they were a big player in the home automation game. And I called their PR department and make like me to a regional rep.
He gave me three companies that they knew of in Oklahoma and and I interviewed all three companies and Voyager was far and beyond the best choice for me. They were willing to take on some stuff that just couldn’t be done by anybody else. I wanted to be able to move about my house as though I am a single bachelor, which I am. I have some caregiver help but I wanted to do as much as I could possibly do at home: open doors, do the shower, the temperature, the locks, the cameras, the entertainment.
So Isaac sat down with me and we started to shake things out when a couple of phone meetings. And we I think we both learned along the way. We did several things that people said, probably wouldn’t be able to be done, including internal doors. I couldn’t find a single company, Nicholas, who wanted to automate our residential interior doors. That was a big deal, as was the smart shower.
And several times, I thought we were at an impasse on a few things, and never once did Isaac say, “I agree with you, we can’t get this done.” He always said, “Not only are we going to get them, we’re gonna get it done, pretty simply.” So it was just an incredible experience. And I, I think we’ve set a new bar for what accessible living can be like, because think about this: people that don’t have severe disabilities are going to age, they’re going to need more access, as their life continues. So home access, I think, is something that’s going to blow up in the future, as people continue to age.
I am in full agreement with you on that one. One of the things that DesignWell works with a lot is senior living, and so we have seen that a lot with accessibility and smart home technology being used to enable independent living. And I agree with you on that one wholeheartedly.
Isaac, going back to what you just mentioned about the custom built solutions, like the automated doors, for example. Isaac, I’m kind of curious, and I’m pretty sure any other integrator that might be watching this would be curious too: how did you manage to accomplish that?
Yeah, I will say in the beginning of the project, normally in the houses that we do in high end residential, it’s more of a go in, fill the house with automation, just because it’s what they do in the large houses. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s just that needs it got to have it. That’s thing.
So, we’ve dealt with some mobility stuff before, but never really went to a whole entire job thinking everything has a purpose, so this was new for us. And it kind of took me back to a different approach. Every little aspect of the house doors, including any other things there, we had to really research with due diligence to figure out how things were going to work, not only work for us, but for Jason to use where he could come home, hit a button on his iPad that unlocks a door, then turns on lights all without having to find light switches and buttons and keys and all that stuff. So, making it easy for him was priority.
As far as accomplishing those goals, there was a few different items that we went with to get there. As far as the motorized doors themselves. Jason and his builder found their own door solution, Motor Wise. And then we integrated it with contact loader wiring, and a bunch of Crestron wireless pieces to get to there and back.
The makers of that door, they don’t support integrating automation things, so Isaac was able to back end engineer that without support from the door maker, and that flexibility and ingenuity were so key.
I wanted to make sure that we did not build this house into a mini-hospital. And we sure did not do that. Don’t have that feeling at all.
But it gives me a layer of security that I wasn’t expecting to have, which is two things. Number one, I have caregivers in the morning and night. But there are points in the day in which I don’t, and I’m able to audibly contact services of an assistant with my voice. I like to do it easily from my iPad, I can I really feel safe in my home. Also there are times when Isaac has notified me when my system has gone down before I even knew it. So that feature is really nice like, “Hey, is everything alright, I noticed that your phone or electricity is messing up.” So it gives me another layer of security that I really put a lot of thankfulness into.
Is that kind of monitoring, standard for an installation, Isaac?
I mean, it’s kind of different. I think, from dealer to dealer, some dealers charge a fee for that. For our customers here in the metro, we offer monitoring for free. And like he said, it kind of tells us, you know, I can say, “Hey, I saw your theater room go offline,” or the TV in the family room go offline, which usually helps me get things in line to be there to fix it or help fix it remotely before he needs it. That helps in a lot of regards.
I was figuring that this would be something that’s a nice to have for a lot of people. But, you know, as Jason was saying, in this situation, it is definitely more of a mandatory thing. And it really helps kind of keep that peace of mind.
So, going back to the doors a little while back, would you say that those were the major hurdle in the design of the smart home? Or can you think of anything else that might have posed like a significant challenge for you guys?
As far as on my end, the doors kind of a challenge to integrate online. Jason, like you mentioned, didn’t want a hospital feel where you walk up to a door, there’s a big button on the side that you got to tap to open up. So I had to order, we ordered together, a lot of extra, basically RF transmitters, to hook them up to my system, so that from my system, we could toggle each door independently. Then we could tie it into a control system to allow him to do just that. So on his iPad, he has a button for the front door, side door and such to where he can just toggle certain doors at a time.
As far as other parts of the system there, every part we laid out like we usually would for a normal home, and then we tweaked pretty much everything to Jason’s needs to work exactly how he would need it to. And, honestly, it wasn’t one of those things where we did it all in the beginning and expected it to be 100% complete forever. We knew that as we finished it, that we’re going to need to spend more time with him to figure out how he uses the house, what his needs are different places, and we tweaked it from there.
I also want to say how good Isaac and his team were, with regard to dealing with the backbone of this, which is a reliable high speed internet connection. That’s critical. I have a few hiccups with a couple of providers and Isaac was very keen on helping me talk to provider in a way I couldn’t be dismissed or not acknowledged. We had to have really, really good internet. These were a backbone, but it was Isaac’s ability to, integrate and customize that brought it all full circle. For me to summarize, I can do things I could never do. I feel like I’m at home in my home, which I’ve never had before, not to this level, not anywhere close.
That’s really that’s great to hear. I was going to ask earlier, but I figure we can probably slip it in now. What was the one thing that you would say you felt as though was lacking in any regular home for you that technology was able to bridge that gap and make it everything just right?
A couple of things. Number one, the ability to use doors, number one, the ability to open a door in one room, shut the door, utilize lighting, utilize environmental controls, to do these things without help. And the second big thing would be the ability to utilize and feel safe in a shower, which is a big deal when you’re when you’re quadriplegic.
It’s kind of funny, because when I was searching for companies I kept asking for this huge shower, and my inspiration, honestly was this silly Kevin Hart movie called The Outside. In the movie Kevin Hart, the comedian was caring for the quadriplegic guy and he would have this giant shower. So I kept telling my builder, I want to get as close as I can to that shower.
There weren’t many products, there still aren’t, out there that do something like what was fictionalized in this movie. We did find one product and got it installed and Isaac got it hooked up to the Wi-Fi, and finally, for the first time in my life, I don’t feel like I’m courting death with my daily hygiene routine. I realize it might sound like I’m exaggerating, but let me tell you, the shower is the most dangerous thing that the disabled person uses regularly. I mean, it really has changed for me to look forward to that, and and enjoy that.
Just moving about my home and being able to open and close doors and feel safe: I feel like I’m not in a place that I’m trying to make work. I’m in a place that was designed for me. I live in a world that was designed for people who walk, and so I’m always looking from a different perspective. But when I’m home now, I feel like I’m going to a place designed for me, exactly for me.
And I’m glad that you and Isaac were able to work together to make that happen. It seems like there is a lot of stuff, just talking about accessibility in the first place, that people generally gravitate towards in terms of that. But there’s a lot of stuff that you’ve mentioned, where it takes somebody who’s been experiencing it all their life to kind of put it into perspective for people. And so that’s great that you two were able to work together.
The customer really needs to take great care with who they choose to work with. I found through my interview process that most installers, not knocking anyone, are just really out of the box, plug stuff in and go where Isaac could sit down and go. We can do something here that nobody’s done before. And that’s what I had to have.
I gotta give kudos, my builder. Carrie Jones homes was my builder, who doesn’t know anything about tech, and he was willing to do whatever he could to help us have the supplies we needed to make this work. So it was definitely a team effort. And I’m so proud of how it turned out.
People with disabilities, Nicholas, are not thought of as a customer that would want something like this, but I want to change that narrative. When I was out Thursday evening, I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at a concert for Joe Rogan, and as I looked down from my handicap seat, I said to my friend, “I think it’s so sad that these concerts don’t offer handicapped seating at all price levels. The high price levels rarely have seats for the disabled.
So I want to change that narrative and say, “Hey, if you work hard, if you forward your career, you should be able to have the luxuries to deliver your life and comfort and enjoyment.” And I want to be that example. And with Isaac’s help the team involved. We’ve we’ve done that. And I’m very proud.
I think I think you guys have set a great example. It’d be great to be able to like have a home tour right now, but even just like with what I see behind you, it seems like not only is your house fully functional, as you say, but it’s also just bursting with character.
Yes, I knew I wanted that. Not to delve too much into my personal life, but I got divorced in 2018, and that was when I started the project. I wanted to make it my own and I always joked with my friends that I’m gonna make the whole house giant man cave, but I’ve really done that. I always tell when I have visitors or my mom or someone who will ask about a girlfriend I say “Mom, if I get a girlfriend, one day I’m going to look up and somewhere on my walls when say ‘Live, Laugh, Love.” So I’m always on the lookout that nobody hangs a Live, Laugh, Love sign on the wall because it’s all a giant man cave. Maybe we can set up a tour somehow I can’t do it, today.
But, yeah, it’s quite the home and you’ve probably seen the spec sheet. Really, I want to be comfortable, I want to feel like I’m in my own place. I don’t want to throw him in a hospital. And my caregiver, when I hired him, I said “Look, I want to call you when I need you, until then, you have your suite in the house. In other words, I want to feel like I’m at home by myself. I want to use as many things as I can to enjoy my home. Isaac, as a gift gave me a lot of tools to work with to make myself feel at home.
I can’t say enough about Isaac and the team because they’re always available. When something is acting quirky or acting up. The customer support, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. It really is, and that’s key, this relationship. We’ve become great friends throughout this endeavor.
That’s great to hear. I did look over the sheets from Crestron and I saw one of the pivotal pieces of tech for all of this that just relates back to that accessibility is the iPad, that whole source of control right at your fingertips.
Yeah, yeah, the iPad app is, and had I ever worked with another provider, I might have ended up with some version of iPad app, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as automated and customized to what I needed. Whether we turn the lights on or near the bathroom, audio video stuff, it’s just a touch away. And it really, really changes the whole game.
It’s just one more example of the integration aspect. Does everybody know how to integrate something like this? I don’t think so. But Isaac had that vision. And together, we made this work. And I just seamlessly flow between rooms. Whatever I need to get done, I get it done and start my day.
Isaac, I’m assuming you were able to essentially make a universal remote for the entire house the way you have it set up?
Yeah, yeah, I mean that the Crestron system is the brain. It’s in an IT closet there at his house, but reaching out to subsystems we can control just about everything. We kind of stepped back when we started the project, and thought, hey, if Jason’s going to bed or coming to the house or going to the theater, we want to have flexibility to do everything in that room, everything throughout the house, all from the iPad, regardless of where he’s at, or if he’s away, do stuff at the house or in bed, let a caregiver at the front door. He needs to be able to do all that all times.
We’ve literally integrated just about every aspect of the home that you can, from climate to door locks to the garage doors to lighting, audio, video distribution systems, I mean, about as far as you can take it. Utilizing the new Crestron home system gave us flexibility to integrate to all those things and keep a very nice and simple user interface on his iPad.
There’s a bunch of benefits of the new Crestron home system that allows us to remotely make small changes and this and that whereas with the older and custom Crestron programming, you’d have to make changes in software connect to the system upload it for him to see change on his end. With the new home system we’re able to make on the fly changes that makes things really easy for me servicing and troubleshooting with him if he has any issues. But all in all, it’s a really great system and I think it turned out really great.
I love this. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but I also love the security feature I can arm and disarm. I can look at several cameras placed throughout my property in a moment’s notice from any screen in the home including my iPad. So it really gives me a sense of security that I just never imagined having In a really nice,
It sounds amazing. All of the technology went into it, and the fact that everything was able to be set up so seamlessly, that’s kind of the dream a lot of people have when they think smart home. It’s that seamless connectivity throughout every aspect of the house.
Except obviously you Jason and Isaac have taken it to a completely new level with even making it so that the doors are automated, you can control the showers and all that stuff through a simple interface.
You need a company willing to take it on and knows how to. It was surprisingly hard to find and Voyager was like, not only do we want the job, we want to embrace it and go even beyond what you originally wanted, that you didn’t even realize what you wanted. So I can’t say enough about the integration between Voyager and Crestron and my builder, and, well, we all got there for sure.
So I don’t want to take too much out of your guys’ time. But one last thin that I wanted to ask was, and I’ll ask this to the both of you, I’ll start off with Jason first. Jason, what is your favorite piece of technology out of the entire setup for this house?
Well, for that, we may have to roll away or walk away to show you, but I’m really a bit of an audio-videophile. So, if I really had to tell you my favorite piece, it would be the theater that Isaac designed for me. It’s my favorite piece. It’s the room I would die in.
But beyond that, it’s just the ability to move about the home feel like I’m in complete control, because I like control, it’s why I got divorced. So, I like being able to have control of my home.
But that theater, we were talking about accessibility, Isaac designed a masterpiece in my AV theater room that is just mind boggling. As far as what it produces, he blew me away, and I told him, I wanted to feel like I have rolled into a miniature movie theater, including carpet walls, everything.
He nailed every aspect, and I will never forget the John Wick demo that he did when we were finishing up the job. I thought yes, this is this is what I want. And I had also had no idea that the pandemic was about to happen, so it’s been nice to watch films and also as a person with disability, you want to watch and enjoy your AV with minimal help.
I’ve got like a Blu-Ray player that I can reach. I’ve got multiple streaming options for high end audio, and Dolby Atmos sound. Although that’s my favorite room by a million miles, the home is really its own experience, because it’s truly an accessible home that I don’t think existed. And with the help of Voyager, and Isaac, especially, we got there.
Isaac, that same question to you. What is your favorite part of this project?
Well, I’m actually probably on the opposite end of Jason. We do a lot of theater rooms and stuff like that for just about every client. So yeah, mine would probably have to be the Crestron system. Specifically, that one there because it’s, like I mentioned, really the first time we kind of had to take a step back and a different approach to it. It was no longer about throw all the money at it, whatever you can fit in there and make it cool type thing. It was more of a ‘this guy is going to rely on this to live his everyday’ life, so what do we need to do to make it seamless for him?
My favorite part really, honestly, was integrating all the different subsystems in the house. Like we went over everything to all be intuitive on one app. We do a little bit here on there on some houses, locks and climate and stuff like that, but we’ve never went as far as we did there.
Like you mentioned (Jason), security door locks doors, climate lighting, audio, video, I mean, if you walk into the house, it’s harder to find something not integrated into the system, so that would be my favorite part of the house.
And let me add, I think having said that is great because if I could not shower safely, if I could not live safely, I would not enjoy it. At the end of the day, it’s really about the accessibility. When I move about the city, I live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I’m reminded I’m disabled whether it be someone seeing me in a store, or I’m having trouble accessing restaurant, whatever. But when I get home, finally I can drop that cloak of frustration, if you’ll allow me to, and really be home, and really relax. I’ve never had that ability before, and there weren’t many huge companies out there wanting to go to that level, except for Voyager. It could go there, and I’m so thankful that we got this done.