Residential Tech Today: Hey everyone, this is Alex Moersen, Associate Editor with Residential Tech Today. I’m joined today by Walker Hinshaw, CTO of Lumiere, the technology partner of Sterling Ranch, a smart community being developed just south of Denver, Colorado. How are you doing today, Walker?
Walker Hinshaw: Doing Great. How are you doing?
RT Today: Good. I think just to start off, I was wondering, you know we’ve got the whole community laid out here.
RT Today: I was wondering if you could kind of give a brief, maybe just rundown of what’s going on here at Sterling Ranch.
WH: Yeah. Sterling Ranch is a master-planned community. It’s going to eventually be about 12,000 homes at build-out. It’s mixed use, so it’ll be a combination of single-family condos, multifamily family dwellings, as well as commercial. One of our real true focuses out here at Sterling Ranch is building a cutting edge, technologically advanced city while also really playing up the components of nature that make this space and this land so special and so great.
RT Today: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the inception of the idea. Why choose this area specifically and then, what are the goals of developing a smart community? Why start this project in the first place?
WH: Yeah. This land, people have had their eye on actually developing it for quite a while, since the ’80s. There are some hurdles to that development. One of them actually being water rights. So one of the difficult things was how do we get water out to this community in a way that’s sustainable and will last for future generations. Water sustainability has been a huge factor in actually being able to get this community over the hump and start developing it.
We see this community as a great place to allow people to come and get that nature right at their doorstep. We’re actually right next to two state parks, one of which is Chatfield. We actually have trails at build-out running all the way into Chatfield State Park, and every single homeowner at Sterling Ranch is given a state parks pass for free by the community.
RT Today: Oh wow.
WH: That’s a partnership with the State of Colorado in order to be good stewards of the natural resources, and make sure that we’re contributing to all the facilities that our homeowners are going to be using and enjoying here in the future.
RT Today: Very cool. What are maybe some of the unique … You know really one of the focuses of this community is how can you incorporate technology and make it a smart community? What are maybe some of the unique assets or unique facets of that in the community? Maybe you’re looking to move in, what does that look like having technology integrated into the community like this?
WH: Yeah. I really see our technology strategy in three components. The first is in-home technology experience for homeowners as they move in. For that we’ve got our STEWARD Home Automation System that will actually allow people to control their lights, unlock and lock their doors, control garage doors, TV, audio. That’s our kind of in-home solution.
We also see community infrastructure as a really big need going forward. There’s a lot of buzz about smart cities, smart communities. I kind of define that as a community that can not only take information in but then automate actions based on that information. So our real focus right now is laying the infrastructure down that’ll enable that smart city concept in the future.
I think there’s a lot of smart people out there, saying a lot of different things about where it’ll end up, and history just tells us a lot of those smart people are going to be wrong. So I don’t want to make a huge bet that this one thing is where we need to go. So the way that we’re kind of navigating that landscape is we’ve actually installed our own fiber optic network throughout the entire community, and that fiber optic network delivers gig internet speeds to every home.
RT Today: Oh wow.
WH: But owning that network also gives us a ton of flexibility for the future so that we can connect devices at the edge and actually bring that data back to a central command and control system that can process that data, make decisions based on that data, and then send out controls and actually change functions based on that input that we’re getting off our fiber network.
One great example of that is actually our connected street lighting. Our street lighting actually has RGB beacons on it so they can change different colors. An example might be someone calls 911. They need help. They’re hurt. We can actually light up a path to that person’s house.
Applications like that are still in the works. We don’t know exactly how that’ll play out long-term, but we’ve got the infrastructure there in place so that we can take advantage of it later on.
RT Today: Yeah. Very cool. So what does that look like? I’m specifically curious about bringing together technology and nature. What does that look like in Sterling Ranch?
WH: Yeah. At Sterling Ranch we really want to be great stewards of our natural resources here. One of the things that we’ve done in the homes is really enable them with a lot of technology that’s environmentally focused. Actually every home in Sterling Ranch comes with a Rachio Irrigation Controller. Rachio is actually a Denver based company, leading controller out there for irrigation that actually senses local weather conditions and can change it’s watering patterns based on projected soil conditions and moisture content to really help a homeowner save a lot of water.
Another thing that we’re doing at Sterling Ranch is actually providing homeowners feedback through the STEWARD platform, so they actually have real-time insight into their utility usage, so people are able to actually calibrate that usage. That’s a really big focus when we start talking about our technology in the homes.
RT Today: Okay. So here we are exploring some of the tech that you might find inside of the homes at Sterling Ranch. It’s correct that you’ve partnered with Siemens for a lot of this technology, correct?
WH: It is. Yeah. Siemens has been a critical partner for us along the way. When we were first conceiving of this concept, we felt like we needed a partner who had kind of been there and had some real experience in smart infrastructure. Siemens has just that experience that we were looking for. We brought them in to help us with both the community infrastructure but also the development of the concept behind STEWARD, the home automation technology, and how we wanted to implement that in the everyday lives of our homeowners.
RT Today: I was wondering if you could break down a little bit more of the capabilities of STEWARD. Actually there’s like a STEWARD plus. I don’t know if there’s a difference between the two or … Well yeah. If you could kind of break down what STEWARD can do.
WH: Yeah. Definitely. I really describe STEWARD as home automation technology, but it’s really a little more than that. I think people have this general concept of the home automation technology as WiFi connected devices that they can control remotely. We’ve got all that in STEWARD.
I think two critical components that STEWARD has that aren’t really typical of home automation software these days is real-time feedback about utilities that you’re using in your home. Then also community events and announcements portal that kind of provides a community feel to it so that people aren’t just in their homes using their smart technology. It’s help enabling community to grow, form, and get people out of their little bubbles in the home.
RT Today: Cool. I know we’re actually standing in front of the STEWARD. I was wondering, yeah, maybe you kind of walk me through how it works, maybe pretend I’m an interested home buyer and I want to learn more about STEWARD.
WH: Yeah. So this is our STEWARD panel. This goes in every single home, so you’ve got kind of a window into your home. Here we’ve got kind of four basic sections. We’ve got our section that controls devices. We’ve got the security portion. We’ve got utility usage. We’ve got the community events and announcements.
Up here, up top we can do things like control lighting. So if we go into the dining room, you can control those dining room lights. The nice thing about this system is not only does it work on this tablet, there’s also an iOS and Android app, so you can use it on your phone. You can use it remotely anywhere that you have a connection. Then it’s also voice-control enabled. So it works with Alexa, Google Home, and in some of the popular voice-control features as well.
So there’s really three ways to interact with it, and whatever works for you, will work with the system. The other thing in our utilities portal, you can actually see real-time usage. You can see real-time usage for your gas, energy, and water. That actually breaks down even further into individual loads in your home.
If you choose to add on certain things to the system, we can actually monitor individual loads in the home. We’re working on a partnership right now that we’re really excited about to provide community aggregated data to people so they can have comparisons between their usage and other similar properties to really help people see, “How much am I really using compared to the typical person,” instead of just seeing numbers on a screen and not really connecting that to true visceral change.
We also have the community events and announcements. Right now this system’s just connected up to the Community Authority Board website. But out in the community you’ll actually see events and announcements scroll through here. You can click into those.
When you click into those, it will actually bring up the community event announcements, and you’ll be able to actually interact with things. You’ll be able to RSVP for events. Eventually register for a landscape design review. Things like that you’ll all be able to do through your STEWARD panel, not only here but also on your phone. We really feel like that’s going ease interactions in the community and be a much more frictionless way to interact with some of these events and announcements.
RT Today: Very cool. Well I think it’s about time we check out one of these homes. So let’s do it.
WH: Let’s do it.
RT Today: All right.
*See the video walkthrough here on Residential Tech Today next week.