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Get Smart

You talk and these walls will listen



“I want to use technology to improve quality of life,” says Jay Dweck, an engineer and mathematician who’s worked in finance for the past 15 years. A single dad, Dweck bought a sprawling stone manor house in Bedford Corners two years ago and set out to make it a fun house for his three children and a smart house for his life.

What’s a smart house? I asked Siri, a voice-recognition personal assistant who lives inside my iPhone, and she told me that smart houses have highly advanced, automated systems for lighting, temperature control, multi-media, security, and more. If you’re thinking of the Jetsons—that 1960s animated, futuristic sitcom—you’re not too far off base.

When Dweck bought his house, it came with basic security and HVAC control systems. Unfortunately, there were 52 heating and seven cooling zones that sometimes kicked in at the same time. Dweck knew he could do better. “My belief has always been you could significantly increase the quality of life, just with the existing capabilities, if you push them to the extreme and integrate them appropriately,” he continues. So he ran new wiring in the house and wrote algorithms to enable the systems to talk to each other.

Soon, he hopes to be able to talk to them through voice-recognition software, too. “If the door is open on a hot day, and the air conditioning switches on, I should be able to say ‘Nah, turn it off’—just like I can talk to Siri—and have it follow my command,” says the quadruple-MIT-degreed Dweck. 

Perhaps the most entertaining smart amenity that Dweck added to his home is the violin-shaped pool. A triathlete who learned to swim at the age of 50, he wanted a pool with a 100-foot-long lane for lap swimming. “The Town of Bedford’s zoning rules would not allow for an Olympic-size pool, so I started sketching out a variation and thought it looked a little like a violin. Then I pulled out my own violin”—a Stradivarius, naturally—“figured out the ratios, and found a pool contractor who would build it,” recalls Dweck, who plays with the St. Thomas Orchestra in White Plains.

There were a lot of intricacies that went into the design, from the black chin rest that serves as a hot tub to the 440,000 hand-laid glass tiles and the 5,600 fiber-optic cables that light up like multicolored strings. He’s currently writing an algorithm that will make the “strings” move in time with whatever music he plays on his pool speakers. 

What’s most satisfying to Dweck are intellectual and physical challenges. “I like figuring out the things that the guys who do it for a living couldn’t figure out—HVAC, security, and even the water treatment guys,” he explains. “Our sprinkler heads used to be jammed up from all the particulates in the well water. Now, with my reverse-osmosis system, the irrigation water is filtered once and the domestic water is triple-filtered; it’s like bottled water!”

When it comes to lighting, he’s equally determined. “Do you know volitional concept?” he asks. “Anything that doesn’t require volitional thought should just happen. For example, turning on lights is something you shouldn’t have to think about. Lights should turn on around me and should ramp up gradually as I move through a space. My system will replicate via algorithm what a human would do, then move beyond.” 

When it came to feathering his nest, Dweck knew his limitations and turned to a professional. By engaging designer Phoebe Howard, Dweck ended up with an elegant home that gracefully melds 21st-century technology, his personal art collection, and three truckloads of brand-new furnishings. “I did not want to compromise on aesthetics,” Dweck says of his home’s interior design.

While 20 Crestron pads, 24 big-screen televisions (four of which rise up or drop down from hidden cavities), 140 audio speakers, and countless electronic sensors are strategically placed in public and private areas, the décor is anything but Jetson-esque. “I told Phoebe that I was looking for something that wasn’t too traditional or too ultra-modern, and she did a remarkable job. She delivered and placed everything from dishes to towels to upholstered furniture and found places for the pieces I brought with me, too, like my dining-room set and my brother’s photography.”

With so many amenities, it’s hard for Dweck to identify his favorite place at home. There’s the state-of-the-art gym where he loves to spin on his stationary bike, the sauna and steam room for post-workout relaxation, the rec room, the home theater, and then there’s his office where he goes to write algorithms.

And the kids? While Olivia loves her lavender room, Gabriel and Joshua can usually be found outdoors in the pool, on the regulation baseball field, basketball court, or playing shuffleboard or hockey on the patio.

Last year, Dweck, a former global strategist for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, decided he couldn’t keep all his algorithms to himself and founded Live Better Systems to help others implement their home automation fantasies, as well.

While he loves his Stradivarius-inspired pool, his dream for his next pool is more Cubist in nature. “I’ll probably do a Picasso violin because it’s more practical. He did some paintings of violins with a square bottom and swirls of colors. You could exactly match a Picasso violin.”

This is how it starts with Dweck—a seed has been planted. Stay tuned to see what he dreams up next.

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