How’s this for icing on the cake? Buddy Valastro, TV’s Cake Boss, can control and automate virtually every adjustable aspect of his 7,000-square-foot North Jersey home with the touch of his iPhone, whether he’s at the bakery, the beach or in his backyard. We’re not just talking about turning off the lights. Valastro’s home is fully integrated, so he can remotely fiddle with its 68 light switches, four-zone HVAC system and security and 24-camera surveillance system. The whole-house audio system has 42 speakers in 17 separate zones, including the master bathroom, the three-car garage and the hot tub—all controlled remotely.
The $100,000-plus home-automation system is so vast, virtually every room has a wall-mounted touch-screen panel—including all four kids’ rooms. Twelve touch screens double as digital picture frames; other display screens are controlled on TVs throughout the house. And that’s just the fixed panels; there are three iPod Touches, eight iPads, and both Valastro and his wife, Lisa, have iPhones. So picture this, a story Valastro loves to tell: Lisa, sitting on the beach in Florida on a rare weekend away from the kids (who are at home with her mom and the nanny), checks her iPhone to see what the kids are up to: One is napping, another is playing outside on the swing set, another is…punching her brother? Without even calling home, Lisa shouts, “Stop hitting your brother!” and the errant behavior ceases.
That’s because the surveillance video is in real time, and there’s audio hooked in. “I can see my kids on the swing set when I’m at the bakery. I can hear the kids in the pool when I’m in the kitchen,” says Valastro. “It has really improved my life.”
The project started off as a simple security system, Valastro explains. His popular TLC network show Cake Boss put him in the public eye—so much so that fans literally line up down the street and around the corner to buy his treats and catch a glimpse of him at Carlo’s, his Hoboken bakery. “People know where I live, and they tend to drive by. I wanted Lisa and the kids to always feel secure,” he says. But it quickly grew beyond security.
“Buddy got technologically hungry,” jokes Chima Gale, co-owner of Maplewood-based 360 Media Innovations, which installed the system. “He started to see all the possibilities and ended up going way beyond what needs to be done.” Gale estimates he and his men spent roughly 220 hours installing Valastro’s system. (No one complained about long days, though; Valastro quips, “I fed them well.”) Gale, who calls himself “technologically inclined,” admits to a steep learning curve when he started his business three years ago; Valastro’s job was a particular challenge. “Buddy has multiple systems,” he says. “There are a lot of moving parts. We put 10,000 feet of wire in this property.”
The wires all connect at a command-central closet in the basement—a war room of sorts with multiple blinking lights and ominous-looking machines. Both men emphasize that the complexity of the system begins and ends there, and that the system is easily controlled by the user. “It’s easy to program from any smartphone,” says Gale.
Valastro adds, “Lisa didn’t want to learn it, but once I switched her to the iPhone, she taught herself. Now she’ll be in the salon checking on the kids.”
Like most home-automation systems, the Elan’s g! system allows the homeowner to control just about everything with a button: turn up the heat in the Jacuzzi, light a “cookie trail” from the bedroom to the kitchen for late-night snacking, put the music on party mode, lower the bathroom blinds, or turn off the basement lights after climbing into bed upstairs—virtually everything, jokes Valastro, but bake a cake.
One of his favorite features is the Christmas lights control—Christmas illumination being something his family does big. “It used to be, you’d connect 30 things, then things pop and break,” he says. “You’d set the timers, the power goes off and you’d have to re-set it 100 times. Now, I just plug it in. The system knows I want all my Christmas lights on at 5 and at 10 I want them off. Once it’s programmed, it’s set.”
Next on the horizon? A 35,000-square-foot state-of-the-art high-volume “Bakery Production Command Center” in Jersey City, completely outfitted with, naturally, an elaborate Elan g! Control System.
“Will my business survive without it?” asks Valastro. “Yeah. But having it all at your fingertips is pretty cool. My days are cut to minutes, and every minute is a day for me; it’s calculated. Since my life became minute to minute, this became essential.”
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