Galveston West Enders create beauty, ease with help of technology
Magic begins just before sunset each day in Eric and Denise Vaughan’s Galveston home in Pirates Beach West.
Calm instrumental music plays as soft lights come on. Throughout the Spyglass Circle home, strategic light brightens family portraits on the wall, pottery in glass cabinets and steps in the staircase. A hint of vanilla enhances the sunset view of the beach and surf from large windows.
Neighbors assume this automated atmosphere is complex and expensive, Eric said. His being a CEO of a tech company is part of the mystique. Perhaps his neighbors believe they lack the skills or money to create a similar ambience at home.
“It’s not overly expensive,” he said. “It can be done, and it is attainable.”
Eric would like to make technology accessible to everyone without having to invest large sums to make it come to life, he said.
Eric, who identifies as a technologist, created much of the automation with numerous Sonos speakers and amplifiers, a multitude of Amazon Echo devices and inexpensive wiring, he said. He integrated all of it with televisions, smart phones, motion detectors, Nest thermostat controls, Ring Smart Security System and a Fing networking device.
The routines change as Eric tweaks them. As a new need arises, he adds new routines, such as lighting a dark hallway when someone enters it.
“I’m a problem solver,” Eric said.
For example, he automated Denise’s hot curlers to come on when she said, “Alexa, turn curlers on.” Sometimes, she forgot they were on, so to fix that, Eric added a timer. If 30 minutes pass, the curlers turn off and Denise gets a text message: “This is your home speaking. Your curlers were still on after 30 minutes, so I’ve turned them off. You’re welcome.”
“I know it sounds silly, but it actually is super handy and I am not a techie at all,” Denise said.
When it’s time to make dinner, Denise goes to the kitchen and says, “Alexa, I’m cooking.” This makes lights come on over the counter that aren’t glaring. A news channel begins streaming in the kitchen.
“I use this every day,” Denise said.
Because Eric often works at home and has clients all over the world, he needs constant internet service.
“The house features redundant, battery backed up internet service,” he said.
He has both Comcast and AT&T internet services plugged into a dual router that automatically switches over if either one goes down.
The house is special to the Vaughans and not just because of its automation. When the Vaughans lived in Dallas with their children, the family started visiting Galveston for vacations. Then, the family started renting a house for those vacations. It was the same house for years. When the Spyglass Circle house went on the market, they bought it. They moved in as full-time Galveston residents six years ago.
Eric and Denise, who have three children and eight grandchildren, met when they were in eighth grade in Michigan. They lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007, the same year the Apple iPhone first went on sale. At the time, the couple talked to a company that offered home automation services. But the company wanted a small fortune to set it up. Eric said no.
The emergence of smarts phones and simplified routines such as swiping a screen made home automation easier and affordable, Eric said.
“To be able to use your voice, it’s just so easy,” he said.
His house knows when a specific person arrives.
Every time Denise comes home, the house plays Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”