Homing In On The Future

Homing In On The Future

Automated Interiors and WinSonic meet high demand for tech-friendly housing
Open floor plans, gourmet kitchens, palatial master suites, vaulted ceilings — these are the usual suspects on home buyers’ lists of must-haves. But increasingly, they are also looking for a better connection, if you will, with their living spaces. That’s where William H. Mann, president and CEO of Automated Interiors (www.autointer.com), and Winston D. Johnson, chairman and founder of WinSonic Digital Media Group (www.winsonic.net) come in.

Based in Atlanta, Automated Interiors pre-wires homes and facilities to meet growing consumer demand for smarter, more connected housing. The company designs, installs, and maintains automated systems that integrate multiple home devices: computers, audio/visual entertainment, security, communications, utilities, and lighting and environmental controls.

A former jazz drummer, Mann became an entrepreneur in 1993 when he founded Heard Right Technology, a company that installed home audio and media systems. As he worked with more builders and architecture firms, Mann says, “I kept running into builders and developers who were so far behind.” So he created specialized subsidiaries: HRT Design, HRT Architecture, HRT Communications, and HRT Environmental. As HRT evolved, Mann decided to invest $80,000 of his savings to launch Automated Interiors in 2003. Two years later, it was acquired by facility-based utility supplier WinSonic Digital Media Group, founded in 1986 by Johnson. Mann remains CEO of Automated Interiors.

Mann and Johnson viewed the acquisition as an opportunity to create a one-stop shop for home automation and interactive communities. Automated Interiors posted revenues of $1.2 million in 2006. WinSonic had 2006 revenues of $8.2 million (contracted to date) and provides services across several sectors, including technology, communications, and building. In the communications sector, says Johnson, “We own a facilities-based nationwide voice and data network; like AT&T, we can distribute communications services including local and long-distance phone service, digital television service, music downloads, and disaster recovery service to millions of people.” The company also provides services that range from software development and distribution to building and land development, architecture and design, and civil engineering. WinSonic also owns a fiber optic cable and wireless network and provides unlimited broadband service to customers.

According to a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders Research Center and the Consumer Electronics Association (www.cea.org), the installation of structured wiring in newly constructed homes rose from 45% in 2002 to 53% in 2006, and home automation installation has seen a 6% boost over the same period.

And Automated Interiors’ operating budget expects a bump from its current $2 million to $3.5 million for 2008 thanks to recent contract wins for the 255-unit Stoneview Summit on Lake Martin in Alabama and a 500-unit luxury residential community in Orlando, Florida. Brand expansion, according to Mann, will entail providing automation products to suit various consumer needs through retail outlets, beginning with the flagship store in Atlanta scheduled to open in early fall.