Japanese ‘smart homes’ land in New York, via Israel

$13 million visual intercom system in Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town connects 8,760 apartments through 178 entrances in 89 towers to each other.

ELBEX ISRAEL general manager Yochai Amidi 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
ELBEX ISRAEL general manager Yochai Amidi 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The new $13 million visual intercom system in Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town, the largest in the world, connects 8,760 apartments through 178 entrances in 89 towers to each other, with a central command system, security and fire-alarm lines, and was delivered from Israel by way of Japan.
The company behind the system, Elbex, was founded in Japan by an Israeli, David Elberbaum, in 1974 and has since grown into a global entity with branches in the United States, Germany, France, Belgium, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and Israel. It is pushing the development of apps to control video intercom-based “smart homes.”
“StuyTown” ordered the system in part to help track if its tenants were actually living there and who were subletting their rent-controlled apartments for profit. In addition to an intercom, the system provides a variety of services for the whole complex, including security and fire alarms. It allows the “econcierge” to send tenants messages, including alerts for water outages, payment reminders and general announcements.
Despite its ambitious scope, the system provides only a fraction of its potential. Both in Israel and around the world, the company is installing the intercom for use as a central control panel for everything in the home, including lights, blinds, audio-video equipment, water heaters and the security alarm.
“People control everything from their tablet or phone remotely,” Elbex Israel general manager Yochai Amidi said.
“This is being developed in Israel – because we’re good at the software aspect – for the worldwide organization.”
In Israel, the system is already installed in the Philippe Starck-designed Yoo Towers and the Africa Israel building. But Amidi said it could be a staple of future homes for its relatively low cost and, perhaps more importantly, its energy-savings potential.
“We’re moving forcefully into power consumption, connecting with the smart grid,” he said. By connecting the system with home appliances, it can control them and also monitor and adjust their usage. Having an accurate readout of what appliances cost can help people reduce their electricity consumption by 15 percent to 20%, Elbex said.
Because Elbex, which once used 6% of global closed-circuit television equipment, developed an infrastructure to run in parallel to a building’s electricity wiring, it is focused on selling its services to construction companies as they build new apartments.
“Today, worldwide, 10 million to 15 million brand-new apartments are being built each year,” Amidi said.
The cost of equipping a medium-sized apartment with 40 electric monitoring points, including sockets, switches, blinds and water heaters, is about $2,000, he said.
“Since we don’t have to run new or additional infrastructure like our competitors, their costs are four or five times our offering price,” Amidi said.
In Israel, where about 30,000 apartments are built annually, Elbex estimates it will sell 3,000 of the systems this year and twice an many by 2015.
The company has new systems in Ramat Aviv, Haifa and Kiryat Ono and is completing another on the Jaffa beach, as well as installing a centralized system for an entire neighborhood in Ramat Aviv, the first of its kind.
Elbex also hopes to add commerce features to the monitor, allowing people to purchase groceries and prescription refills from their intercom. Such amenities, Amidi said, might tempt Stuyvesant Town to upgrade.