Monday, December 31, 2012

No.7 Artisan of the New School- How Ben Rosner of E Home Wants to Simplify Your Life and Revolutionize Your Home

Who: Ben Rosner
What: E Home - Home Technology Consulting
When: Since 1996
Where: New York City
and Wherever His Clients Need Him

Ben Rosner has seen a thing or two in his day- and at the end of it, has decided there is truly no better tool to simplify life than technology. And thank goodness he has, both his firm E Home and later creation E Sommelier, have revolutionized the way we can utilize technology to simplify and organize our lives.

An artisan, or artist, whose masterly command of a specific craft can be used both as a mechanism of aesthetic improvement and self expression. Here at Artisanal Specs. we look at the myriad of hidden, long standing and age-old crafts in the building arts that go into creating so many details in architecture and design today. Many of these can be traced back decades and centuries, to countries all over the world, for their inception and blossoming as an art form. However, today, in 2012, one of the newest of these crafts and mediums in design is technology itself.

Both Ben Rosner and E Home's moto
Surely the evolution of fireplaces, chandeliers, candelabras and torch-like wall sconces saw a massive shift from necessity to aesthetics when electricity was invented and then further instated into buildings and homes. And as with any evolution, technology's running start hasn't slowed much since then; think about it- the radio, the telephone, the television, records, cassette tapes, compact disks, the internet, mp3's, cell phones, iPods, iPads, smart phones... (this is hardly a comprehensive list that could do justice to technology's massive growth in the 20th Century, but food for thought nonetheless.) So naturally, the ways we are able to design buildings also evolved, to include newer and newer technology. And for Ben Rosner, this was an exhilarating evolution, and one he grabbed hold of and passionately pursued and advocated for.  

Ben Rosner was always curious as a boy, but nothing was as magic and fascinating as what his dad did. Ben's father, Alex Rosner of Rosner Custom Sound, Inc., was also curious. In the 1950's Alex Rosner's hobby of playing around with technology developed into more and more of a passion and one which he began to market into a small part time business from his home. He may not have known it at the time, but all the ways in which he was looking at technology and how it could be fit into homes and buildings was actually what began his role as the forefather of custom home entertainment systems. 
"I remember when I was little he had started selling his products and services out of the basement," Ben recalls of his father, "and I would always sneak to the stairs to watch him work. He even invented a button in the wall to turn on music- it was amazing."
Ben recalls watching his father do many things with technology which today are a 'norm' in high-end design abilities for homes, but were then revolutionary, like building speakers into walls rather than have them sit around the room. 
Sleek and masculine, this New York City Penthouse may appear simple in terms of technology. You might never know E Home fully facilitated engineering of invisible technology throughout the whole home (lighting, speakers, temperature control, security cameras, television, audio and video systems) that was interwoven into the design process; and all controllable via iPad nonetheless.
Ben couldn't get enough of it. So it was no surprise that later on throughout his teen years he would work for his father's company (which quickly turned into a full time venture) on his spare time. Along with constantly absorbing the miraculous ways technology could be created and utilized, Ben also picked up his strong work ethic and became a natural addition to the team. As his father's work and inventions (such as the Tweeter Array High Frequency sound system) continued to grow his services were more and more coveted- everyone wanted to see the newest technology in their home, and people loved the elaborate sound systems. And as time progressed, into the 1970's something new happened- The Age of Disco. 

 Suddenly people needed sound systems for nightclubs like never before. The Disco Era was in full swing and Alex Rosner found his services and abilities in high demand, thus deciding to branch out from the residential realm and into the public sphere working with night clubs and commercial venues to enhance their sound abilities. And naturally, as was Alex's habit, the more he saw and the more experience he gained, he began inventing more new technology and audio based products for these clubs along the way, putting him in even higher demand than ever, quickly making him The Authority on entertainment systems for Disco's. 
"It was an exciting time." Ben reflects,"I'd worked for him part time on vacations when I was in high school and college and then full time after and really got to see the growth, it was amazing."
Amazing indeed, throughout the part time and full time work Ben did with his father's company he got to travel the world creating and installing all kinds of sound and technology systems. As disco had caught on all around the world so had nightclubs (or discotheques, if you will) and the need for Rosner Custom Sound's services. From Mexico to Singapore to Antigua and even a secret disco in Saudi Arabia, Ben was on the road regularly seeing sound and technology evolve all over the world. By 1984, after graduating from Columbia University with a Bachelor's in Computer Science (just at the jumping off point of the 'personal computing revolution', no less), Ben was working for his father full time and traveling regularly. Residential projects would still pop up here and there but the majority of their work was in commercial/ social venues. 
E Home worked to improve sound and technology in this gymnasium turned lounge

Alas, as technology continued to evolve, as it always does, and Rosner Custom Sound was rolling smoothly into the 1980's, the Disco Era had begun to phase out and interestingly enough, their company was seeing a need for their sound services in various houses of worship, which became yet another new market for them. Everyone everywhere was seizing upon the opportunity to come together and share the gift of sound and visuals by use of the newest technology that continued to develop.

But along Ben's journey, busy with work for Rosner Custom Sound, he did start to notice there were some other technological developments that caught his eye. In the 1980's while the developments of home and micro- computers were chugging along, there were also developments in other forms of home automation - such as with home security, lighting abilities and sound- as well as of other public and private sector venues in need of new technology. One of these developments was spawned by the need of a centralized technology source for corporate boardroom's. One of the true predecessors of the iPod came from these boardroom technologies, where there were keypads and touch-screens being developed to sit in the wall. Ben had an itch at the back of his brain that began nagging at him and growing louder as time went on. 

A masterly NYC E Home as seen in March 2012's Interior Design Magazine. Ben worked closely with the design team to ensure every aspect of home automation and technology was completely invisible, with the exception of  the home's entertainment center, which was integrated seamlessly with the millwork.
Truth was, while Ben had the great privilege of gaining priceless hands-on experience in the field of audio and visual technologies all over the world, there was a part of him that was still passionate about where he saw all the wonders of technology begin: In The Home. 
"Maybe it's because it was where I first got to see my father make magic of technology in his first basement office," Ben ponders, "but it has always resonated with me, the idea that our personal lives could be simplified by technology. And I've always loved architecture and design..."
A Central Park West Penthouse E Home worked on shines bright in natural light.
Between home automation's steady advance in development and the technology Ben saw cultivated in corporate board rooms, the nagging itch in the back of his mind emerged from his imagination and into the forefront- Ben Rosner lovingly resigned from Rosner Custom Sound in 1996 to branch out and found E Home, a home technology consultancy where he could get back to focusing on technology exclusively for residential projects. His father understood, and so the son of home technology's forefather ventured out to begin his own revolutions to home technology. 

There are multiple invaluable skills to be picked up from 'in the trenches', hands-on, real-world experience- especially if one is passionate about what they are doing. In a way, when we care about what we are doing, we tend to open up more, become a sponge that gladly absorbs and digests new information and creatively apply it to future work. Ben Rosner easily falls into this category of the willing and devoted [once] apprentice. See, not only had Ben taken in both the formal training from his studies in computer science as well as his real-world experience with his father's pioneering company- but he had also digested and cultivated a skill he learned from his father: to invent or create what was still missing. If something is needed- Create It. 

An E Home engineer implements strategic technology into a home's planning
During his schooling at Columbia, Ben recalls that as personal computing was a coveted technology experience many were in line to take turns with, the school's mainframe had limited access. So Ben went ahead and created a computer terminal he could log in to from his dorm room. Easy. Utilize technology, create what's lacking, simplify life. We note this as perhaps it was telling of what his own future pioneering would bring. When Ben went out to create E Home his mission was not simply to provide services like those of any other 'Audio/ Visual (A/V) guy' might get pegged with. E Home's mission was to simplify life by means of technology in the home- by way of working closely alongside architects, interior designers and builders to create a custom crafted technology system for each home; specializing in early- phase drawing and planning development with engineers of their own. 
This Brooklyn dining room got an E Home invisible touch...

In 1996, when Ben started E Home he also met a man named Jonas Buzzerio, another innovative, organized and motivated pioneer who had years of operational and project management experience in the high-end design industry. Jonas understood where Ben was coming from and where he wanted to go. Ben hired him as E Home's first ever employee where Jonas would conduct the installation and customer service end of the company. The collaboration was so seamless that two years later Ben offered Jonas a partnership in the company. E Home had taken off at full speed and was happily plugging away at work integrating technology into residences. 

But as we know, as technology evolves and progresses our ideas continue to as well. The more exposure to both new design and continual home automation upgrades that Ben and Jonas got, the more they pursued even newer technology. At one point, finally sitting down to think and talk it over, they had a moment of genius: Media Access Solutions. 

It was one thing to have a button in a wall to turn well concealed speakers or TV on and off, but what about the media that would be played on these instruments, the movies, records or CD's? If it was a large home, as many of E Home's projects were, how many TV's, radios, record or CD players were there in a house? 2? 3? 6? Did people always have to walk from the one den to get videos to watch and bring them to the next room to watch? Lo! That could be much easier to do! Yet again, as Ben had learned, if there is any technology that doesn't exist and is needed- Create It. Ben, Jonas and a third partner, Ronnie, got together and actualized a CD and DVD archive and distribution system that would become the true predecessor to the iPod- a Media Server. 

Yet another glowing example of E Home's ability to hide technology in design.
Together Ben, Ronnie and Jonas designed, engineered, developed, patented and distributed Media Access Solutions Media Server. The first product of it's kind developed specifically for the simplification of home life. How it worked: a computer loaded a CD into a hard drive, a central server, that central server was utilized by connecting to other outlets wherein multiple rooms could access and retrieve any of the data that had been loaded onto the central server. Translation: load your movies and music into one place and be able to access it all from any room of your home. Brilliant. This product's popularity and demand spread like wildfire and Ben was back on the road traveling the world to sell the product along with E Home's implementation and installation, and was a total success. By 2003 Media Access Solutions had caught the attention of AMX, a "leader in advanced control system technology", especially for the home. By September of 2003, AMX had officially acquired Media Access Solutions, which seemed fitting, as they were one of the large companies Ben had seen develop advanced technology for corporate boardrooms only 10 years before. 

When selling a company and patent like Media Access Solutions, one is not allowed to invent or duplicate a product of the same nature in the same genre or market of use, naturally, so as to insure a newly acquired product won't become obsolete right after its purchase. This was fine and understandable for Ben, Ronnie and Jonas, however Ben had another light-bulb moment. The fundamental need for a data storing and distribution technology was so easily helpful to many, and they had the algorithms down so well, one niche market that popped up that could utilize this same function and service was that of the wine industry.

When working in the high end architecture and design industry, one gets to see some pretty spectacular things, including some clients personal wine cellars and collections. As E Home and it's partners Ben and Jonas were plugging away at both their own projects and their growing list of clientele, they got to see more and more of the wine collections out there. While it is a luxury to have a private wine collection, how quickly un-luxurious it becomes when you cannot find the wine you want! Lo! That could be much easier to do! Yet again, as Ben and now Jonas too had learned, if there is any technology that doesn't exist and is needed- Create It. 
An E Sommelier wine App for Hospitality

And so E Sommelier was born, the first of its kind, a wine cellar management system. (Which turned out to also
be very useful in the commercial, hospitality and storage cellars too- well done! The entirety of which can be managed from an application on an iPad.)

Yet still, all the while, what has remained at the heart of all of Ben's endeavors has been his passion for technology in residential architecture and interior design. It's never-ending ability to be innovative always stems from a homeowner's personality and designers vision for creating their home. Inherently personal and always full of character, residential projects and their owners will offer fun and exciting ways to utilize technology.
"As we got to know the homeowner better on one project bordering Central Park, a fan of the arts, wanted to sort of collaborate to create something custom for him and his home." Ben smiles,"We wound up implementing a large screen inside, framed, and camera system so he could see Central Park on it at all times. It was fun and he loves it."
For technology to take on it's own form as an art is no small task, but Ben thrives on it. He has the experience and insight into design and foresight into technology to help create beautiful interiors alongside the design industry's best. 
"Home technology in design today has to be used artfully- sometimes it should stand out and be seen, others it should disappear into the background." Ben says passionately," But there really is something magic about having music invisibly come from the walls." 
Whether it's embracing the confluence of art hanging from the walls  and the rooms lighting and shades surrounding it, one must be able to envision the room ahead of time to know how technology should be used in it. This intelligence in and of itself is one that makes Ben's consultancy, E Home, invaluable, not everyone, who has actually been an innovator of home technology products themselves, understands both design and technology so intimately.  For Ben Rosner, technology is an expression of who he is, and we believe he's made it an artisanal craft at that. 
"Technology is a pallet." Ben smiles. 
Indeed it is Ben. We'll be giving you a call just as soon as we're done writing this...
E Home is committed- they go where their clients need them, like in this gorgeous outdoor lounge in Kenya. Can you spot the home technology? Neither can we...

An E Home with their famous invisible technology, design by Dufner Heighes Architecture.