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Custom Systems Unites Home Technology

Warren resident develops way to bring all of your media, computers into one system.

You've got a new flat screen TV, a new smartphone, an iPad and Playstation...there's only one things all the new technology can't seem to do: work together.

Doesn't it seem you should be able to check your emails on the TV during a commerical, maybe take a quick Skype conference with a co-worker...on any TV in your home?

It's not as far-fetched as it may sound: Sandalwood Drive resident Harold Grossnickle's iHOTTV can get all your personal and in-home work devices and networks linked, making it possible to access everything from any room...and for far less than you might expect.

"I had an idea of combining these systems into one," Grossnickle said. Working with technicians he employs at his Fast-Teks On-site Computer Services franchise, he was able to develop a system able to tie together almost every imaginable piece of technology in the home he's marketing as iHOTTV (integrated Home Office Technology and High-Definition TV).

A demonstration system set up in his home uses a Samsung HDTV, with an Apple TV input for connectivity to his iPhone and iPad, a Playstation, Wii, multiple gaming devices, two high-def computer monitors—and a 2 terrabyte computer with cable TV broadcast, DVR capability, a DVDR and audio connections.

As configured, Grossnickle can enjoy his favorite NCIS episode, while monitoring emails and Weather.com...simultaneously. What's that? A storm coming in from the west? With a few quick strokes on a handheld keyboard's trackball, he can swap the Internet connection to Weather.com on one of the monitors to the 51-inch HDTV...then click on the other to launch a Skype message to warn a friend, without missing a moment of NCIS.

He notes others applications where multiple media views are helpful—think of a student at home accessing a classroom viewcam to watch the teacher, while simultaneously viewing a PDF or document on another display, with a third linking to a textbook...or her iPad with her notes.

Or that late-night work emergency, when it would be helpful to view the company's IT admin page or a PowerPoint presentation, while keeping an eye on e-mails...and not fall behind on what's happening on NCIS.

All of this could also be done across multiple sets throughout the house as well, since the computer serves to link everything, as well as act as a file server for any computers or interactive media devices.  

Grossnickle notes you could shell out many thousands of dollars for an Internet TV for every room, add in your peripherals (replacing many to maintain compatability) and accomplish the same thing...but his system can be configured for as little as a $1,000, using many components you already have.

"The list of options is quite long, as customers will have to decide how many monitors/TVs they require as well as the size, and then decide if they want surround sound, one or more gaming systems, Apple TV, iPad," Grossnickle said. "A big variable is whether customers have components that can be reused." 

And when you consider the duplicative services you can eliminate, the payback comes even quicker.

"The way for people to think of this is to eliminate what you're already using," he said. "We built this one with the cable TV card in it, but if you don't have to watch your TV shows live, you don't need that."

He pointed out eliminating cable TV charges (or even just the monthly box rental fees), as well as phone land lines, can "allow a customer to fully offset these costs in as little as six to 12 months."

Plus, since the iHOTTV system is custom built and configured, Grossnickle's clients can have whatever equipment they already have adapted, whether it's an older plasma flat-screen HDTV, Android tablet or phone or the latest.

"If you have an HDTV that can be used, we can integrate it into the system," he said.

Grossnickle watched reporting from last week's International Consumer Electronics Show, noting many of the leading companies were touting similar set-ups would likely be available in most homes by 2016—putting iHOTTV ahead of some of the world's leading technology companies.

Of course, they want to sell products, but Grossnickle notes his TechsToU company isn't in product sales but rather at providing the connectivity service. Consultations are free, and Grossnickle said his company has a three-tiered program to match clients' needs (basic, Performance-with an upgraded computer RAM, hard drive, video card and Microsoft Office3; and the Entertainment Package, with high-performance video card, sound card and webcam and USB Mic).

"We're really proud of it," he said.

Grossnickle's FastTeks franchise is owned by a corporate entity he launched called TechsToU. FastTeks provides onsite computer repair and servicing, as well as network services, with residential and commerical clients in Northern Somerset County, Morris and some of Union counties.  

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