So what title does Vila apply to the burgeoning trend of building and renovating homes with the latest technologies to control everything from the television to the toaster to the thermostat? "I call it 'connected,' because so much of it is about how the Internet plays a role in managing and running a home," explains Vila, whose summer home on Martha's Vineyard bristles with wireless technology. "Learning to use the controls has been the hardest part," admits the straight-talking contractor-turned-celebrity. "But it's just astonishing what's possible. Still, I'm trying not to live with a remote control around my neck."

Like Vila, most homeowners aren't interested in becoming slaves to their remotes, but they are interested in discovering how these technologies can make their lives better. And although there are countless applications, interest runs particularly high in two categories.

Of all the 21st-century wonders built into Vila's Vineyard home, he's most enamored with his security system, which utilizes a digital recorder to provide real-time images. "I can be on a business trip anywhere in the world, and beam up a live picture of my backyard on my laptop," says Vila.

This application has obvious appeal to frequent travelers like Vila, but even stay-at-home parents can benefit from the technology. By training the camera on their children's backyard jungle gym or tree fort, they're gaining an extra set of eyes.

High-tech systems can actually amplify security, according to Hetherington. "Automation added to security provides a whole new dimension. It means that you can use the security panel to activate numerous security functions, such as lighting scenes and camera angles, without having to learn another gadget."