Guest Post: More Women Seeking Home Technology Solutions Than Ever Before

Today we are bringing back one of our excellent guest bloggers, Harry Saini, owner of Digital Smart Homes, to address an exciting trend in home technology:

One of the most exciting trends that we are seeing today is women increasingly seeking out digital technologies—in fact, often much more than men. There are a number of reasons as to why this is occurring.Guest Blog

To begin with, digital home technologies have the power to secure home and family. For instance, systems and outdoor lighting sensors can assure that lights go on at the proper time and that pathways are always lit. This not only protects homes from predators, but greatly decreases the chance of personal injury.

Additionally, smartphone and tablet apps can align with the latest technologies to indicate whether door locks are unlocked, for example, or whether the garage door is open. No matter where in the world one is, she can close and lock doors. By having the power to assure the security of the home, it is possible to have peace of mind when traveling out of town or returning home.

Further, digital technologies can ease the frustrations of controlling numerous home media devices. There are few challenges that frustrate busy individuals more than confusing, difficult-to-control media devices.

Digital media technology offers universal remote controls that can control everything from the TV, to the wireless music system, and everything else in between. It is also possible to program a TV to turn off after a predetermined amount of time to assure kids are staying focused on their studies.

Another reason is that appliance control and monitoring makes home life much easier. In fact, kitchens will never be the same, now that digital makes oven monitoring possible at all times. This lessens the likelihood of the oven being left on for hours or the overcooking of a favourite dish. And all appliances can be constantly monitored to assure they are running efficiently and not wasting precious electricity.

Finally, home heating and air conditioning control both helps make the home more comfortable and less energy intensive. For example, the furnace can be activated from the comfort of one’s bed via an iPad app and the air conditioner can be programed and coordinated with electronic blinds for effective temperature control throughout the day.

While the above technologies make a defined difference in the lives of both men and women, it appears that our female customer is increasingly becoming the key influencer. When questioned about the problems digital home technologies solve, our customers often point to security, efficiency, and simplicity.

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Mexico City Marvel

One major misconception in home automation is that, because you are bringing more electronic devices into your home, that it will quickly become a breeding ground for more boxes, wires and the like. But luckily, this is not the case. Home automation simplifies your life and allows you to tuck away those ugly devices – giving you functionality from one simple remote, touch screen, smart phone or tablet. Simply stated, it cuts the clutter.

In some ways, I’m a bit of a control freak… at least when it comes to all the random crap that so easily accumulates around my home. I absolutely hate seeing wires. I despise all of those black, silver and white boxes that make up our A/V equipment. And don’t get me started on the thousands of remotes I’ve had to deal with. Since putting in a system of our own, I’ve grown a lot less stressed. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. I don’t have to fight the monstrosity of cords or cringe at what has always been a major eyesore around my television. Never, never again.

Mexico City Marvel

Long story short, many of those looking into home automation are doing so because it works “with” your home to create a cleaner, more inviting feel. But more and more often, people are actually going one step further – getting a designer involved to really work automation in to the aesthetic appeal of their home. One of these home automation enthusiasts was actually awarded a very prestigious award for his artistic dwelling. Check out this Mexico City Marvel. Almost everything in the home is automated in one way or another—with the entire system hidden in ceilings, walls and closets. Oh, and this is the same award that went to The Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City last year. Pretty impressive!

 

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Top Tech Gifts For Christmas 2012

Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift for that tech savvy individual in your life or you’re just looking to treat yourself this Christmas, here are the top five cool and unique tech gifts we’ve come across.

Bluetooth Talking Glove

Bluetooth Glove

This is a fun gift that gives the phrase “talk to the hand” a whole new meaning. With a speaker built into the thumb and a microphone in the pinkie, you can have an entire conversation without ever taking your phone out of your pocket. The only downside? Looking like the crazy person that is always talking to their hand.

 

Eton BoostTurbine 2000

Eton Boost

Have you ever had your USB device die when you were no where near an outlet? The BoostTurbine 2000 by Eton will provide your device with a boost whether you are on the bus ride home or in the middle of the Australian Outback.

 

 

 

Denon Exercise Freak Headphones

Denon Exercise

The Denon Exercise Freak Headphones are the perfect gift for the exercise fanatic. They feature Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity which means there are no wires to get in the way while working out.

 

 

 

 

Arcadie for iPhone

ArcadieJust pop your iPhone or iPod Touch into this cool device and you’ll travel back in time to a place where touch screens didn’t exist. Instead you’ll use the 8-way joystick and dual action buttons to enjoy some classic arcade games.

 

 

 

 

Lytro Light-Field Camera

 

Lytro LightHave you ever taken a picture where the focus just didn’t seem quite right? With the Lytro Light-Field Camera you can take the picture now and adjust the focus later. This revolutionary camera will change the way you think about taking pictures.

Control4 Blog

Need a Little Summer This Winter?

As we’re nearing Winter solstice, I am blown away that somehow the summer came to a close without me sharing the details of a very special visit I made to a girls’ summer camp in Pennsylvania this past July. I must be jonesing for some sunshine.

Good thing I captured it in video, which I invite you to watch below. Let me just preface this by saying this is nothing like the camp I went to (and even played counselor at!) when I was a kid. Camp crafts–and cooking, turns out!–have come a long way!

Control4 Blog

Automation in a Winter Wonderland

Automation in a Winter WonderlandLast week I decided it was time to put up my lights for the holiday season. (To be honest, my wife actually did the deciding. She decided and I executed. That’s the way it works at our house.) Since my home seems to get smarter and smarter with each passing month, it just made sense for me to tie my lights in to my Control4 system.

My older son and I placed the lights on Saturday afternoon. I made the discovery—as I lay upside-down on my roof with my teenaged boy holding onto my feet so I wouldn’t slide off and break my neck—that I probably need to get a longer extension ladder one of these days. Thirteen feet just isn’t tall enough. But no matter. We hung lights on the gables and gutters, wrapped the two Italian cypress trees that flank our porch steps, and set out what my kids  like to call “Santa’s Runway.” We have six sets of these giant bulbs that mount on short rods stuck into the ground, and they look like runway lights if you place them on either side of a sidewalk.

Once all of the lights were set up, it was time to automate. My son asked me if I was going to choreograph the lights to music, but that’s really outside the scope of what you can currently do with a Control4 system. One of my big hassles every Christmastime is having to remember to turn the lights on and off. So I simply programmed them to come on every evening at sundown, and to go off every night at midnight. That means no more accidentally leaving all those lights burning all night. Hooray! For good measure, I also programmed in an “expiration date” so the on-off program will automatically stop on January 2. One less thing to worry about.

As I was getting everything configured, my daughter asked me where I was going to make our lights blink like our neighbors’ lights do. I have this annoying neighbor with an annoying light display that blinks annoyingly all night. Luckily, he tends to forget to turn them on, so at least there are a few nights every week when we don’t have to endure the blinking in our front room. As a tribute to him, I decided to program Santa’s Runway to blink 5 times every 15 minutes. I told myself it’s like church bell chimes counting off the quarter hour, but I have to admit it’s really just my passive-aggressive way to annoy my neighbor back just a little. My kids sat in the front room and watched the lights for a couple of hours the first night they came on. They got really jazzed up when the quarter-hour blinking went off like … well, like clockwork.

One day I would love to have one of those fully choreographed displays—you know, the kind of house that always has a line of cars around the block in the days leading up to Christmas. It isn’t going to happen this year, but I thought it was worth looking into what I would need to actually make that happen. As it turns out, there are some products and technologies that you’ve probably not heard of, but are essential to putting together a killer Christmas light show.

DMX
We’re not talking rappers here—we’re talking a communications protocol specifically created for lighting control. It’s mostly used by theatrical lighting technicians and DJs to control lights onstage and in nightclubs. There are lots of DMX controllers out there, some with just a few lighting channels and others with dozens. Some of the more popular systems for holiday displays include Light-O-Rama and Lynx.

Vixen
This is an open-source (free and community-supported) software program that allows do-it-yourselfers to interface with a DMX controller to sequence lights with music. It’s specifically for Christmas lights, and because it’s open-source software it doesn’t cost a dime. You can download it and tinker with it and there are several plug-ins to allow the software to communication with various controllers and commercial systems.

Light-O-Rama
This company makes commercial software and hardware packages that make it easier to accomplish what a DIY-er could manage with Vixen and DMX. Though the systems aren’t simple, they require much less technical know-how than a home-brewed system, which means they would be much easier to use. Be sure to take a look at their Showcase page if you visit their website. Some of the displays are phenomenal.

Well, there you go. Maybe you’re like me, and simply want to automate your holiday lights so you don’t have to turn them on and off every night. Or maybe you’ve got more ambitious plans for a fully sequenced music and light show next Christmastime. Either way, you now have the tools to go and make it happen.

Control4 Blog

Don’t Just Make It Pink! A Woman’s Perspective On The AV Industry

Don't Make It PinkAs a woman working in the tech-industry, I found this article, It’s Complicated: Understanding a Woman’s Relationship with A/V Gear by Adrienne Maxwell in Home Theater Review, to be both incredibly enlightening and equally entertaining. Whether you are a “Gale-gatekeeper,” a tech-junkie, an A/V salesperson, or just trying to convince your better-half that you can’t go on living without an ultimate home theater, this is a must-read if you want to understand the inner-workings of the female brain (well, in relation to A/V gear, that is).

I am definitely what most would consider the stereotypical female in this realm—I’m not very well versed in tech-talk, I just want it to do what I want it to do. I don’t care about an extravagant television or sound system, I just want it to be practical. I don’t want it to be expensive, but I’m apt to pay more in exchange for convenience. That’s why I relate to this article, oh so well.

Even though my husband is more tech-savvy than I, typically I am the one who makes the final call on whether or not we make a large purchase (I do the research, read consumer reviews, weigh the cost/benefit comparison, etc). Nothing bugs me more than when we are shopping for a new TV, a computer, a car, whatever, and the salesperson speaks only to my husband, as though I am only there as his hired chauffeur. Because my husband is a self-proclaimed impulse buyer, I have to be his voice of reason. Hence, if you don’t convince me and engage me in the decision process, you can be certain you won’t have a sale.

Adrienne hits the nail on the head (at least in my opinion) and really helps define the female mentality when it comes to consumer electronics. Oh, and I love her note on marketers that just focus on the “Just Make It Pink” mentality. For the record, I hate pink and vomit at the thought of sparkles or bedazzled goods.

Control4 Blog

Sony Announces The First Delivery Mechanism For 4K Ultra HD Content

Some of you might recall that I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago about 4K Ultra HD televisions. Other than the cost of entry ($ 25k!), the main barrier to 4K Ultra HD technology adoption is the content delivery (or lack thereof). Movie studios have the ability to film and produce motion pictures with 4K Ultra HD resolutions but there just hasn’t been a way to deliver those MASSIVE movie files to the TV. Blu-ray discs won’t support that high of a resolution and neither will most HDMI interfaces used on TVs.Sony

Yesterday Sony announced the first solution to this problem. Sony will be bundling ten 4K Ultra HD feature films with its 84-inch 4K Ultra HD TV, several classics and a few more recent films. This delivery system is a hard-disc media server that has the ability to be updated with new content in the future. Periodically Sony will update the offerings to the TV either via a “white glove” Sony Concierge service, where a Sony representative will hand deliver the content to your house, or by sending a BD-ROM disc to update the media server.

If 4K Ultra HD is ever going to take hold in the market then content must be regularly provided and easily delivered to the television. Sony’s announcement yesterday shows that it isn’t going to sit around and wait for that delivery mechanism to arrive. Sony is taking matters into its own hands by providing both the platform and the content all in one purchase, albeit a $ 25,000 purchase. Sony has stated that “more delivery solutions will continue to evolve rapidly, with further product and content announcements coming shortly” but as of yesterday, Sony took a big step forward towards driving 4K Ultra HD’s adoption.

Here is a list of the ten movies bundled with Sony’s TV:

• The Amazing Spiderman
• Total Recall (2012)
• The Karate Kid (2010)
• Salt
• Battle Los Angeles
• The Other Guys
• Bad Teacher
• That’s My Boy
• Taxi Driver
• The Bridge on the River Kwai

Control4 Blog

Mobile Computing Drives Thanksgiving Weekend Retail

Mobile computing

It was a record-setting weekend. In addition to a record box-office bonanza for Hollywood (led by Twilight, Skyfall and Lincoln), many have hailed this past Thanksgiving weekend as a welcome relief for worried retailers. According to the National Retail Federation, register receipts from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday totaled an estimated $ 59.1 billion, which was up from $ 52.4 billion in 2011. The total spending per shopper was up as well, rising 6 percent to $ 423.

Missing in these numbers is the fact that in-store purchases actually declined. Yes—the amount spent in bricks-and-mortar stores during the most important weekend in retail actually went down by 2 percent. But this was offset by a double-digit increase in online sales. According to some reports, almost 41 percent of consumers’ total weekend spending happened online. In other words, Cyber Monday seems to be staging a hostile takeover of Black Friday.

The results for Cyber Monday showed another dramatic change. Online sales were a full 30 percent up over last year’s retail take. According to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, 18 percent of holiday shoppers searched for deals using their mobile devices on Monday (up from 12 percent last year). And 13 percent of shoppers used their tablets or mobile phones to make purchases. This is almost double last year’s percentage of purchases from mobile devices.

According to IBM, “The iPad generated more traffic than any other tablet or smart phone, reaching nearly 10 percent of online shopping. This was followed by iPhone at 8.7 percent and Android 5.5 percent. The iPad dominated tablet traffic at 88.3 percent followed by the Barnes and Noble Nook at 3.1 percent, Amazon Kindle at 2.4 percent and the Samsung Galaxy at 1.8 percent.”

But it’s not just shopping behavior that called out the importance of mobile computing. It was also the shopping itself. One report released during the Cyber Monday frenzy listed the top products that shoppers were searching for:

  1. Kindle Fire
  2. Uggs
  3. iPad
  4. iPod Touch
  5. iPad Mini
  6. Legos
  7. Amazon Kindle
  8. Wii U
  9. Kindle Fire HD

According to this list, six of the top nine search terms were for tablets. (No comment on the continued popularity of the aptly-named Uggs—that does not compute.) Amazon.com, which has maintained its primacy as the top online retailer, has said that its ten top-selling products include Kindles, Kindle accessories and digital content. Part of this is undoubtedly due to deep discounting, but it’s still a trend that can’t be ignored. In fact, the rise of tablet computers has led one senior researcher for the Consumer Electronics Association to suggest that the tablet may eventually move in status from second screen to primary screen.

So why is this important for smart homes? It seems obvious that any home automation system needs to include—by default—full control through tablets and mobile phones (including both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platform). It also suggests that, with tablets becoming increasingly ubiquitous, both dealers and manufacturers need to continue to focus on coming up with smart solutions that link people’s mobile devices with their homes.

Control4 Blog

Conferencing … in Style.

Looking back to when I first started my journey in the working world, the conference rooms I remember were nothing more than glorified cubicles. Thin walls, a pull down screen, a long table and a door. Quite simply, boring. Nowadays, businesses are taking their meeting rooms more seriously—offering a space that embodies both character and functionality for potential clients and employees. Case in point, the Union Square Conference Room – located in the offices of Cloud9 Smarthome at the historic Union Square intersection in downtown Manhattan. From an automated chandelier to a full kitchen, I certainly wouldn’t mind having back-to-back meetings in these digs (or partake in the occasional cocktail party)!

Check it out here!

Conferencing

 

Control4 Blog

How The Smart Kitchen Can Enhance Your Thanksgiving

We hope everyone in the US has a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Please take the time to read this article that was recently featured in our Home Smart Home magazine. This article explains how a smart kitchen can greatly enhance your Thanksgiving experience and how a smart kitchen can really enhance your cooking experience the other 364 days of the year as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

Read the full article here.

smart kitchen

 

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