And That’s “WATTS” Up

It’s been a long time coming. But we finally did it. My husband and I found a place to call home. I thought I’d be relieved at this point, but oddly, I’m anything but.

For some reason, I’ve been losing sleep thinking about the potential outrageous costs of my utility bills. Heating an entire home will be much different than heating the quaint condo that we have since retired. And being that we are leaving the majority of our appliances behind, I’ve been stricken with anxiety thinking about the dough we’ll have to throw down for all new necessities.

That’s when my husband (Mr. Watts – oddly enough) steps in and pulls me from the depths of insanity, and I suddenly realize, this isn’t so bad. Our outdated appliances were energy-suckers, to put it mildly. We now have a clean slate. We can focus our attention on finding energy-efficient appliances that, in time, will save us money. Now THAT’S watts up.

 

Watts
Photo courtesy of Visual.ly.com
http://visual.ly/save-energy-through-smart-use-appliance

Control4 Blog

Guest Post: Home Automation’s Power to Simplify Your Life, Reduce Expenses, and Increase Security

We are starting the week off right with a great blog post from one of our excellent Control4 Dealers, Harry Saini:

In today’s costly world, homeowners are fully aware of the expenses related to inflated energy costs and inefficient home security systems.

Guest1There is nothing worse than receiving an electricity bill and being shocked by the amount owed at the end of a month or stolen possessions that could have been more strategically secured. Such realities have led homeowners to seek technologies that can help them beat the current system.

A growing number of homeowners are educating themselves on basic energy management and security devices, which often combine the use of innovate shade and control systems. For instance, Control4 offers a number of solutions that help homeowners monitor and control their home lighting from an iPad, iPhone, or wireless remote. With Control4, you can pre-program lighting levels and reduce energy output.

It is also amazingly easy to set lighting to turn on and off at specific times. This significantly reduces the possibility of a light being left on throughout the night, or for several days while a homeowner is on vacation. Additionally, with Control4’s remote access service, no matter where in the world a homeowner travels he or she can turn lights on or off with a simple touchscreen command.

To make the management of lighting much easier to maintain, Control4 offers keypads with captions that can read “kitchen,” “hallway,” “master bedroom,” “patio,” and more. With a push of a single button, lighting is ignited in a desired location. The Control4 suite of products also offers dimmers that allow for lights to be set to a particular level.

Another ground breaking product for ultimate lighting, shading, security, and energy control is the Lutron RadioRA 2. The system is a holistic approach that combines total light and shade functionality. Radio RA 2 has the power to adjust the amount of daylight and electric light in a room throughout an entire home. Shades can also be lowered, electric powered curtains closed, and lighting ignited at pre-programed times.

For instance, if particular rooms within a home are in direct sunlight in the afternoon, the lowering of window shades and closing of curtains can significantly reduce room temperatures. Or when the family is on vacation and dusk approaches, lowered shades, closed curtains, and automated lighting can offer higher levels of security. And for the family that has developed a high-tech home theatre, with the single push of a button window shades can be lowered and lights set to a particular level to create the perfect ambiance.

Many homeowners love the fact that both the Control4 and RadioRA 2 systems are fully scalable. This provides homeowners the power to start with a single room and expand when time and budget permits.

Seeking to automate your home for added simplicity, comfort, energy efficiency, and security? The beauty of 2012 is that homeowners have more control than ever before.

The secret to discovering and installing a solution that best fits your needs is to consult with a personalized home automation expert.

About the Author:

Harry Saini is the founder and owner of Digital Smart Homes and DSH Pro, two Electronic Systems Firms that focus on Residential and Commercial projects respectively. Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Harry has over 23 years of professional hands-on experience with a vast array of electronic devices and systems. In his spare time he loves to surf, SUP, rock climb, snowboard, wakeboard, cycle and has trained in several martial arts throughout his life. Traveled around the world, his favourite place is home, Vancouver.

Control4 Blog

Did I close the front door?

Here is a great story from one of our employees at Control4. His name is David Phillips and he is one of our Area Sales Managers in the United Kingdom:
front door“I have a Nyce ZigBee Contact sensor on my front door, which I’ve programmed to send me an email whenever my front door is opened. This way, if I am out and the door opens unexpectedly, I can call a neighbour or family member to check it out for me. That’s cool by itself, but I found a better use for it.
I popped out to the local shops to pick up some essentials in my car – it’s only a few minutes away. When I returned home after 10 minutes, I found my front door wide open! I rushed in to make sure nothing was missing, realising I must’ve slammed the door and it had bounced back open without me knowing.
Time for a reprogram… I put a 60 second timer in place, so if the Contact sensor isn’t closed after 60 seconds, I get a second email letting me know my front door has been left open! This means I will now get no further than 60 seconds from my home before Control4 notifies me that my front door has been left open.
This gives me huge piece of mind, and I also know I’ll never do that again! And of course, it’s affordable, wireless and small… there is no reason this can’t be done on every project.”

Control4 Blog

Are OLED TVs the next big thing in the TV space?

Oled1There has been quite a buzz since CES last January about a new TV technology called OLED. OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diodes and they claim to be brighter, more efficient, thinner and feature better refresh rates than LCD or Plasma. So what makes an OLED TV so much better than the TV’s already on the market today?

  • The response time is much faster. According to LG their OLED TV is 1,000 times faster than current LCD models.
  • Thickness…or should I say thinness. These TVs are ridiculously thin. Some prototypes have been as thin as 0.3 mm thick!
  • Better viewing angles. Some claim up to 180 degrees, which means it doesn’t matter where you place it, there won’t be a bad seat in any room.
  • OLEDs draw less power and contain no bad metals for those concerned with their environmental footprint.
  • And this last one has the most “cool” potential, OLED panels can be made flexible and transparent (remember our Minority Report blog post from earlier?). The future is on its way!Oled2

The biggest trend right now in the TV market are LED TVs but what makes an OLED TV different from LED?

From the introduction of the LED TV in 2009 it has been promoted as a new and innovative technology. If you already have an LED TV, why would you want a new OLED TV? Isn’t it the same thing with an “O” in front of it? Not exactly, actually not even close. Here’s a little secret that the marketing departments at LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba, Sony, etc. don’t want you to know. LED TVs are the EXACT same as an LCD TV as far as display technology, refresh rates, thickness, etc. LCDs do not create light, they require a light source. Old-school LCD TVs use fluorescent lamps (called CCFLs) and the ones currently marketed as LEDs are just using Light Emitting Diodes (LED) in the place of CCFLs. LEDs are certainly better and brighter than a standard LCD but it’s a stretch to consider it a dramatic step forward in the TV market.

OLED is that dramatic step forward that could change the way everyone enjoys TV. OLED panels don’t need lamps at all as they are self-illuminating devices. This is what allows the TV to be so thin and also what gives the display the potential of being transparent and flexible. So back to our original question, are OLED TVs the next big thing in the TV world? Right now the price tag of an OLED TV is over $ 8,000 so don’t expect this technology to take a dramatic leap forward during the holiday rush this year. It may be another year or two before OLEDs truly become affordable to the masses but when that does happen, I would expect all the other current TV technologies will become obsolete.

Control4 Blog

Wanna Call Me “Dumb as a Rock”?

Do you remember the Charlie Brown’s Halloween Special when “that round-headed” kid kept getting tricked with rocks while the rest of the Peanuts gang got delicious treats of varying kind? Here’s a clip to trigger your memory.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/5tIhwITwhSg

Well, I couldn’t help but think of Snoopy’s best friend when I visited certified Control4 dealer Matt McKenna at Semaphoric in Los Angeles, CA, and he took me to an incredible home in Calabasas.  The owner of this stunning spread, Matt explained, happened to be in the music business so in terms of control and automation requirements, having access to anything from Lady Gaga to The XX to everything classical and symphonic was a non-negotiable priority. And boy, did this guy ever have all of the right equipment to notice–with crystal clarity–every melodic nuance, not to mention EXPERIENCE every ounce of bass in your body as the music played. I was impressed.

And then I stepped outside. And yes, typical of such a SoCal spread there was a gorgeous pool before me, but that’s not what I noticed most. Rather, it was the music that continued to move me. Incredible sound warmed me as much as the sun and yet there wasn’t a single speaker in sight. Until I looked more closely. I noticed that cleverly disguised amongst their beautifully landscaped succulent-rich yard, were several of these so-called… rocks–all controlled via the closest smart phone, touch screen or tablet, thanks to Control4. Nothing dumb about that.

Rock

Since the owners seem to be doing quite well, I’ve decided they should hand these “rocks” out next Halloween.

Finally, Charlie Brown would score.  Check out :36 on this track…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WBEo2QQJx8

Control4 Blog

The Bose Videowave Entertainment System

Bose is usually known for their excellent audio products ranging from earbuds to guitar amps, but one of their newest products is the “Videowave” entertainment system! Put simply, the Videowave is a tv that Bose has designed to hold high quality built in speakers. The screen is 46″ across, and comes with a remote that Bose claims to provide “Unmatched simplicity.” As for the speakers, you can see that  in the picture there are channels to route sound out of more efficiently. This allows smaller speakers to produce a bigger sound without cranking up the volume and distorting the audio. This also allows the tv to be thinner, and lighter as well. The picture quality is great with it’s full 1080p resolution, and blacks are dark. So, the real reason anyone would buy this tv is if they were an audiophile looking for a compact package with great quality sound and video. Well, this product really delivers even if the pricing is a little (A lot) steep! Overall, this is a great product from Bose! ($ 5,350)

The Bose Blog

Baby – or rather, Husband – Monitoring

baby monitoringI’m a first-time mom. And a nervous-wreck of a mom at that. I purchased a baby monitor well before my 10-month-old son was born and I immediately hated it. Hated the static and the unreliability. So I trashed the monitor and installed an In-Wall Touch Screen with Camera and use my Control4 system to monitor my son now. MUCH better.

However, I don’t only use it to monitor my baby. In fact, one of the best uses I’ve found is to monitor my husband.

Corby, is great at a lot of things. He’s a one-man circus act for our son. He’s a great disc-golfer. He can make a mean shrimp pasta. But when it comes to dressing our son, he falls a little short. I’m talking lime green socks, red sweatshirt and pinstripe overalls.  So you can imagine how I love being able to direct… er…, assist him over our Control4 system, all while curling my hair (because, like many women, timing is where I fall short).

I must say though, the small, special moments are what make the system the most valuable to me. Those special moments that I catch because my son doesn’t know I’m watching. Seeing him wake up and play peek-a-boo with the stuffed dog in his crib, listening to him mumble-and-hum himself off to sleep, spending a few moments watching my boys “talk” to one another…

Priceless.

Control4 Blog

Wave® music system

Well, if you’re here, then you know that this is my brand new blog! I’ve been working for a while getting it configured, so i figure why not start of with one of Bose’s trademark products; the Wave Music System.  This device will pump beautiful sounds into small spaces such as a kitchen, home office, bedroom, or bathroom. It’s versatility is basically unmatched due to it’s newly added integrated CD player, FM/AM radio, headphone jack, and even an alarm clock. Also, with an add-on CD changer, you can enjoy all of your artists in full CD quality audio. The Wave Music system uses Bose’s patented “Waveguide” speaker technology to transport the sound waves from the drivers in the back of the device, to the front while eliminating almost all impedance from open spaces inside the device, like a normal stereo. This proprietary technology allows for the best sound quality, and preserves bass, and percussion instruments like no other device could. If you need to control your Wave Music System from afar, Bose has included a slim infrared control unit that blends nicely into any room. Overall, a great product from our friends over at Bose!

The Bose Blog

The Dangers of Living in the Digital World

dangersWe often talk about a “connected life.” But is it possible to have a “too connected life”?

The web was abuzz this week after Wired writer Mat Honan published a detailed description of how hackers were able to exploit holes in the security procedures of Amazon and Apple customer service. His piece is well worth reading, as it includes information provided by the actual hackers who hijacked his life and destroyed his data. In order to take control of Honan’s Twitter handle, these digital hooligans compromised his Amazon, Apple and Gmail accounts and wiped the data from his iPhone, iPad and iBook. Among the data he lost was all of the photos he had ever taken of his young daughter, which for some reason he had never backed up.

According to reports, both Apple and Amazon have quietly changed the policies that led to the epic hack. But for everyone who is a true technophile—everyone whose entire life now resides online—it’s certainly a cautionary tale.

Here are a few lessons to be learned from Honan’s ordeal:

1. Our security is only as good as the companies that protect it.

Amazon’s security processes allowed basically anyone to add a new credit card to a user’s account without verification. The protocols then allowed a password reset based on the recently added credit card, which gave access to the entire account (including the last four digits of all other cards associated with the account).

Apple admitted, when pressed, that their own employees didn’t follow their security rules. Whether or not that’s true, their customer support agents allowed the hackers to get access to Honan’s apple accounts using the last four digits of the primary credit card, which of course the hackers knew because of Amazon’s security flaw.

When you think of the vast amounts of information that we put in the hands (and databases) of our banks, credit card companies, employers, government agencies, and all of the other entities with which we do business, the overall picture is staggering. Identity theft is made ridiculously easy by this proliferation of connected data. Remember: as this case has proven, it’s much easier to “socially engineer” data out of a gullible customer service agent than it is to hack into a system through brute force.

2. If you don’t use a backup service, get one now.

Whatever it costs, it’s a small price to pay. When you eventually need it, if it’s not due to hacking, it’ll be due to loss or hardware failure. Do you know what the most common cause of cell phone damage is? Dropping the darned thing in the toilet. How many photos are on your mobile phone? Have you backed them all up?

And make sure you use a remote, offsite service. One of my favorite security stories is told in a 20-minute clip from DefCon (an underground hacking conference), in which an accomplished hacker describes his experience when his own computer was stolen. He had dutifully made multiple redundant backups but had kept them in the same room as his computer. When the computer was stolen, the backups were too. (Google “don’t mess with a hacker’s computer” if you want to listen to the hacker tell his story, but be forewarned—the language is pretty salty.)

3. If you use a Mac, log into iCloud and turn off the “Find My Mac” feature.

Being able to wipe your computer drive in case it’s stolen is a great idea in theory. But the same “feature” allows someone who gains access to your accounts to wipe your computer, tablet and phone remotely. The benefits just don’t out weigh the risks.

4. Reduce your data footprint and eliminate daisy-chaining of accounts.

Do what you can to prevent someone who gets access to one account from getting access to another. When it’s an option, choose NOT to allow a company to keep your credit card on file. Turn off “one-click” shopping. If a site offers two-factor authenticationby all means, turn it on and use it.

Never use the same password for critical online accounts. I know people who use the same password for everything they do online. It’s not like they’re using “password” or their birthday or anything; they have a solid password, but use it everywhere. A good rule of thumb is to have unique passwords for the critical stuff you do (places you habitually shop and important services you use). You can feel okay about having a single “throwaway” password for certain other sites that require a login. Just make sure that you don’t have any personal information in those accounts that would allow a hacker to gain access to other accounts (with more sensitive information) if they get compromised.

The more we do business and live our lives in a virtual world, the more vulnerable we are to people who want to take our identities, our money and our peace of mind.

Control4 Blog