Project Spotlight: How Sports Bar Restaurant Technology Can Improve Business

It’s football season! And while there are several ways to enjoy a good football game (or games) one of the best is to find a great sports bar that provides several viewing angles and great food. We’ve found exactly that at a local sports bar in Norwood, MA. Conrad’s has recently installed Control4 automation into their bar to give their employees and customers more control and provide the best viewing experience possible. Take a look at the video below.

 

Control4 Blog

Summer Lovin’ – Movie Night

As the temperatures cool and the days get shorter, it’s time to say good-bye to a few of our favorite summer pastimes.

Summer Lovin

Movie night in the backyard is one of the things I miss the most when the snow is flying. Movie night at my house is like the Perfect Storm…3 key things come together to create an epic event. Except my perfect storm happens every Friday night.

I’ve had the components for my movie “Nor’easter Storm” for quite some time.  My “low pressure” is the movies.  I have quite a library that I’ve amassed over the years…literally hundreds of movies. Maybe thousands.  As soon as it’s dark, we fire up the movie. Because of the diverse group of people that we have come each week, the taste in movies is constantly changing.  Thanks to Control4, we can browse my entire movie collection right on the screen, let the group choose, and get the movie started. It takes longer to get a consensus than it does to start the movie!

My “high pressure” is my collection of concession equipment.  It’s embarrassing to admit, but I own an industrial grade cotton candy machine, popcorn machine, and snow cone machine.  Show up at my house for movie night, and in under 5 minutes you could be munching on 9 different flavors of cotton candy, 17 flavors of snow cones, and all the popcorn you can stomach.  And it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

The “hurricane” that turns my movies and my concessions into the Perfect Movie Night is Control4. I had always contemplated having an “outdoor movie night”, but it seemed like such a hassle.  I didn’t want to have to pull a ton of equipment out of my house to set it up outside, and I didn’t want to have to buy duplicate hardware either. Control4 to the rescue.

Here’s what I did: For about $ 500, I was able to have a 10’ x 18’ wide outdoor movie screen made.  It sets up in my backyard in about 20 minutes.  I’ve also seen some inflatable screens that blow up in a matter of minutes. I set up a small card table to put my projector and receiver on, and set a couple of speakers on the ground behind the screen.  The Control4 system allows me to entertain in the backyard with everything that I have in my home, controlling it all from my touch screen or my iPad – if I can find it.

That’s it.  I’m done.  We are ready for the Perfect Movie Night.

My neighbors start coming over about 2:00 in the afternoon to “claim the good spots”.  So in the early afternoon, I use my Control4 system to stream my Rhapsody playlist over the speakers and we have kids and neighbors just hanging out and relaxing. Once it starts to get dark, we bring out the machines, and start pumping out cotton candy, snow cones, and popcorn and let the festivities begin.

So for the next five or six months we’ll be doing movie nights inside, like normal people, while counting the days till our outdoor movie theater is back in business.

 

Control4 Blog

Housing Market is on the Rise

Housing MarketIt’s safe to say the housing industry is officially on the mend—it is slowly becoming a seller’s market once again. According to the Census Bureau, the increase comes for both existing and new starts: existing home sales up 7.8% from last year and new starts up a whopping 29.1%!

As a new home buyer, and also an existing homeowner, I’ve been following the trends for the past few months and I’m happy about this for four reasons (well, the four off the top of my head anyway):

1) First and foremost, for the obvious reasons of job revitalization and overall economic revival. According to this article from CNN Money, “home building provides about three hires for every home built in a year.” Based on the annual rate rise of 750,000 new builds, that equates to 2.25 million new jobs. That’s great news!

2) With interest rates at a continual low—and looking to go even lower—people will continue to buy, despite of the increase in housing prices.

3) The hubs and I got lucky and locked in our offer just in time—just before what seems to be a spike in selling costs over the last two-or-so months for comparable homes in our area. Ok, if this sounds selfish, please redirect your attention to #1 once again. ;)

4) We’ve been holding on to (and renting out) a condo for quite some time because we would have been far under water if we had tried to sell. Soon, we may be able to at least break even. Hopefully.

So the housing market is on a positive slope. But what does that mean in the land of home automation? Well, it continues to appear progressive as well. With today’s technology, some consider home automation when they’re building a new home but others still don’t know it’s an option. I think that as the housing market rises, more people will start to consider home automation when building new homes.

An estimate by Parks Associates, an international market research and analysis company, states that “60 percent of homes across the nation will have some type of networked energy management system by 2022.” If this proves true, in just about 10 years, over half of homeowners in the United States will realize that home automation is not only a luxury, but—if done correctly—their initial investment can pay itself off over time through energy savings.

Even though retrofits prove the most challenging to integrators, they still account for the largest percentage of installations in comparison to new builds. However, as people are becoming more commonly acquainted with home automation, interest continues to rise at a rapid pace. Therefore, more and more builders are offering home automation as an add-on to a pre-development package. It seems that smart home exhibits and home product shopping destinations are also popping up all over the country. Have you read about MainStreet America?

Furthermore, it seems there is no limit to where technology will take us. For example, thanks to a new voice control product, VoicePod, I’ll actually be able to tell my house what to do for me—how cool is that? I’m consistently astounded by the new products I hear about in the CE industry. With all of these new innovations, it only allows for home automation to build upon itself, leading me to believe that—even just a basic system—will become standard in every home in the future.

Control4 Blog

Top Ten Home Automation Features You Didn’t Know You Needed

If you already have a home control system installed in your house, you’re probably enjoying many of the benefits of automation. But there are lots of little “add-on” features that might have never occurred to you. Listed below are some of the less obvious projects and features that can enhance your automated lifestyle. With a little ingenuity and a few additional sensors and gizmos, there’s almost no limit to the cool things your house can do for you.


1. Garage Door Control: If you have kids, you know how frustrating it can be when they leave the garage door open. Cats are another culprit—they always seem to run in and out right when the door is closing, sending the door right back up. Setting up your system to automatically close the garage door when it’s left open for more than 15 minutes is a relatively easy bit of programming that might not even require any additional equipment. If you really want to get fancy, you can also integrate an IP camera with your remote-access  control system so you can accept deliveries safely at home even when you’re at work. With the deliveryman on the phone you can open the door, watch him put your package inside, then shut the door to keep everything safe until you return home.

2. Device Control for Kids: Control your home theater and video game consoles with a touch screen password so the kids get only the amount of “screen time” you want them to have. Mom or dad enters the password, which enables the media devices and starts the countdown timer. When time is up, the devices shut off until the password is entered again. An announcement agent can let them know they’ve got 10 minutes left—that’s plenty of time to save a game in progress. You can even specify different allotments of time for different kids, for different devices or even for different games, and lock them out entirely during specific days or times or under other conditions. As an added bonus, using device control also helps ensure that your children’s caretakers (nannies and babysitters) don’t over-use videos and video games as a babysitting technique.

3. Fridge Door Sensor: An open fridge leaks money and energy. A poorly positioned container of leftovers can cost you a bundle if it prevents the door from closing all the way, and younger kids somehow manage to forget to close the door when they help themselves to goodies. A simple sensor on the refrigerator door can flash the kitchen lights if the door is left open for 15 seconds, or play a house-wide announcement if the timer ticks up to a minute. With this simple upgrade, you’ll never cry over spoiled milk again.

4. Other Flashing Light Ideas: The “flashing light” trick isn’t just for the kitchen. Simple programming can flash the lights all over the house when the doorbell rings, when a phone call comes in, or when a smoke detector goes off. It’s sometimes hard to hear all of your various bells and buzzers when you’re watching TV or listening to music in another room. But these events are hard to miss when the overhead lights let you know what’s happening.

5. Garage/Outbuilding Monitoring: In addition to monitoring the door of your garage, you can also keep tabs ON the temperature inside. Many of us store items in our garage that can be harmed by extreme heat or cold, so take advantage of the “thermistor” that may already be in your garage or shop and have the system send you a text or e-mail (or play an onscreen announcement) if things get too hot or too cold.

6. Faux Guard Dog: If you’ve installed exterior speakers for outdoor parties, you may want to know that you can also use them as part of your outdoor security setup. One neat trick is to have your exterior motion detectors trigger the sound of a barking rottweiler to “discourage” backyard trespassers. Back this up with a couple of low-tech “Beware of Dog” signs and you end up with a pretty good deterrent to would-be burglars.

7. Vacation Home Alerts: If you own a vacation home, you’ve probably got it wired up with security to keep an eye on things when you’re not around. Two often overlooked possibilities involve the weather. If your vacation house is near a coastline, your system can alert you to a sudden change in barometric pressure—which could indicate the approach of a severe storm. In addition to sending an e-mail or text message, a barometer alert could also trigger automated storm shutters. For vacation homes away from the coast, a “hard freeze” alert can let you know if special measures need to be taken to prevent burst pipes and flooding.

8. Power-saving “Mockupancy”: Speaking of vacations, for less than 40 bucks you can add a “FakeTV” (www.faketv.com) to your automation system. This simple device simulates the flashing glow of a television screen when you’re not around. Sure, you could use your actual television instead of a fake one, but the FakeTV creates the same effect while using much less power—about as much as a simple night light. Your home control system can turn the device on and off at random intervals when your house is in “vacation” mode, saving energy while creating the illusion that someone is sitting there channel surfing.

9. Lock Programming: Don’t burden your teenagers with the responsibility of home security. If your teens are old enough to be coming home by themselves late at night, you can integrate your passcode door locks with your security system so the alarms automatically stand down when your son or daughter codes in after hours. The system can then re-arm the house after a reasonable interval so they don’t have to remember to do it. A text message or e-mail notification can also let you know exactly what time your teenager actually arrived home, so you can grill them about it in the morning.

10. Bed Sensor: If you get up in the night, chances are pretty good that you’re heading to the bathroom. Why not use a sofa/bed sensor with time-conditional programming to light your way to the toilet if you have to get up, say, between midnight and 5:00 a.m.? The bathroom light only needs to be ramped up to 20% or so — just enough for you to take care of business and get back to bed. The same sensor that triggered the light can then turn it back off once you’re tucked back under the covers.


If any of these ideas piques your interest, it might be time to meet with your dealer/integrator and discuss the various ways your existing home control system can do more for you. Most of these projects can be implemented with some smart programming and a minimum of additional equipment.

Happy brainstorming!

Control4 Blog

iPhone 5 – Why Should I Upgrade?

The iPhone 5 will be released to the masses on Friday and as an admitted Apple fanboy I’m pretty excited for this release. I’m currently still using an iPhone 4 so I will definitely be upgrading to the iPhone 5. I’ll have to wait until I can actually get my hands on one to figure out how much better this thing really is than its predecessor but here are the things I’m most excited about:iPhone5 1

  1. It’s bigger and yet thinner – I’m very excited to see what the bigger screen looks like and how that will change the way I use my phone. If anything, the Control4 MyHome app should look fantastic on the bigger screen.
  2. 4G LTE – I’ve been hearing that the speed of the iPhone 5 on the 4G LTE networks is ridiculously fast. Faster than the wireless connections that most people have in their homes.
  3. Siri – I’m actually pretty excited to try Siri. I’m hoping it will make my driving just a bit safer (oh wait, did I just admit to texting while driving?) and I’m very excited to try out the new features, i.e. sports scores, with the updated iOS 6. I can’t believe they didn’t have sports on Siri up to this point. What is the point of a “personal assistant” if she can’t tell me what time the game is on Sunday?
  4. Camera – I’ve read that the camera features are a vast improvement and I’m very excited for the Panorama feature. I currently use an app for Panorama (it’s actually a Microsoft app, but that’s my dirty little secret). The app is a little clunky so it should be great to see what the feature is like when it’s integrated into the OS.
  5. Ear Pods – I’m one of the few people that use the standard iPhone earbuds on a regular basis. They’ve needed an update for a while and the new Ear Pods look fantastic. I hope they provide the sound quality Apple claims they do!
iPhone5 2

I do wish that Apple would have included NFC (near field communication) in this iPhone but I still think the addition of all the other features make it a worthy upgrade. I guess the only question left is: black or white?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Do you plan on getting the new iPhone and what features are you most excited for?

Control4 Blog

Day of Caring

Day of Caring 1There are probably a lot of things you may not know about Control4. And some you may not care about, like the fact that our ice machines cannot keep up with demand. We like our drinks COLD. One of the coolest things about this company is its quiet contribution to the communities around us. In addition to encouraging our team to take a day off work in April to support Habitat for Humanity, numerous fund-raising activities like motorcycle rides and bake sales, we were also urged to participate in the Salt Lake United Way Day of Caring on Thursday, September 13th.

Day of Caring2Over 3,855 volunteers participated in United Way of Salt Lake’s 20th Annual Day of Caring. Together, volunteers spent 35,000 total hours completing more than 115 one-day service projects in Davis, Salt Lake, Summit, and Tooele counties, according to the United Way. Control4 rallied about 20 people to take a day off from their busy jobs, roll up their sleeves and make a difference.

We spent about 8 hours painting a historic home in downtown Salt Lake that’s being used as transitional housing for The Haven, a residential drug and alcohol treatment center that provides affordable care to people who need it. Utah might be better known for the Cirque Lodge which has treated celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Chris Klein, Eva Mendes and Kirsten Dunst – to the tune of about $ 26,000 for a 30-day stint. Let’s face it, not everyone can afford that kind of help!

Day of Caring3We all agreed that it was one of the coolest things we’ve done. It was great to connect with people on our team, knowing that we were doing something really good for people in our community. Of course, we also got to spend a lovely fall day outside, enjoy some tasty Litza’s Pizza for lunch, bicker over the musical soundtrack for the day, and see who could get the most paint in their hair (I may have won that one). A big thanks to Control4 for making this possible, and for encouraging all of us to give back and enhance the lives of people in our community.

Control4 Blog

The Coolest Products at CEDIA

We had our Dealer Tools Product Manager, Miguel Perez, walking the floor of CEDIA so that he could share with us the coolest products he could find. Here is his summary:

The Best of CEDIA. (At Least in My Mind)

I love technology. I am a geek 100% of the time. You couple my love for technology and a show like CEDIA, and you get one happy guy, (basically a kid at Disney World).

However, CEDIA is hard work. CEDIA = weeks of preparation, partner meetings, conversations with dealers, demos, and packing and unpacking the amazing Control4 booth (a story for another day).

So, you might be asking, why do I like CEDIA? It sounds like a nightmare. Well, while working hard, I had enough time to walk the show floor looking at all the products and companies that were displaying the best of the best they have to offer. Besides, this is what window shopping for a guy is all about. Not only can you look for the next toy, but you also get educated with enough information to go back home and convince your wife that you really “need” that 128 thousand dollars projector that is the size of a mini cooper.

Control4 and Control4 partners had the most amazing products at the show. I mean, we won two awards for our butt kicking controllers. We even had a voice control device that takes voice commands to execute Control4 functions from HouseLogix.

But outside of the Control4 universe, there were hundreds of products that were amazing. OK, not all of them. I can tell you all about over-sized booth, crappy products, imitators, but I don’t want to turn this post into a negative one.

Without further delay, here is my list:

1.  VRX and D-Box Racing Simulator. This is a 3D, surround sound, feel every detail of the game, super toy that I want right now. However, price tag is going to set me back for a while (28K+). Check it out: www.wrx.ca

Cedia1

2.  Speakers. There were so many speakers at CEDIA. I mean, you could not turn your head in any direction and not see a speaker manufacturer. However, while walking and listening to so many different sounds coming from so many different areas, the two companies that surprised me were Waterfall and SONOS.

      • Waterfall. These speakers are small and beautifully designed. However, don’t let the appearance fool you. The sound is crisp, undistorted, and really loud. I don’t know price, but here is the website and a pic: http://www.waterfallaudio.com/. Plus, a little video I found in YouTube. http://youtu.be/0JqUgLQBMD4

Cedia2

I think I can afford two pairs: http://www.amazon.com/Waterfall-Audio-Niagara-Standing-Loudspeakers/dp/B002BSH27I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347384005&sr=8-1&keywords=waterfall+speakers

      • SONOS: I’ve never been a big fan of SONOS. That all changed when I was walking back to the hotel room after the show on Thursday night. SONOS was testing a sound loop designed for their new wireless subwoofers. WOW!!!! I could not believe my ears. Imagine the sound from this generic video x 5 wireless subwoofers running at the same time. http://youtu.be/l2KP2KUAE1I

3.  Projectors: There were as many projector companies as there were speaker companies at CEDIA. However, one projector caught my attention. I hope this picture shows how big this thing is. http://www.sims2.com

Cedia3

Anyway, see you next year and until then check Control4 and partner products at our dealer website dealer.control4.com.Remember my comment above about educating yourself so you can convince your wife about buying these toys at CEDIA. It is not going to work on this unit. It is only $ 158,000.00 dollars. I tried!

Control4 Blog

CEDIA is here!! …wait, what is CEDIA?

Cedia11

This week, dealers and custom integrators from around the world are descending upon Indianapolis to check out the latest and greatest in technology for the home. Nearly 450 exhibiting companies will be represented, 121 product categories will be featured and thousands will be milling the hallways of the convention center. This mass of brains, brawn, technical genius and testosterone (yup, I’d venture to say that 87.9999 % of CEDIA attendees and exhibitors are male—HUGE surprise) are gathering to identify the very best the industry has to offer – new cool products and mind-boggling services – that are designed to enhance the home. For Control4, it is our time to shine!

For those of you who attend trade shows, you know what an incredible “scene” they can be.  Some companies pull out all the stops to drive booth traffic:  Win-a-free car sweepstakes, blaring loud music, hot booth babes, B-celebrity appearances (though Justin Bieber at CES last year was a legitimate attraction – but it’s sad I can’t recall the company who hired him), autograph sessions with retired athletes, and so on.

The bells and whistles we apply to drive traffic? Our sales team. Our products. Our business practices. With all candor and frank, unbiased reporting – Control4 is one of CEDIA’s shining attractions. When I first joined the company three years ago, I was blown away by the company’s rock-star brand status at the show. You’d walk the show floor and see lots of guys in logo-gear hanging out in near-empty booths. Yet, the Control4 space was jammed, night-club jammed, day in and day out of the show. It was a spectacle.

Cedia12

We fully anticipate the “DID YOU CHECK OUT THE CONTROL4 BOOTH?” show mantra to permeate the halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center all this week. And our guests will not be disappointed. Virtually every employee at the company has had his or her hand in our preparation for the show – and we are really excited to share with our dealers and partners what new products our teams have developed that were designed to enhance the lives of our “shared” customers.

The Control4 themes of the show are the very same themes we’re focused on each and every day since we kicked off the year at CES: Innovation. Customer Experience. Performance. Interoperability Leadership. We have a slew of new 2012 products and will be unveiling some way-cool new stuff that will excite consumers and offer dealers unique opportunities to grow their businesses. The buzz internally is that this will be our best CEDIA ever.

Control4 Blog

It’s Awards Season …

AwardsAnd Control4 is cleaning up. 2012 has been a wonderful year for us. We’ve launched several new products including two blazing fast controllers – our new flagship HC-800 and the HC-250. New Touch Screens – both In-Wall and Portable – and a Door Station. This combination brings our customers a truly unique and innovative whole-home communication experience.

We are very proud of these products and are happy that we are being recognized for hard work, innovation and creativity. Congratulations to each and every Control4 employee and a big thank you to our customers for your support. Here is a list of the awards we’ve collected to date. Click the links to find out a bit more about how each award was determined.

Control4 Blog

Control4 Partners at CEDIA

I’m here at the biggest industry tradeshow of the year – lots of exciting stuff happening! Of course Control4 has great products, but we also have partners who have come out with cool cool products that can be used with any Control4 system. Here are a few examples:

VoicePodVoicePod – Ever wish you could talk to your house and have it talk right back to you? VoicePod (expected to ship early Q1 of 2013) makes this possible. Simply say “Hello VoicePod” then issue a command or ask a question. I would use this all the time in my house, “Lock the doors”, “Turn the lights off”, “What is the temperature today?”

 

 

NYCE ControlNyce Control – When I think of motion sensors I think of big, ugly eye-type devices stuck in the corners of rooms. But Nyce Control made me change my mind…they have this motion sensor that is about as big as my pointer finger.

 

 

ShadesShades – Being woken up by the sun as the shades in your bedroom slowly raise….sounds nice yes? Automated shades are so great, and make a HUGE difference when it comes energy conservation. We’ve got several great partners who do an outstanding job with shades of all different types. Somfy, QMotion, Mechoshade, Performance Shades, and Lutron all impressed me this year.

Control4 Blog