Connect Amazon Echo to Control4 for Voice Activated Home Automation

It’s not Rosie, the Jetson’s robot maid. But the future envisioned decades ago is getting a little bit closer every day, especially when it comes to home automation. The latest example is the Amazon Echo.

The Amazon Echo is a small black device that sits in your room. Using voice commands, you can ask it questions about the weather or sports scores, have it order something for you on Amazon, play your music, and more. Just like iPhone has Siri, the Echo has a female voice answering to the name Alexa. One woman says she loves to play a version of 20 questions with Alexa.

By connecting Echo to other systems, you can do even more. One man figured out how to use Echo to pull his Tesla car out of the garage.

Home Automation

Customers often ask us about voice commands for home automation and this is the answer. The Echo connects to smart home devices such as Nest thermostats and the Control4 system so that you can use voice commands to control some of the home automation you have created. At Secur-Tek, we have set up the Echo to work with our Control4 systems so we can turn lights on when we arrive and off when we leave. We can also turn on a TV in our lobby and raise and lower the volume of our lobby music.

While these features are on a limited scale right now, more features are coming every day.

Security Warning

One feature some might consider is using the Echo’s voice command feature to turn your home security system on and off. While this is possible to set up, the Echo does not have individual voice recognition. That means if you set up this option, anyone could come in and tell Echo to turn off the security.

Many of the features offered by Echo you can set up on your own. However, Secur-Tek is happy to help you set up Echo with your Control4 system or other enhancements you request.

Rosie the robot maid may not greet you when you come home, but Alexa is the next best thing. Give us a call if you want to learn more about how we can prepare you for the future.

Secur-Tek’s Home Automation Featured in Parade of Homes

Parade of Homes logoA home with Secur-Tek systems is part of the Parade of Homes in October.

The Parade of Homes is a free open-house tour of new homes in Durham, Orange and Chatham Counties. Visitors can tour some of the area’s most beautiful homes and learn more about the latest products and technology available in new home construction.

The Secur-Tek team set up a home security system and automated lighting at a home on Seneca Court in Pittsboro. Automated lighting is a popular home automation feature, offering convenience, security and energy savings in many ways:

● Timed control of all lights, based on sunrise and sunset, even taking into account Daylight Saving Time.
● Outside lights can be set for motion, enabling you to enter your home safely after dark.
● Inside lights can turn on automatically when you enter a room, and can be programmed to turn off after a certain period of time.
● Lights can be connected to the security system, which can shut down interior lights when you are away. Key lights can be left on at night to simulate the appearance of someone at home.
● Lights can turn on if the security system detects an intruder.
● Lights can also flash to signal the doorbell or phone ringing in addition to or in place of sounds.

The homes will be judged Oct. 1 and winners are invited to a special banquet. Cross your fingers for Secur-Tek’s home! Then, take the tour to view these amazing homes.

This year’s parade takes place during the first three weekends in October: October 3-4, 9-11, 16-18. Homes are open between 12 and 5 p.m. Visitors can stop any of the dozens of homes on tour during those times, no appointments needed. Get a map online starting Sept. 28 at http://www.hbadoc.com. You can also pick up a map at one of several locations in the area.

Learn more about how Secur-Tek can set up home automation for your home.

How secure is your home network?

hackersWe call it The Internet of Things. And it’s very likely that you have it in your house: you know, the connection of electronic devices to the Internet so that you can have access to them. It could be your baby monitor, your home security network, your heating/cooling system, your coffee pot or your refrigerator—all these things can be connected to the Internet so that you can check in and/or make adjustments to them via your computer or smart phone. The Internet of Things allows us to be connected to most everything these days, making it more convenient for us to access and control our devices from almost anywhere there is an Internet connection, as well as monitor our homes and the goings on inside.

No doubt the Internet of Things gives you peace of mind, knowing that you can check in on your baby from another room or while you’re out. It allows you to adjust the temperature in your- home, so that it’s that perfect 68 degrees when you get home from work. Or you can lower the temperature of your refrigerator so that your favorite beverage is chilled when you walk in the door. You can lock or unlock your doors from another location. The ease of it all is amazing, isn’t it?

Let’s take a minute, however, to play devil’s advocate. If you can access your home, others can, as well. The Internet opens the doors for many great things; yet at the same time that it opens the doors for you, it also presents the opportunity for hackers to get inside your home and take control just as you would. A hacker could take control of your home security system and disable your locks or cameras. A hacker could take control of your baby monitor and speak through it. That same person could take control of your computer and use the installed camera to spy on you.

A recent article in the News and Observer highlighted the risks to using companies that don’t  know what they’re doing – the non-experts that have got into the security game purely to make money.  So, how can you protect yourself and your family against these invasions of privacy?

To protect yourself from hackers, you need to make sure you have a system that is secure. Choosing a professional security company to install your systems is the best route. Security professionals can make sure that the equipment you use in your home conforms to safety standards and that any data you transmit over the Internet in order to control your devices is encrypted. They can set your system up so that the Internet of Things is convenient and secure, minimizing your risk to a hacker’s intrusion.

For more information on securing your family and home, contact Secur-Tek at 919-387-1800.  All consultations are complimentary.

Home Automation Ideas

Automated Life* How many remote controls do you have on your end table? Is there one for the TV, one for the cable box, and one for the stereo system?

* Do you find yourself following the kids or your partner around the house, from room to room, shutting off the lights?

* Is taking a last walk-through of your home, checking whether all the doors and windows are locked, part of your nightly pre-bed ritual?

* Do you often wonder, after you’ve driven away from your house, whether you locked the front door or closed the garage?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if somehow, some way, all those things that you checked on every day were just “right” all the time? Could you imagine if instead of all those controls for all those devices in your house they were somehow combined into just one device—where you wouldn’t have to sit there and struggle with programming or fixing or doing anything to get that one device?

What would you be willing to do to simplify your life and your home? Would you be willing to pick up the phone and call 919-387-1800? That’s all it would take to get started on home automation.

Secur-Tek of Apex NC has a solution to all the things that you need to keep up with in your home and in your life so that you have a sense of peace. Control4 Home Automation has a system that brings all your devices, electronics, and even the lighting in your home, under one control panel, that you can easily access at home or from anywhere in the world via the Internet.

With the Control4 Home Automation solution, you can have the lights in your home turn on and off via motion sensors or based on the time of day. You can set the lights in different rooms of your home to turn on or off to a certain level, depending on need and usage. Not only does this spare you the need to walk from room to room switching off lights in unoccupied rooms, but it saves you time and frees you up to think about and do other things.

You can even control remotely the locking of your doors. If you in fact did leave the front door unlocked on your way out one day, you’d receive an alert on your cell phone. From your smart phone, you can then lock the door. No need to worry or turn back.

With the addition of the Control4, things can be simpler because you’re bringing many things under one central command center, from which you can control it all. You can simplify your home, secure your home, and even reduce utility bills through this automated solution.

Contact Secur-Tek to find out more about its home automation solution and how it can help make your life simpler and your home more enjoyable.

Automation! 3 Ways to Simplify Home and Office with Secur-Tek

Control4When talking about home or business electronic systems, the terms integration or automation may not be especially familiar to everyone.  Secur-Tek of Apex, NC specializes in building system upgrades.  Whether it’s a home, office building or business, Secur-Tek can install and maintain everything from alarm systems to surround sound.  We can set up computer networking, optimize wireless capabilities throughout a building, and even install central vacuum systems to make it easier to keep every room clean and improve the air you breathe!  Technological upgrades are a way to improve the conveniences in any building, and Control 4 automation is the ultimate system upgrade!

What are the benefits of Control 4 automation?

Here are three examples of how automation can make home and office functions easier:

  • Operate appliances remotely from any room.  Turning functions on and off from anywhere in the room or building makes life so much easier.  For example, when having guests over, blinds can be lowered or raised, music can be changed easily and lights can be dimmed, all from the touch of a button on a tablet or cell phone.
  • Total control of electronic functions.  An easy to use application on a cell phone can keep tabs on all electronics.  Having control of the on/off functions of appliances is also energy efficient.  Knowing which appliances are running, and which are off, at all times will optimize the power bill.  This is also a great function to remotely monitor the functions of a Secur-Tek alarm system in a home or office!
  • No more remotes to keep up with!  When everything is synced to a tablet or cell phone app, worrying about finding the remote to the air conditioner is no more a chore!  All home and office functions are controlled by a single unit with a total automation configuration.

Considering these wonderful benefits, what home or business wouldn’t appreciate total electronic integration?  Secur-Tek can configure and maintain Control 4 automation for any size building, from apartments to businesses or office buildings.  Don’t be left in the dark ages!  Call or contact Secur-Tek today to learn more about how automation works, and get an assessment of the possibilities for your home or business!

Also, take a look at this video for a great example of how Control 4 automation can benefit a home!

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.

Control4 Blog

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!

 

Control4 Blog

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