Secur-Tek Now Offering TiO Home Automation Systems

TiO with TagHome automation is fun. At least, we like to think so! As we work with homeowners in the Apex and Triangle area, we want to make sure we are offering multiple options so they can find the best fit. That’s why Secur-Tek has a new product in our home automation lineup: TiO.

TiO is a home automation platform based locally in nearby Morrisville, N.C. (Support local!) Similar to the Control4 product we already sell, TiO offers systems for controlling cameras, security, window treatments, door locks, AV equipment, TVs, music, and more — all from one app. TiO stands for “turn it on.”

One feature TiO offers is a section called TiO Moods™, which allows you to capture the settings on all connected devices. Once you have created a mood, you click on it and everything will turn to the saved settings. For example, you might want to set the mood you use once you arrive home from work: lights on, music, a change in temperature, open window shades. A different mood might be set up for after dinner: lower lighting, closed shades.

The company offers a similar setup for the entire home, which they call Experiences. Imagine walking in your door after work, clicking one button and having the entire house set up for your evening: lights, temperature, and more.

According to articles on home automation, consumers like home automation, but ease of use is important. TiO’s systems are user friendly and many people find them easier to figure out as they enter the world of home automation. Some other things we like about TiO: it is quick to install and offers a lower-cost option for home automation. The system also works without extra wiring and already adapts to some devices such as Nest thermostats without extra changes. TiO relies on your home WiFi, while Control4 uses a system called Zigbee. There are pros and cons to both ways.

TiO and Control4 both offer fantastic options for home automation. We are pleased to offer our customers another option. Give us a call to learn more about TiO and Control4 so you can compare and decide which system is best for your home.

 

 

 

Whole House Intercom Systems

 

OnQ IntercomDo you enjoy listening to music at home? Are you confined to the one area of the house that has the stereo, or do you have the music blaring in order to hear it from room to room?

When you need to say something to someone in another part of the house, do you get up and walk over or do you find yourself speaking at a high decibel?

With a whole house intercom system, there is no more yelling across the house, and no more complaints about the loud music that no one likes else except you. Whole house intercom systems allow you to communicate from room to room via speakers/intercoms that are installed in each room (or in as many rooms as you choose). You can talk to or listen in on any of the rooms that have a speaker installed. Privacy buttons prevent others from listening in on any particular room.

You can also play your favorite music in one room, while someone in the next room listens to a genre of his/her choice, and yet another person listens to the news elsewhere in the house. Or why not set the mood with soft background music throughout your home? With a whole house intercom system, the choice is yours.

A System generally includes a speaker for your front door, which allows you to communicate with visitors without opening your door; an AM/FM radio with presets that can be chosen from the speakers installed in the rooms; and optional outdoor speakers for your deck or patio. Each intercom/speaker has its own volume control and privacy button. A System not only makes it convenient to communicate, but can offer peace of mind, as you can listen in on other rooms, for example, a child’s room on the other end of the house.

For more information on how your home and life can benefit from a whole house intercom system, call Secur-Tek at 919-387-1800.

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.

Cut Through the Mess with Structured Wiring

wiring panelIn today’s technology-driven world, many of us have a multitude of electronic and video devices in our homes, from televisions, DVD players and cable boxes to computers, modems and printers. And while these products have added to our home experiences, there was a definite period of frustration we had to endure before getting to the point of enjoyment—you know that time when you had to connect all the pieces of the puzzle together, getting the right wires to the right places, all the while trying to minimize that bundled mess of cable, which is now tucked behind the console.

There’s a solution to the wire and cable chaos—and that’s “structured wiring”, a generic term used to describe a network that efficiently and effectively distributes data signals throughout your home, including all the audio, data, phone, stereo and video signals, as well as temperature controls, home security controls and lighting.

Structured wiring not only gives you a centralized location (a structured networking panel) from which all devices are controlled, but gives homeowners:

  • More consistent signal quality: splicing wires/cables decreases signal strength. Structured wiring allows each device its own connection.
  • Simplicity in control and troubleshooting, as everything is centrally located and uniquely connected, eradicating wiring guesswork.
  • Signal speed: Wired signals come through faster than wireless signals. For those who need faster Internet, an Ethernet connection would be preferable.
  • The opportunity to more easily integrate and add components as needed.
  • An increase in home value: structured wiring improves your home entertainment and work experience while adding value to your home.

So why wouldn’t you consider structured wiring for your home? Whether it’s a new construction or an existing home, structured wiring can add simplicity and ease to your lifestyle and value to your home.

For more information on structured wiring, contact Secur-Tek today at 919-387-1800.

 

The Power of A Great Music System

Bose In-Wall SpeakersWe’ve all found ourselves tapping our toes or fingers, swaying our hips or humming to the sounds of music. It’s fun. It’s uplifting. And studies agree that listening to music can and does indeed lift spirits.

It doesn’t matter what type of music you listen to: jazz, pop, rock or new age. Listening to music can improve your mood, or if you’re already in a good mood, it can intensify that good mood.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have music all around you all the time? And if that music makes you feel good, what could be better? Good music, good feelings. Wow. Your quality of life just skyrocketed.

One way to infuse music into your home is to install a music system.

Invisible to the eye, Bose music systems allow you to listen to different music in different rooms at different levels throughout your home. The system is created to complement your style. You can use your favorite CDs or your iPod library. There are no large speakers hanging from the walls, but rather in-wall speakers are installed for a clean look and feel without losing the beauty of music in each room.

There’s a reason we listen to music and we naturally move to it. There’s a reason we use phrases such as “music to my ears.” And there’s a reason we have music at festivities. It makes us feel good! For more information on the Bose Music System, contact Secur-Tek at 919-387-1800.

And it’s not just for your home. Click here to learn how music can have a positive effect on your business!

How Music Affects Your Business

Bose SoundTouch™ 20 Wi-Fi® music system  Wireless streaming music speakerStudies have been done to show that music is uplifting to the spirits. But we really don’t need to read official papers on that. We all know that. We love music. That’s why there’s such a huge industry for it. There’s music in our homes and in our cars. There’s music on our phones and computers, in our video games, in our toys, in television shows and as the main topic of shows.

Music is pleasurable.

But did you know that music can affect your business?

For business owners, knowing that music can have a positive effect on people, would steer you to have a system in place to provide music to your business. For employees, it can help put them or keep them in a good mood. Happy employees are good employees.

Music can have an effect on your sales as well.

Consumers tend to recall brands that have music connected to them, music that is fitting to the brand. Among younger consumers, aged 16 – 24, more than half stay longer in a store if there is appreciable music in the background. Business owners know that the longer a person stays in a store, the greater the chances that that person will make a purchase.

The key, however, is not that any type of music be played, but the appropriate music ought to be played to reflect your brand and the opinion consumers will have of your brand. Having the wrong music play overhead can be extremely detrimental to your business.

If the music chosen doesn’t match the product or face of the business, this can yield negative results. If the volume of the music is too low, too loud or is absent, this can also have an unwanted effect on consumers. However, if you think about your brand and your target audience, and you have the right music playing in the background that your customers would enjoy and appreciate, then you are headed in the right direction.

Again, people enjoy music. It’s uplifting. For both your staff and your customers, there are very good reasons to have music at the business. Bose offers a music system that allows your place of business to discreetly have music throughout.

For information on the Bose Music System, contact Secur-Tek at 919-387-1800.

CCTV By Secur-Tek: Keeping the Triangle Safe and Secure

CCTV imageIf you live in Apex, NC or across the surrounding Triangle region and you own a business of any size, Secur-Tek Inc. has the product to have on-site that just might make all the difference in the success of your company.

Secur-Tek knows that business owners can always benefit from a closed circuit television system (CCTV).  Whether it’s an issue of trust, safety or just for peace of mind, CCTV can provide an aspect of protection to any business.  Just the presence of security cameras in customer and employee areas will often minimize issues ensuring the safety of your operation.

Secur-Tek of Apex, the premier installer of CCTV systems in North Carolina, offers any size system, from one to one hundred cameras that can be installed and configured by our installation team!  Custom specifications make each system unique and tailored to each and every business.

CCTV systems are highly effective in:

  • Monitoring and ensuring safe practices in an industrial or warehouse setting.
  • Discouraging theft within a business from both external and internal parties!
  • Reviewing performance of employees in action, both in real time and in replay.
  • Reviewing inconsistencies in normal operation.

If you have any doubts about your employees, or feel like heightening security could positively affect your business, do not hesitate to call today for an estimate of the cost of your custom developed system.

At Secur-Tek we offer:

  • Customizable specifications that allow total flexibility of your system.
  • PC based systems that easily monitor and keep track from the computer and related devices!
  • Remote video transmission systems to make it even easier to review the video
  • Strictly observation systems, for an affordable protection option.

Choose the system and functions that work best for your operation, and we take it from there!  You will benefit greatly in safety from the addition of every level of added protection.  Call Secur-Tek Inc. today to explore the options and make a change for the better!

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

Home Automation Technologies

In the world of automation we like to say that the purpose of automation is to get all of your devices “talking” to each other. What a novel idea! On the surface that’s exactly what happens. However, the technology that allows this magic to happen is obviously a bit more in depth than that. Here is a brief list of terms and definitions that may help you “speak geek” as you start to learn more about automation technology.

Speaking GeekWired Protocols:

  1. Ethernet:This is a network protocol but the most commonly used application is quite simply, a network cable. It is a pretty well known term but it is a twisted pair cable (it has 4 pairs of cables that are twisted together) and delivers your network from point A to point B. There are two popular types of Ethernet cable that are in use today:
    • Category 5e (Cat 5): This is, by far, the most popular Ethernet cable in use today. Most homes and businesses have Cat 5 cables running to every room or work station in the structure. This standard provides performance of up to 100 MHz. Bonus – Cat 5 cable can also be used to carry other signals such as telephone and video.
    • Category 6 (Cat 6): This cable standard is almost identical to Cat 5 cable in every way except for one, it’s much faster. This standard provides performance of up to 250 MHz, so it is up to 2.5 times faster than Cat 5. It is also backwards compatible with Cat 5 cable so you may integrate Cat 6 cable into a network that already has Cat 5 cable. The speed of your network however, will always default to the lowest common denominator, in this case being the 100 MHz of the Cat 5.

Wireless Protocols:

  1. Wi-Fi: Perhaps the most popular technology, Wi-Fi allows an electronic device (computer, TV, smart phone, etc.) to access a computer network, thus giving those devices the capability to talk to each other as long as they are all hooked up to the same network. Wi-Fi also gives these devices access to the Internet.
  2. Infrared (IR): This is the most common used technology that allows you to change the channel on your TV without ever having to leave the comfort of your couch. When a button is pressed on the remote it sends out a pulse of infrared light that is the received and translated by the TV and voila, the channel magically changes. The one BIG downside to infrared is that it is a line-of-sight technology, meaning that you have to be able to point the remote directly at the TV without anything else getting in the way.
  3. Radio Frequency (RF):This is where it starts to get interesting. By sending a command through a radio wave, RF is able to eliminate the major problem that is presented with infrared by eliminating the line-of-sight requirement. Most automation technologies are based on the RF standard because this allows the devices in your house to “talk” to each other without having them all lined up in the same room. The two main RF technologies today are:
    • ZigBee: This is a high level communications protocol that uses small, low power radios to communicate with each other. Due to the low cost and long battery life ZigBee’s application is embedded in several devices that give you the ability to control lighting, consumer electronic products, advanced temperature control, wireless contact sensors, smoke detectors, shades and blinds, security systems and much more. It is based on the IEEE 802 standard and is more versatile than other RF technologies since it can be configured for virtually any short-range wireless task. Control4 uses the ZigBee protocol in all of our automation solutions.
    • Z-wave: This is a proprietary protocol that communicates using low-power wireless technology. Similar to ZigBee it is designed to be easily embedded in consumer electronics products, including battery operated devices such as remote controls, smoke alarms and security sensors. However, Z-wave chips are available from only one source and are only available to major clients.

And if you’re still awake after reading through all of that, I hope it was worth your time. Please let us know in the comments if you have any other terms that you’ve been confused on or would like further clarification and we will update this post to accommodate.

Control4 Blog

What’s the “Killer App” in Home Automation?

Killer App1In computing, a “killer app” is a program that is so valuable or popular that it basically guarantees the success of the technology with which it’s associated. Technology historians have long said that the personal computer would never have caught on without the appearance of VisiCalc, the first-ever spreadsheet program. Businesses and professionals who had resisted the idea of a personal computer finally purchased one when they saw the value proposition that VisiCalc offered to them and their businesses.

The immersive video game Halo did the same thing for the Xbox. Fanboys bought the Xbox to play Halo, and not the other way around.

For years, the conventional wisdom within the home automation/custom electronics industry has been that home theater is the killer app. As the thinking goes, building a state-of-the-art media room gives homeowners a good taste of automation technology, whetting their appetite for more expansive systems and eventually full-house control.

In many ways, this is borne out by the data. For example, in a recent survey, Control4 asked existing customers what kind of equipment they had in their homes. Over 90 percent of our customers told us that they had home theater equipment as part of their Control4 system. When we asked the complementary question—what type of equipment are they considering adding to their home automation install—around 10 percent told us they wanted to add home theater.

For those of you keeping score at home, that adds up to right around 100 percent.

Killer App2In his blog post, “The thing that will save Custom,” John Sciacca suggests that home theater may not actually be the best point of entry into smart home technology. In fact, he suggests that the true “killer app” for home automation might actually turn out to be your home’s point of entry: your door locks.

The argument is an interesting one. Market forces are making it more and more difficult for custom installers to sell home theater rooms while still making a profit. Dime-thin margins and new DIY-friendly technology are conspiring to put many custom electronics dealers out of business. On the other hand, door locks are something that everyone has, and the various “use cases” that can be made to justify smart locks can be appreciated by just about anyone:

Unlock on arrival – Ever get to the front door with arms loaded down with groceries or luggage or a sleeping child and wish you didn’t have to fumble with the keys and the deadbolt? Why not unlock it from your car while you’re pulling up. Oh, and turn the lighting on while you’re at it.

The late night door check – “Can you check to make sure all the doors are locked?” I can’t tell you how many times that question has made me be the one that has to get up out bed to walk around the house checking the (stupid) doors. Wouldn’t pressing one “Goodnight” button that did this for you – and set the lights and HVAC and security and powered off the A/V gear and… — be so much more simple and awesome? And then maybe a status feedback that actually SHOWS that the doors are locked?

Controlled access – Imagine that you have a housekeeper, dog walker or personal wine-rack riddler that comes to your house on Wednesdays. You can provide them each with a code that only works for them and that only works on that day. Or only works with a specific window of time if you like that better. Because if my wine guy doesn’t get to that Moet and Roederer by 2 PM, so help me!

Temporary access – Say that you need some kind of service call visit to your home but you can’t be there. Instead of worrying leaving a key somewhere, or arranging someone to meet them or leaving the house unlocked all day, you can set up a temporary code that you can give out and then easily delete.

Emergency access – Ever worry that you lost your house key and that they only way to let yourself in would be with a brick? Or ever been on vacation, say this past May at Disney World, and then had someone, say your wife, whose name may or may not be Dana, mention that they were suddenly worried they had forgotten something important, like say, turning the oven off of Broil mode? Instead of calling your neighbor and saying, “If you see black smoke pouring out our house, please call the Fire Department, would ya?” you could say, “I’m going to unlock my front door; would you mind checking the oven and then calling me back?”

Notification upon entry/exit – Want to know what time your kids really came home? Or exactly how long the “three hour housecleaning” really took? You can get e-mail or text message alerts anytime a code is used; knowing who came in or out of the house and at what time. Makes it tough to sneak into the home when your door code expires at precisely 12:01…

Interestingly, a few of these points are very similar to those I made recently in my own blog post, “Top Ten Home Automation Features You Didn’t Know You Needed.”

This is certainly food for thought. While home theater is likely to continue to be one of the most important “pillars” in the home automation industry, Sciacca is absolutely right about one thing: everybody has doors that lock. Whether smart door locks are the VisiCalc of the home automation industry remains to be seen.

What do you think?

Control4 Blog