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.

5 Reasons to Install a Control4 Video Intercom

Video intercoms used to be something one might see on the old cartoon, “The Jetsons.” But today, that technology is available for North Carolina homes. Our Secur-Tek team can now install Control4 video intercom systems.

IMG_5716Control4 offers many home automation features, but video intercom systems are the latest way to make life easier. Here are five reasons to call Secur-Tek for an installation:

  1. Convenient communication. In other words, save your voice. No more yelling upstairs to tell the kids that dinner is ready, or yelling downstairs to find your spouse. Video intercoms give you the power to see and hear what’s going on in any room of the house. This is especially useful as our houses grow larger, saving you laps around the house to gather everyone.
  2. Cool look. Old intercoms have nothing on today’s systems. Bring the sleek look of your smartphone and tablet to your home intercom system. Control4 offers either a black or white touchscreen in two sizes: 5 inches or 7 inches.
  3. Security and safety. The video intercom system can also be used to monitor what’s going on outside your front door, giving you an extra security feature. Speak to visitors from the safety of your home, so that you never open the door to someone untrustworthy. Use the video intercom to take a look at the backyard and check on the children at play.
  4. Privacy settings/Do not disturb settings. Avoid waking someone from their afternoon nap and give your guest some privacy. The Control4 system lets you turn off monitoring in any room, whether it’s audio, video or both.
  5. Talk or listen. Intercoms used to be a two-way street only if you pushed the right button. Now, intercoms can be used to simply listen to a room, to check on a baby, for example. The Control4 system can also be used to make a general announcement to all systems in the house. Plus, the person answering does not have to get up from the couch to press a button and answer.

Learn more about Control4 Intercom systems or contact Secur-Tek for a free estimate. Call us today: (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.

Control4 Gives Back: Bean All That You Can Bean

Today’s post is from Lauren Hemingway, our Lead Graphic Designer, and is about Control4 giving back. Enjoy!Give Back1

This year Control4 has made it possible for many employees to give back to their community by offering service opportunities throughout the year. Control4 employees have given volunteer hours to Habitat for Humanity, The United Way, American Red Cross, Sub for Santa efforts, food drives and volunteer opportunities at the Utah Food Bank.

1 out of every 5 Utahns are unsure where their next meal will come from. In an effort to join forces with the Utah Food Bank, Control4 employees spent time sorting donated food items for distribution to local communities, and well, we counted beans. Okay not exactly counting so much as bean rationing. The food bank receives 34% of its donations from local commercial food distributors including the large 25 pound bags of black beans hefted and distributed on the day of Control4 volunteer efforts. Control4 employees spent time rationing out the 25 pound bags into 1 pound bags for easier distribution among Utah families. And yes, we did “spill the beans.” A few times, actually. But overall it was a success. According to the Food Bank, most food donations come from local food drives, which constitute 8% of total donations.

 

Give Back2Interested in making a difference in the lives of hungry Utahn’s? The Utah food bank has made it easy for you to give food or time. Learn how you can help.

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Halloween Edition – How To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse: Control4 Style

HalloweenWe all know it’s inevitable, and only a matter of time..No not for another Frankenstorm or a Republican in office again, but the Zombie Apocalypse. Assuming there isn’t a massive outbreak of the T Virus, and our Zombies resemble that of Shaun of the Dead, here are the 5 basic rules for surviving with Control4:

  1. Motion Sensors; Using Control4 and a CardAccess motion sensor you’ll know when a Zombie has wandered near your front door.
  2. Automated shades; once the motion sensor is triggered your shades all over the house automatically lower. I heard a rumor that Lutron was working on a steel reinforced roller shade. I highly recommend these when they become available
  3. Automated lighting; a motion sensor can trigger your lighting as well. Inside you have a strategic light (set away from any windows) set to flash warning you that your perimeter has been breached. As a bonus, all the LED’s on your lights switches change from blue to green as a secondary visual warning. Your lights in your safe room come on automatically, and all other lights in the house dim. What’s next? Grab your shot gun, and push a button on your three button keypad as you head to your safe room…..
  4. Automatic Door locks; pushing the button automatically locks your front door, and all the deadbolts that you have installed, I recommend 3 per door, and a reinforced door frame.
  5. Cameras; Using the Control4 door station with camera, or a number of installed IP cameras you can wait safely until the coast is clear, asking when you emerge from your safe room, you do not become zombie fodder.

As an added precaution, I’d run some speaker wire out to the far perimeter, and attach a speaker to it. In the worst case of a horde, you can trigger the speaker to play a Justin Beiber album at full volume. This will guarantee the horde will gravitate to the speaker, trying to kill it, sparing your life. Good luck and Happy Halloween everyone!

 

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Test Report: Control4 HC-250 Controller

At Control4, we are passionate about our products. So when someone like John Sciacca, technical editor for Sound + Vision Magazine and contributing writer at Residential Systems, gave our HC-250 Controller the Certified & Recommended stamp of approval, we couldn’t help but be pretty darn excited.

Here is John’s “Bottom Line.” But click here to read the entire article and to find out why he believes Control4 has “advanced from an industry newcomer to an automation powerhouse.”

Test Report

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Guest Post: How Control4 Has Changed My Life

Today’s blog post is from Control4′s Beta Program Manager, Matt Sand, on how home automation has truly changed his life:

Have you ever worried that you forgot to lock the doors at night? Have you ever wondered, “what if someone breaks in and takes my kids during the night?”  What would you do if a water leakage occurred while on vacation? Have you ever just wanted to turn on your thermostat without getting out of bed?

Changed Life

In 2006, the ability to do all of this and more came true for my family and I when I installed Control4. Control4 provides me the opportunity to have my family feel safe and secure.

My entire Control4 project consists of 7 water sensors, 9 zigbee automatic door locks, 61 motion sensors, 15 contact sensors, 2 thermostats, and my house is all completed with wireless lighting.

When you walk into my house and open the front door, you are presented with the tone from The Jetsons. This alerts us when the kids decide to go out or if someone is coming in. At 2:00 in the morning, my Control4 system is programmed to find out if my door is unlocked, and if so, the system automatically locks it. Every time my doors lock or unlock, my wife and I receive a text message letting us know that someone has either entered or has left the house.

With the help of motion sensors, the lights in our home automatically turn on and off through motion detection. Who needs a light switch? If motion is not sensed for 20 minutes, the lights automatically turn off. This has saved my family and I a lot of money on my electric bill and has prevented wasted energy. Also with motion sensors and timers, if the house has reported no one at home, our thermostat will automatically turn to 75 degrees.

My entire basement has water leakage sensors. When water is detected, my wife and I immediately receive a text message, the entire house is alerted with an announcement, and all the lights in the house start flashing for 10 minutes until the leak has stopped.

If a fire were to occur in my house, all the lights in the house would turn on and an announcement would play, warning my family to leave the house immediately.

When Elizabeth Smart was abducted right from her bedroom, the whole state (and country) was affected by the news. I immediately took precautions in my own home. All my windows, doors, and gates have been outfitted with contact sensors which will alert me when the gate, windows or doors are opened. I have also placed motion sensors in my backyard and during the hours of 2:00am – 5:00am, if motion is detected while my house is in the “off mode,” it will alert me – flashing my bedroom light and playing an announcement throughout the house.

And on a lighter note, notifying the kids of dinner time has never been easier. With the intercom solution Control4 provides, I simply push a single button and broadcast the message throughout the home.

These are some of the awesome things Control4 allows me to do. If you are looking to make your life safer, more secure, easier and catered to your preferences, Control4 is your answer.

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

 

Control4 & Sony Partnership Delivers an Elevated Automation Experience

Control4 SonyToday Control4 and Sony announced the world’s first fully integrated AV receiver with Control4 Automation built right in. That’s right. One world-class AV receiver loaded with functionality, a slew of streaming media services including my fave, Netflix, and 4K technology (if you haven’t checked out a 4K TV, you should. Think old tube TV quality vs 1080p…this is like 1080p but 4 times better quality. Crazy, right?).

Now picture that killer receiver PLUS one high-powered Control4 controller. All in the same box. Fully enabled with the power of Control4 automation. So the receiver you put in your TV room or theater can literally do it all. The new Sony 2800ES and 5800ES receivers with Control4 Automation built in are leading the charge in home automation innovation, and redefining the receiver category in the process. Check out more info at www.control4.com/sony.Sony1

Control4 Blog