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!


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

Home Is The Way I Like It

Today’s blog post is courtesy of Christi Nelson, Sr. Manager, Global Marketing & Events at Control4:

Home Way I Like It

With the temps starting to get cooler in Salt Lake City, last weekend my family and I decided to head to Southern Utah to do some hiking and biking in the sunshine and warmth. I knew that the cold temps from fall would soon set in, I just didn’t know it would be the weekend we were gone.

Packed and ready to go, on my way out of the house I selected “Vacation” from my three button keypad. Control4 does the rest. It has a preset to raise or lower the temp depending on the time of year. It does some cool things with our lights so the house doesn’t appear to be vacant, locks the deadbolt on the front and side doors and turns on my security alarm system.

While we were enjoying the warm 85F/29C temps I didn’t even think to look at the weather until we started the drive home. We were going home to the cold! The further north we went the colder it got. By the time we were an hour away from home the current outdoor temp was 43F/6C! I knew the house would be really chilly to go home too. Not a problem. Not with Control4.

I simply used my iPhone from the car. I had a 3G connection, so I could access Safari. I went to my.control4.com and logged into my house. I could see the internal temp of my house was 57F/14C, and the furnace was off. With a simple click I turned the furnace on, setting the temp to 68F/20C, and knew that we’d come home to a nice, warm house.

I love Control4 for that reason. My house is always just the way I like it.

Control4 Blog

Shades of Grey Control

My reference point both for “grey” and “control” come not from a best-selling novel from 2011 (one of these days I suppose I should read it?) but instead from a visit I made earlier this last year to none other than New York City.

Authorized Control4 dealer Alex Reppen introduced me to some of his most magnificent installations and let’s just say there was one in midtown Manhattan that, well… left its mark. (Seriously, I have not read the book; first I’d heard of it was from last season’s SNL skit!).

One of the homeowners is a designer and persnickety in all the most fabulous ways. While he wanted all of the typical control and automation one might desire, he respectfully demanded that there be no sign of it. That is, no “exposed” touch screens, etc. that might distract from his gorgeous property. He’s clearly got a look going on, right down to his two darling dogs–absolutely no “color,” per se. It’s all about shades of grey in a beautiful execution of monochromatic design.

But since I was lucky enough to come with a camera, don’t count on my words to paint this so-called picture. Come on in and have a peek yourself… Alex and the owner’s lovely wife Adriana gave us a tour.

Control4 Blog

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

Control4 Blog

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

Flashing Lights and Teenaged Giggles

As a Control4 employee with networking and technical training, I’m in the process of installing automation in my own home. I’m going bit by bit, starting with the “easy stuff.” I got a bunch of my lighting controls installed over the weekend, and we’re now starting to enjoy the benefits.

One of the challenges in our house is that our teenaged boys’ bedrooms are directly below the family room, where my wife and I spend much of our time. Eventually we’d like to put in an intercom system, but until then, we’ve basically had to yell pretty loudly to get any response out of them.

On Sunday night, I made a trip downstairs to tell the boys it was time for “lights out.” We sent our younger daughter to bed as well, and she was in bed almost immediately.

Almost half an hour later, we could still hear the boys chatting downstairs. I don’t know if this is a characteristic of our home or if it’s a quirk of the house itself, but we can hear them when they’re talking, but they can’t hear us unless we shout. Our boys are great friends and love to just sit and talk, like teenaged boys tend to do. Normally at this point either my wife or I would just scream, “GO TO BED,” but neither of us wanted to wake our daughter up.

Realizing that our newly installed automation system gave us some new options, my wife chose a quieter approach. She simply got out her iPhone and used the MyHome app to flash the lights in the boys’ bedrooms. Neither of us had any idea what the reaction would be. This was uncharted territory for all of us.

Flashing LightsThe talking downstairs turned to laughter, and then we heard our older son say, “OK, OK, we’re going to bed.” We sat and watched the screen of my wife’s phone as first one son and then the other turned out his light. The boys were in bed—mission accomplished—with no yelling at all.It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was a fun moment. And it gave us a preview of where automation will be taking our family as we get more and more of it in our lives.

Control4 Blog

4K TV Resolution: Is it the new “3D” or something more?

4K TVI recently read a blog post from Electronic House explaining that the most recent 4K resolution trend that is just being introduced to the market is more important than 3D. They even claim that, down the road, it will be more widely accepted than 3D as well. For those of you that have never heard of 4K resolution, it is basically quadruple the image quality of full HD, plus it has the capability to produce passive 3D content that you’d actually consider watching.

As the author mentioned in his article, TV makers have been trying to push 3D down our throats for the past several years now. In spite of this it has just never taken hold—mainly because of lack of 3D content and the requirement of wearing special glasses while watching TV. Most people multi-task when they watch TV and that becomes much more difficult with 3D glasses on. I have a 3D-capable TV but almost never use the 3D features for that specific reason.

So what do 4K and 3D have to do with each other? Other than both technologies starting with a number followed up by a letter, there appears to be a shift in the market of TV manufacturers moving away from 3D to promote the 4K standard. Sony and LG have both displayed their 4K TVs at CEDIA recently, and they will be hitting the market this fall.

Here in the Control4 offices we actually have one of these Sony 4K TVs and I’ve been able to look at the picture with my own eyes. The problem, though, is that I still can’t tell you what a true 4K resolution looks like because there just isn’t much (if any) content that exists yet that will play in true 4K resolution. If the TV makers expect this technology to take off they will need to continue to advance and improve upon the 4K upscaling technology. Sony does a great job with that on their new line of receivers as well (including these awesome receivers that have Control4 technology built in).

Bottom line, 4K technology has the opportunity to revolutionize the TV industry and the way we all watch TV at home, but of course, so did 3D. It’ll be interesting to see which (if any) of these technologies do finally catch on.

Let us know your thoughts on 4K technology in the comments.


Control4 Blog

Sometimes It’s The Little Things

Little ThingsOne of my most vivid childhood memories is of my dad, running around the house turning off light switches, hollering at the top of his voice: “Why are all these <bleep> lights on? How hard is it to turn a <bleep> light off? I’m going to start charging your allowance for the electric bill.” (You will notice that I did not claim this was one of my “fondest” memories.)

Fast forward a number of years…It’s sometime around 8:30am, every single day, and I find myself walking or running through the house after the chaotic, hurricane-like efforts of getting four people ready and out the door on time turning off one light after another, muttering under my breath those same exact words. Including the bleeps. Except my husband doesn’t have an allowance so I can’t really make good on that threat. It seems ridiculous that our morning routine requires every single light in the house to be turned on. And what is it about light switches that makes it so incredibly simple to turn them on as you run upstairs and down the hall for that one last thing you forgot, and so impossible to turn off as you barrel back out of the house? I don’t know. Some scientists need to get on the root cause of this phenomenon.

In our case, we finally got smart and put some smart lighting in our house. The “upstairs off” button? A Godsend. The “good-bye” button by the door to the garage that turns off all the lights in the house? My favorite. Even the hubby and the kids think it’s cool. My son calls them “magic lights.” And they kind of are.

Control4 Blog