Five Times When It's Great to Be More Connected

Five Times When It's Great to Be More Connected

Have you noticed the recent spate of articles raising the alarm about habit-forming mobile devices, and the negative impact they can have on your attention span? 

We all know that too much screen time is bad, especially for kids. But your smartphone also has features that can make your life easier and better. How many of your favorite family photos would you have missed if your phone didn't have a camera, for example? 

The same goes for apps that keep you connected to your home, like Control4. It controls your smart security system and all sorts of other things, notifying you when something's wrong and letting you know when things are okay. It's not a distraction; it's a peace of mind tool. 

Consider these five everyday "what ifs" that you don't need to worry about with Control4 on your phone. 

1. Did I secure the house? 

Control4 Security Door Lock.jpg

It happens to all of us. You're at work – or a hundred kilometers into your family holiday – and you're suddenly convinced that you forgot to arm your security system or lock the door. 

Instead of spending your work hours or relaxation time debating over whether to head home, or to call a neighbour and ask them to check, you can use your Control4 app to put these problems to bed. 

Your Control4 app shows you the status of your security system and other smart hardware, and lets you secure them all remotely. You can also avoid all future doubt by setting up a Geo-fence alert, which reminds you to secure everything as you leave 

2. Will that package be safe?  

Control4 Intercom Delivery

With a video doorbell and smart lock connected to your smart home security system, you no longer have to worry about valuable packages being left outside. 

When the delivery person rings the doorbell, you can verify their identity, unlock the door, and instruct them through the doorbell's speaker to leave the package inside. Even if a package does end up left on the front step, your video doorbell's ability to capture a motion-triggered recording is a good deterrent to thieves. 

3. Are the kids staying out of trouble? 

For parents with young kids, priority number one is keeping them safe - although they don't always see eye-to-eye with you on how that should happen. 

If they wander into trouble, however, you'll be the first to know, even if you're in another room. It's easy to set up smartphone alerts for when doors are opened to forbidden areas, so you'll know instantly if they get into the laundry room or the medicine cabinet. 

4. Are the older kids home yet? 

You don't have to be waiting at the door to know if your kids came home on time. As soon as they arrive and disarm the security system with their user code, the system will let you know they're home. You can also have a video clip delivered to your phone, so you'll know if they brought a friend.

These alerts aren't just useful for school-age kids. If you have contractors working at your home while you're at work, you can know exactly when they come and leave, and you can use your app to make sure the home is secure when they've gone. 

5. What if something bad happens when we're not home? 

It doesn't matter how far you are from home—with Control4, you have options if something goes wrong. Take a water leak, for example: Control4 can alert you to call a neighbour or plumber and let them into your home to turn off the water before too much damage mounts. 

Should a worst-case scenario happen—a break-in, or fire—you won't even have to get help. As well as notifying you, Control4 can alert your 24-hour monitoring service, so firefighters and the police will be called. 

Contact us now to create your own smart home
 

Smart Home Bathroom on The Block Australia

Smart Home Bathroom on The Block Australia

Smart Home Bathroom on The Block.png

We were thrilled to see smart home systems featured on The Block Australia tonight. Ben and Andy brought together heritage features and cutting edge technology in their bathroom reveal. The judges were amazed with the voice activated control of the lights, taps and even a privacy panel in the glass door.

Smart Bathroom Ben and Andy The Block

The Block episode last night showcased the Telstra Home Automation system. This system is not yet available to consumers but will feature a monthly subscription service, much like your home internet service. It’s wireless – so great for existing homes and apartments, and voice-activated – a feature we have been raving about in recent blogs on our website. 
Ben and Andy has their voice activated assistant “Honey”, at the controls but we can work with existing voice-activated technology assistants such as Siri and Alexa.

Available now from Smart Installations
These are features that we can offer you right now with existing technology systems so no need to wait if you are ready to update your home or business with smart technology.

Imagine what we could do with your home?

  • Turn on your air-conditioning before you get home
  • Check the lights in the home have been switched off
  • Turn the Spa on
  • Check the garage doors are closed
  • Manage blinds and shutters throughout the day – programed with the sun to minimise electricity expenses
  • Setup your ‘Home Sleep Mode’ – Activated when you turn the alarm on as you leave. ‘Home Sleep Mode’ turns down the power usage while you’re out and about. Switching off lights and accessories, closing blinds and shutters. This is completely customisable.
  • Give a family member or a guest access to your home via a smart app from anywhere in the world
  • Control your local network connection, making sure Wifi is on 24/7

Contact us now to create your own smart home system.

Is Your Car Smarter Than Your Home?

Is Your Car Smarter Than Your Home?

For close to a decade now we've been using smartphones, dozens of previously used devices all bundled in one pocket sized gadget. Every year your mobile phone evolves to offer better graphics, increased camera resolution, faster processor speeds and greater storage. Apps connect us with all our favourite social medias, on demand services and messaging platforms. Do you remember your first experiences with a smartphone? You very quickly forgot your old device that offered only a fraction of the conveniences your new phone brought.

Do you remember using a choke or manually winding your windows up or down in a car? A thing of the past. Car technology has evolved, nowadays they're stacked with features improving efficiency, comfort, safety and entertainment. Played a cassette recently in your car? Manufacturers of cars bring out new features at the same rate smartphone companies bring out software updates. We're well used now to the speed of tech evolution.

Smart Car Technology

 

Let's turn our attention to NZ homes. New homes built in the NZ have experienced major changes over the past decade. Better insulation, improved air-tightness, zonal heating and, love it or hate it, massive increases in value.

One part of the home that has not evolved to meet new, modern living standards is your household wiring. It's no exaggeration to say that the majority of new homes are wired no differently than they were back in 1997. Twenty years of unused telephone sockets, two decades of television points being stuck in the corner of the room, twenty years of aerial splitters lurking in the roof and two decades of service providers like Chorus or Sky installing ugly cabling on the outside of your house because no one had the foresight to consider where set top boxes or routers will go.

Over the next five years you are going to spend a lot of your household income on technology products and services. Most of this technology will be used in your home. So how future-ready is your home for Ultra HD media streaming, internet connected kitchen appliances, virtual reality entertainment and voice controlled home assistants? If you think you won't have these things in your home you're sadly mistaken. Apple, Google, Spark and Netflix, to name a few, will continue to push a connected lifestyle upon you. Some of you may have thought you'd have no use for a smartphone ten years ago.

Connected Home

 

The changes house builders need to make to stop producing dumb homes are not as drastic as you may think. Our four tips for designers and builders of new homes are easy to put into action.

  1. Start considering the amount of technology your buyers are moving into a house with. We regularly analyse household wi-fi networks and often count over twenty five internet connected devices.
  2. Seek out training courses or CPD presentations that provide easy to access content on smarter, connected living.  Or visit Chorus's website for home wiring Chorus 
  3. Speak to the existing tradespeople involved on your projects and listen to their views on how to make your homes smarter. They may already be involved in creating Smart Homes in the luxury or custom build market.
  4. Make the change to build Smart today. Stop the construction of dumb homes for your customers. You've introduced renewables, energy efficiency and innovative heating methods to your schemes over the years, it's time to introduce the Smart Home to them.
     

Voice Recognition, coming to your home or business

Amazon's Echo was released in the UK last week, introducing Amazon's Alexa voice assistant into homes across the UK, It's been available in the US for some time but Amazon was not releasing it into other markets for their own reasons.  I had heard encouraging things about it from US and UK colleges, and Control4 had released a few drivers for it so when I was in Dallas two weeks ago I grabbed one for myself to put it through its paces in NZ and see if this was a product with potential or a gimmick and if Alexa could work just as well for us Kiwis.  

Most iPhone users are familiar with Siri, which allows users to ask questions, have conversations, send text messages, make calls, play music, listen to the news headlines or latest weather reports. Amazon Echo will do all this and connect to other smart devices in your home or business, giving you voice control of such devices.

Echo is easy to set up using Amazon's Alexa app in a matter of minutes. Once setup, Alexa can be paired with numerous smart home devices and apps, giving you voice control of your home and lifestyle.  Our 7 year old daughter has had great fun this weekend asking Alexa to play her favourite songs, telling her jokes, and asking what the weather will be. 

So how will Voice Recognition integrate into our daily lives?
You wake up to find that Winter has come back to pay a last grasping visit, and the house is rather chilly. You ask Alexa to turn on the Heat Pump in the Kitchen to 23 Deg via your Control4 system before getting out of bed. You wander through to the Kitchen to make your morning coffee and ask Alexa to read you the news headlines. After being updated on the world's news you ask Alexa to play your favourite radio station. You head into the bathroom for a shower, asking Alexa to play the latest edition of your favourite podcast via the bathroom audio system. As you leave home to head to work, you ask Alexa for your travel time to check the traffic, then turn the heating down and your lights off as you lock the door.
 Arriving home you look in the fridge wondering what to cook, so you ask Alexa or recipe inspiration based on a few ingredients in your fridge. Alexa sends you a recipe for dinner via the app and you start prepping dinner. Once dinner is on the over you ask Alexa to set a timer for when dinner is ready, while you set up the TV for the kids to watch their favourite DVD or TV channel. The possibilities with Alexa extend outside of the home, linking with your Uber account, Alexa will order an Uber for you. As voice recognition continues to develop, computers will start listening to us non-stop. It will soon become the norm that a conference room or wearable devices will listen to our conversations and understand what we need. The need to have information at our fingertips at anytime and wherever we are will drive the development of intelligent voice interfaces in all sectors of our lives.    

I have an Amazon Echo setup in our Auckland showroom so it you want a demonstration of how voice recognition and automation can work together give me a call. 0800 021 711  

Smart Doorbells the next trend in home automation

SMART DOORBELLS’ TIME TO CHIME

Smart doorbells are the next trend in home automation, and they can be seamlessly integrated into your existing system. Don’t just get alerted when you have a visitor; use high-quality micro-cameras to see who’s on your doorstep right from your smart device — no matter where you are. Here are two connected doorbells you should consider to increase the convenience and security of your smart home.

Ring

The Ring doorbell is the most basic, and most cost-effective, way to add the security and sanity of a smart doorbell to your home. Smart Installations can easily install Ring almost anywhere and can set it up to chime through the speakers in your home, so you can hear it anywhere (either through a Control4 system-enabled speaker or with the product’s own built-in announcements). The unit uses the existing doorbell wiring in your home for power and chime notifications, and it communicates wirelessly through your WiFi router. For an extra $40USD a year, you can access recorded data from anywhere in the world.

Features

Ring comes with a high-quality camera and sleek design made to fit almost any door

It’s simple, just connect via WiFi and you’re all set

Download the Ring app on Android or iPhone and start using it right away

Challenges

Slow response times in weak WiFi areas

No smart integration support with high-end Control4 systems

The camera only works when the doorbell button is pressed or motion is detected

Price NZD $399 plus installation

 

DoorBird

The DoorBird has all the same features as Ring with the added benefit of integrating into a Control4 smart home system. The camera is always on, so you can access the viewpoint at any time. The DoorBird can also trigger any smart lock connected to your smart home system, and it also has an extra output to drive a single door lock. In fact, experts are calling DoorBird the best doorbell camera for home automation integration.

 

Features

  • Hardwired or wireless integration for more diverse installation applications
  • Comes in flush or external mount options
  • The camera is always on
  • Full integration into Control4, including door station support

Challenges

  • App design needs to be updated
  • Cloud support for video storage (coming soon!)
  • Price NZD $650, plus installation

Contact us to find out more about integrating a connected doorbell into your smart home.

 

What to Listen to ...

This is the question of today’s modern digital world. In the past, we would go over to our CD library, pick a few CDs to throw into our CD changer and hit random. Today, music services provide the same fast and friendly use while adding more music than you’d ever want to listen to. But the question remains, which one should you pick? We have gathered our thoughts on the major music streaming services and how they can be integrated into an existing audio system. Before deciding which music service is right for you, ask yourself the following questions:

Do you want to listen to track 3 of Bon Jovi’s greatest hits, or do you want the music system to play songs automatically?
Specific song selection will require you to create playlists and choose from a library of music. Some of the main services that fall into this category are: Spotify, Rhapsody, Tidal, Deezer and Apple Music. Generic music selection can be done with Pandora, TuneIn, Google Play Music and others.

How important is the quality of the music?
The trend for lossless (a.k.a. as close to the CD as possible) is taking huge steps forward. Services like Tidal and Deezer are paving the way for you to really hear songs like never before. If this is a requirement for you, look for a service that plays its data at a rate of at least 256Kbps (lossless music is at 320Kbps).

What is your price point?
Most services have some sort of charge per month, or song, depending if you want better sound quality or commercials. For example, Pandora’s free version transmits their music at 128Kbps (a little above FM radio quality) and will play a commercial every 2-3 songs. Other services like Rhapsody don’t even offer a free version for simplicity.

How are you going to listen to your music?
Are you constantly traveling where you don’t have Internet? If so, a paid subscription to Rhapsody or similar where you can download your music to your phone may be the best bet. Also, there are considerations on your current audio system. If you’re curious, call us and we’d be happy to go over options for your home. Chances are, if you’ve had a Control4 system installed in the past couple years, a simple software update is all you need to enjoy many of these features without any extra hardware. Others may require something like Sonos for integration. Either way, Smart Installations can help you choose the best system for you.

What about my existing music collection?
It’s a question that comes up often. Homeowners have created large volumes of music stored on hard drives or computers at their house using iTunes or Windows Media Player. These can also be integrated into most smart systems, but you as the homeowner need to understand the downsides to doing this as well. These music systems do not conform well to the modern cloud age and, in many cases, are actually more problematic to integrate than using a modern music service.

Do you want every song on the planet available to you all the time?
With Rhapsody and Spotify, you can pick your songs. With a service like Pandora, you will be limited to radio hits only.

 

Deciding which music service is right for you can be confusing, and Smart Installations is here to help you decide. We have used many of these services and there are strengths and weaknesses with each, so give us a call for a demo of the many music services out there and what we could install to enhance your way of life.

Hello! Is it me you're looking for?

Hello! Is it me you’re looking for? A Lionel Richie classic from the eighties and also a question we ask our new customers.

New builds, renovations and home improvements have involved the same group of tradespeople for decades. Builders, roofers, plumbers, electricians and decorators are just a few of the usual suspects but how many projects use the services of a Home Technology Professional? What is a Home Technology Professional (HTP or Home Tech Pro)?

It’s probably easier for me to describe the kind of services a HTP can provide using scenarios our customers tell of everyday.

TV

“I need my new super-slim TV mounted on the wall, I want all the wires hidden and one remote control to control everything.”  Contact a Home Tech Pro, they’ll advise on screen height, type of bracket and set up remote and app control of your entertainment devices.

Music

Music

“I have all my music stored on my PC, I stream music from Spotify and Apple Music. How do I unleash this music to every room in the house and have control of the track and volume using my smartphone?”  Bread and butter task for a Home Tech Pro which normally involves no wires.

Wi-Fi

“I have decent broadband speeds but the signal is not reaching everywhere in the house. I’ve tried those plug in extenders but the internet is slower now.”  Time for a HTP. They’ll provide secure, far reaching wireless access points to create one big wireless cloud in your home.

Security

Intercom

“I’ve got an alarm system but I would have no idea if it’s going off when I’m at work, I’d also like to see what’s happening at home via a camera I can view on my tablet.”  Your Home Tech Pro will setup notifications from your alarm system and install and setup cameras around your property, viewable from anywhere in the world. 

 

Mood Lighting

“I’d like something different from the boring downlights and pendant fittings. I want colour changing LED lighting with control using my smartphone.”  Home technology professionals can install and setup mood lighting in one room or your whole home. It can even be combined with your music and TV setup for different room scenes.

Motorised Curtains and Blinds

“I’m fed up with tangled cords and also want the blinds and curtains to close at the same time in the evenings for privacy and security.”  Your HTP will measure, provide fabric samples and install your automated window treatments.

Future Ready Home

“I’m building my new home for today and for the future. How can I ensure I’m putting in the right cabling, in all the right places?”  A Home Technology Professional must be involved at the early stages of your project. They can work with your architect, lighting and interior designers to ensure that your Grand Design is built to last.

Local Professional

Smart Installations are  CEDIA certified home technology professionals and have extensive experience in designing and installing technology into new build, renovated and existing homes. Follow us on Twitter @smartinstalls to see our installations across the NZ.

How to unlock all the secret codes on Netflix

It's no secret we are huge Netflix fans here at Smart Installations given we have been helping our customers unlock the benefits of streaming video services long before Netflix entered the NZ market. But there are some cool things in this recent NZ herald article that we thought you might like to know about. I have often marvelled at the library size and often use the search function to find specific content but this little gem will take your searching to a  new level.

In the mood for a cerebral war movie? How about a Spanish horror film from the '70s? Or are you down for a binge on bellydancing flicks?

Turns out you can search for very specific things on Netflix.

More than 20,000 codes used by Netflix to categorise TV shows and movies have been revealed by blog site whatsonnetflix.com.

Using the codes allows you to make very specific searches under key subject lines - like 'Werewolf Horror Movies' (75930) or 'Stand-up Comedy starring Cedric the Entertainer' (155).

It works like this: Log into Netflix, then insert your chosen code at the end of this URL: "http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/******"

While Netflix lets you search for films and TV shows using key words, and groups its content into various categories and subcategories, the codes show just how specific the streaming site is when it comes to grouping its content.

Even New Zealand movies gets its own code - 63782. That includes nine films, including Once Were Warriors, Eagle vs Shark and Boy.

Read the full list of codes here.

 

Ten of NZ Herald's favourite secret Netflix categories

• Stunts and general mayhem: 3050
• Spanish-Language Horror Movies from the 1970s: 2637
• Critically-acclaimed Cerebral War Movies: 4230
• Coming-of-age Movies for ages 11 to 12: 535
• Werewolf Horror Movies: 75930
• Bellydancing: 3054
• New Zealand Movies: 63782
• Children & Family Movies starring Ashley Olsen: 1329
• Stand-up Comedy starring Cedric the Entertainer: 155
• Suspenseful Action & Adventure starring Wesley Snipes: 3637

- nzherald.co.nz

The One Device Challenge

HC250 Challenge

With the influx of the Internet of Things, many companies are jumping on the home control bandwagon; meanwhile Control4 has been perfecting it for years.
We don't believe that home automation is one off-the-shelf device or app that is designed to control your bedside lamp and another that gives you the ability to ramp up the temperature. 

It's about ONE scalable system, with ONE central "brain," and ONE app that gives you the ability to control it all.  The great thing about the Control4 HC-250 is that you aren't hooked into a subscription service or required to purchase many additional components to obtain control over the third-party household devices that you already use on a day-to-day basis.

You just might be surprised with what you can get from just one small box. We invite you to take the One Device Challenge, give us a call or drops us an email 0800 021 711 or sales@smartinstallations.co.nz

Wi-Fi without the headaches. Wireless internet everywhere.

The search for the strongest wi-fi signal in the home is often a frustrating walk around your house. I've lost count of the amount of customers who have complained to us before we start a job that their wi-fi is only good here, here or here! Wi-fi should be consistently available in all corners of the home, including outside. It's so simple to improve your wi-fi.

When we wire a new property or re-wire a renovation project, we wire for wireless with Cat6 cabling (the same cabling we use for CCTV, on-demand TV and telephone). A survey is carried out to calculate the optimum ceiling mounted positions for wireless access points to provide you with the best signal throughout. The access points also manage your devices connection to ensure that it is always handled by the access point with the strongest signal.

Please don't rely on your Spark or Vodafone router to provide you and your family with the best wi-fi coverage. A two access point system connected to your router, with an installed price of around $600, will provide excellent wireless coverage throughout your home. 

Smart Installations can carry out a wi-fi survey at you place. Book your survey now.

5 Ways an automation system can save energy

5 Easy Was an Automation System Can Help Save Energy

Conserving energy at home shouldn't require you to sacrifice comfort or make you feel deprived. Smart energy conservation shouldn't require a change of routine or lifestyle or create a lot of extra work. With an automation system at the helm of your house, you don’t need to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced to conserve energy, as the system is able to operate the lights, thermostats, and other power-hungry devices with the utmost efficiency. The system empowers you to easily shave money off your monthly utility bill.

Here are five ways an automation system can foster energy efficiency:

1. All Off. No longer will you leave a light on, a curling iron heating up, or the music playing as you leave the house for work, vacation or to run a few errands. An “All Off” command, which can be issued from a keypad, touch screen, tablet or your smartphone can tell an automation system to sweep through the house to turn off and adjust devices as needed. The closing of the front door, the arming of a security system or a signal from a motion sensor can also be programmed to trigger the house wide “All Off” command.

2. Curtain Call. Sunlight can quickly heat up a room, causing your AC system to go into overdrive. Motorized shades, when automated, can close at certain times of the day or when a sensor notices a heavy amount of sunshine.

3. Stat Patrol. Thermostats can be finicky pieces of technology. But with an automation system in charge, their built-in schedulers become easier to manipulate. Plus, you’ll be able to sync the stats with the operation of other electronic devices; for instance, when the automation system tells the lights to turn off; the thermostats can automatically set back too.

4. Spin Cycle. Ceiling fans help circulate warm and cool air, making your heating and cooling system work more efficiently. By automating the fans, they can turn on and off at certain predetermined times of the day.

5. E-Motion. Use motion sensors to make sure lights are only on when people are actually in the room. Why waste energy lighting an unoccupied room? And we all know that kids – and some adults – have a physical inability to turn a light off when they leave a room. Motion sensors ensure that lights are on for safety and use when a room is occupied, and go off when they are no longer needed.

Distributing Sky HD and other HD devices around your home

TV distribution is changing, over the years there have been a few options from using RF distribution and using a 'remote extender' to control your Sky box, all done pretty easily and cheaply albeit in standard definition.

However with the latest Sky HD box, the manufacturer has chosen to remove the RF out connection which used to accommodate for such a simple system. The end result is that Sky would like you to have a Sky set top box at each TV, using a multiroom subscription.

4x2 HDMI Matrix Connection Image


This clearly will not suit a lot of homes, with the idea of the aesthetics being diminished by multiple electronics scattered throughout. A very simple solution is the use of a HD matrix distribution system, these systems vary in capabilities, but the idea is that you centralise your Sky HD box (or boxes, as well as Apple TV etc.) and send their signals in Full glorious 1080p 3D HD to each TV using Cat5e/Cat6 cable.

The matrix switch essentially means you can select from multiple sources at any of the TV's at any time, so to use an example, the most popular system we use is a 4×2 matrix switch. This means that 4 HD sources (Sky, Blu-Ray, Apple TV etc.) will be sent out to two TV's in the home.

The end result is your TV can take pride of place in your TV room, and have access to your HD devices without any other electronics on show in that room, keeping the TV room neat and tidy.

And it wont cost the earth, a 4×2 HD matrix switch will cost $399 excluding installation, contact our office for more details.

Considerations when building a new home

Technology can often be an oversight when it comes to buidling a home. A certain amount of responsibility can get shifted between the builder, design team and electrical contractor when it comes to ensuring the home is wired for new technology. The end result is that the house is completed, and now you realise the wireless network is not good, and all of your portable devices and smart TV's are not able to stream sufficiently.

During the build process is the most inexpensive time for running cables to cater for modern technology, even though nearly all devices are now WiFi compatible, there needs to be a certain amount of cabling run within the home, to ensure you are able to support a robust wireless network.

Modern home builds often use foil backed insulation or plasterboard slabbing, metal studs, or concret this foil essentially creates a metal box in the rooms (known as a Faraday cage). This has a severely detrimental effect on WiFi range and quality, so it is recommended to locate multiple wireless access points (WAP's) around the home, these act as wireless boosters and when correctly fitted will give you total wireless coverage throughout the home.

 



I would strongly recommend consulting with a residential technology expert in order to ensure your home is covered for the deployment of a wireless network further down the line. At Smart Installations we offer free generic wiring guidelines for electricians, to give them a full understanding of how to correctly wire a home for this scenario. 


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