Showing posts from February, 2015

Home Theater Speakers for Your Living Room

A great set of surround speakers can greatly enrich and enhance any space. They can be a great addition to your home theater system pumping out high quality audio that will keep you fully entertained. However, there is a lot of things to consider before purchasing a set of speakers for your home. For instance, you could be working within a certain budget, size of room, design to save on space. You could also be in a situation where you need your speakers to be compatible with several devices and all these different factors will have a role to play in determining what kind of speakers you will purchase. Read more:

Lutron Announces New Integration Capabilities for its Caséta Wireless Smart Home Solution

Lutron recently announced that its Caséta wireless smart home system--which supports lighting, shades, and thermostat control--will now work with Nest thermostats and can be controlled through Logitech's Harmony Living Home control systems. Other upcoming partnerships include compatibility with the Apple Watch and the AT&T Digital Life system. Read more:

Can you be an Audiophile... and a Skeptic?

When I was a young man, still innocent to the ways of audio skepticism, I had a routine with my stereo system. It was the '90s and I was proud of my system, whose centerpiece was NAD pre/power separates. Every six months or so I would reexamine wiring, ensure no speaker wire or interconnects were crossing or even too close to any other wire or electric line. I’d use zip ties to keep interconnects away from each other. It was important to me, after all, to ensure the signal paths were short with little chance of interference from outside wiring. I’d take contact cleaner and clean-up any invisible oxidation that might have built up on the connections in my system. As far as I was concerned, I was leaving no stone unturned. My routine also inevitably included minor adjustments to speaker positioning, seating and other miscellaneous room changes. Read more:

How to optimize your new TV

You're blown away by the image quality of the new televisions at your favorite electronics retailer, but when you take one home, it somehow doesn't look (or sound) as good as the in-store experience. Don't fret. It's not you or your new TV. Your new flat-panel (or, perhaps, curved) television just needs a bit of tweaking to get the most out of it. These tips and tricks should help: Beginner tips: Make sure your main TV source — cable or satellite box — is the best your provider has to offer. If it's a couple of years old, make sure it's at least an HD receiver. Read more:

Sony to spin off video and audio units

Sony has struggled in recent years as it fell behind in fast-growing areas such as smartphones and flat-screen TVs. Sales of blu-ray DVDs have also declined with the growth of online movie streaming services, such as Netflix. Splitting out divisions would help to make the company more nimble, making each operation more accountable for results, Mr Hirai said. Sony spun off its TV unit last year and exited the personal computer business. Read more:

VIDEOS: Dolby’s Conference Phone delivers 'in-person' audio quality

If you’ve ever been on a conference call, struggling to hear what’s being said by whom, Dolby’s Conference Phone (and BT MeetMe) is the answer. Conference calls are a fact of business life, connecting co-workers, customers, prospects and more in calls that are meant to bring people together, but can often be a challenge in aural comprehension. BT is British Telecom, a global telco that offers business-class services to its customers worldwide, and offers its BT MeetMe with Dolby Voice as an app on iOS and Android, used with a subscription to BT’s conference call service. But if you want the people in the conference room to be talking on a device not only with built-in Dolby audio quality, there’s a new device to help you do just that: Dolby’s own Conference Phone, with both MeetMe and the Conference Phone also now integrating with Cisco WebEx and Microsoft Lync. Read more:

Conference Room Productivity and Info Security

Wireless display technology is no longer a niche technology for early adopters. In the consumer space several solutions are commonly available, such as AirPlay, Miracast, WiDi, and Chromecast. Interoperability and cross-platform support is fairly limited, but these solutions are getting consumers used to the idea of wireless display technology. When we step into the workplace, the need for a wireless display solution is evident. Presenting in meetings is a daily sometimes hourly occurrence. With laptops getting thinner and lighter, the VGA connector has been jettisoned by PC makers. Unfortunately, the lack of a standardized replacement has left us with wide range of connectors: mini-VGA, HDMI, mini-HDMI, DisplayPort, mini-DisplayPort, and others. The first few minutes of many meetings is dedicated to just trying to connect to the projector as people look for the right dongle. It’s madness. Read more:

How homeowners can have high-class design and high-end technology

Theater-quality sound comes from seemingly nowhere, lights and temperatures change as you move about the home, and, at the push of a button, a piece of framed art or a mirror turns into a high-definition TV. It might sound like hocus-pocus, sci-fi or downright mumbo-jumbo, but it’s reality. “Anywhere we can integrate technology in a discreet fashion, we’re doing it,” said Doug Dushan, senior sales consultant at Echo Systems, a local company that installs home theaters. “The industry has found a lot of solutions for balancing the desire for technology and aesthetic.” The movement to hide technology, which Dushan said has ballooned in popularity the past five years, comes from split households. One party wants high-end technology, while the other wants high-class design. Typically, one has to be sacrificed a little to make room for the other. Read more:

Three ways to control your lights at home or away

Home automation seems to be one of those tech industry snowballs that’s starting to roll downhill. The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show was packed with new ways to control your home environment. I’ve been testing the Wink Hub, which brings together the control of products from many manufacturers. Today I’m reviewing three items that all talk to the Wink Hub and are controlled with the Wink app for your smartphone or tablet. Now is as good a time as any to make sure you’ve heard of the term “the Internet of things,” which is a way of describing items such as light bulbs or thermostats that connect to the Internet to add functionality. Read more:

Home automation market to record an impressive growth rate during the forecast 2020

Home Automation is automating home activities by using intelligent terminals to control home appliances and equipment. Home automation includes but not limited to centralized control of lighting, security checks/locks for home access, HVAC control and others. An automated home provides numerous benefits to end-user such as reduced energy spending, security from theft and protection from unauthorized access to a home. The solutions are gaining popularity among enterprises in order to protect their commercial assets such as buildings, hardware infrastructures and others. The research elaborates the competitive strategies for businesses with detailed market dynamics. The market is driven by increasing demand of energy efficient solutions and rising security concerns. The market faces limitations due to high cost of automated homes. Read more:

With burglaries on the rise more people are installing home security systems

Typically, a modern alarm system with high-quality wireless equipment can be installed for about $700, but the real key is who is on the other end of the alarm. "All our employees go through thorough background checks, so if we wouldn't have them in our home and feel comfortable we certainly aren't going to send them to our clients' homes," said Kirk Booher a home security professional. "When considering a home alarm system the monitoring is the most important part,” said Angie Hicks of Angie’s List. “You can install an alarm that is just going to make sound in your house if somebody trips it, but the real value of an alarm system is it being tied to the police, and the fire, in case of an emergency." Read more:

Create Your Own Free Home Surveillance System

Used cellphones and tablets often sell for pennies on the dollar, but what some people may not know is that their old devices can be used as home surveillance cameras. Jeff Zisner of AEGIS Security and Investigations said old cellphones and tablets with cameras can be re-purposed to develop a free security system. "You set the camera up using Wi-Fi so you don't need to have a cellphone activated on an account, you don't need a monthly fee," he said. Read more:

Video in the smart home: The problem or the solution?

Don’t you wish your home was truly efficient and ‘smart’? The current vision of the smart home is a collection of networked devices, operating essentially independently with a different app for each one, and with no sense of who the occupants are, their behaviours, habits or authority, and what needs to be done to accommodate them. Your house operates much the same as everyone else’s. It’s only you and your family that make the house into a home. In our everyday lives we operate with communication of natural and controlling movements and gestures. These behaviours are subtle, accurate and predictable, and we derive actions from them. Without this philosophy at the heart of smart homes, we will remain stuck with shouting at a few clever devices that might connect with each other but not us. The solution isn’t trivial – it’s radical and it’s arriving. Read more:

EnGenius launches new outdoor networking and video surveillance systems

EnGenius Technologies took the wraps off several new outdoor networking products on Monday, including two long-range 802.11ac access points and two inexpensive, high-definition Wi-Fi surveillance systems. The latter bundle a night-vision camera with a wireless access point that delivers exceptionally long range: up to five miles (in a point-to-point configuration using a matching AP and with clear line of sight). The EnGenius EDS5110 one-megapixel day/night bullet IP surveillance camera delivers 720p resolution and up to two simultaneous video streams to reduce the number of camera installations required. It can record video using three different codecs: H.264, MPEG-4, or Motion JPEG. The camera is outfitted with infrared LEDs that enable it to capture images up to 32 feet away in complete darkness. Read more:

House Hacking: Is your smart home technology safe?

A nanny in Houston claims a man hacked into the baby monitor of a child in her care. With more people upgrading their homes with smart electronics, experts warn there's the possibility people could have access to you. Smart homes. The name sounds futuristic, but it's technology of the present. Whether built in as part of the home security system or bought at any electronics store the new wave of automation is boosting simple track homes into high-tech abodes. "When you have that moment, ‘oh did I set my alarm, are my doors locked,’ you realize you can just get on your phone hit a button that sets your alarm and also locks your doors," says Jason Carrier, who owns a home in Austin Read More:

Your "smart" home devices can easily be hacked

With the arrival of the so-called Internet of things -- where household items such as thermostats and washing machines and webcams are connected to the global network -- security problems may also be on the rise. A study from security research company Synack found that commonly connected products opened up a host of safety issues. One of the firm's analysts noted it took him only 20 minutes to break into a range of devices, according to GigaOm. The study comes amid heightened concern about hackers and the vulnerability of everything from credit cards to automobiles. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) issued a report this month warning about the dangers of hacking attacks against vehicles. In the Synack study, the only device that didn't have a major security flaw was a Kidde smoke detector, which wasn't actually connected to the Internet. "Right now the 'Internet of things' is like computer security was in the nineties, when everything was new and no one had any

How to Make a Smart Home From a Dumb One

It's summer, 85 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and you're about to leave home. As you leave your bedroom, the lights dim slowly and eventually turn off. You walk down the hall, step out the door, and lock it. Inside, you can hear the air condition sputter to a stop. As you saunter down the street, you wonder if you left the coffee pot on, but don't think twice about it, as the appliance is running an automated check right now to ensure it's off. Later that night, around 11:15, your mattress cover will cool down your side of the bed so it's just the way you like it by 11:30, when you hit the hay. This kind of smart home system is already possible. All kinds of small appliances, light bulbs, door sensors, and other home products can automatically turn on and off when triggered by certain actions. Smart homes make life more comfortable, and they're typically designed to be power-efficient, which could save you money. Get Organized If you're interested in takin

Curb energy loss with smart home renovation investments

While homeowners may not immediately think of their attic as a major source of energy loss, the reality is that as much as 25 percent of the energy lost in the average American home occurs there. When the weather cools, you may be inclined to increase the thermostat to maintain a warm and comfortable home. However, air leakage, caused by numerous gaps and cracks throughout your home’s infrastructure, particularly the attic, can cause equipment to work overtime and place a strain on your wallet every month. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency reports that the attic is one of the easiest places within the home to address energy loss. Homeowners can make several smart home renovation investments to reduce excessive energy loss through the attic. Read more:

A Lightbulb-Shaped Projector Could Power The Smart Home Of The Future

Beam, a lightbulb-shaped gadget, promises projects your smartphone screen onto any surface you want. Launched on Kickstarter this month, the $350 projector screws into any lightbulb socket, so you can set it up anywhere you’d normally stick a lamp, allowing you to play videos on your wall, view digital photo albums on your kitchen table, or, in general, make your smartphone screen a (literally) bigger presence in your house. As a self-contained device, it seems destined for mediocrity, largely thanks to its dim 100 lumens lamp that makes a 40-watt lightbulb seem like the sun. But one design detail—the fact that it slots into a light socket—hints at a promising way of turning dumb homes smart. Light bulbs have long been an easy smart home upgrade, since it's cheap and easy to slap a sensor and a Wi-Fi chip on them, and there's little extra installation work. But now with the more futuristic smart home concepts moving to turn any number of surfaces around the house into compu

A Smart Home Is More Than Just Lights And Heating

There is a need for a smart home that can adapt itself in order to make the ocupant’s life more comfortable. Control lights with a gesture, turn on the TV if you sit on the sofa, turn off the alarm as you wake or stand up. There is an even greater need for a smart home that can detect a dangerous situation. A home that can let one know if an accident has or is about to happen. Imagine sleepwalking children, or elderly parents living alone at home. It is time to make their lives safer, with fewer worries. Read more:

Doorbells Become the Eyes and Ears of the Smart Home

When someone is at your door, you don’t know who they are until you check the peephole, or a pricey security system. If you’re not at home, you may never know. But what if your doorbell could talk? Two gadgets have turned the humble doorbell, little changed since the Victorian era, into a digital doorman. Press the Ring or Skybell doorbells, and they’ll still set off a chime in the house, but then also alert your phone with a live video feed of who is at your door. When someone prowls around the door without pressing the bell, they’ll show you video of that, too. No rewiring is required, since most existing doorbells already have power. Think of these $200 doorbells as home-monitoring systems and two-way intercoms for the smartphone era. After testing them both, they’re among the few smart-home gadgets I would actually buy and use. Read more:

Take These 4 Steps Before Making Your House a Smart Home

Companies selling smart home products are quick to say how easy it is to connect their devices to the Internet. And while most of the time they’re correct, they are sidestepping a big, thorny pitfall: namely, your home’s wireless network. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been working on turning my house into smart home, and have learned that nothing is more important — and infuriating — than my house’s Wi-Fi. Here are four lessons I’ve learned so far: Read more:

Thinking about the Smart Home and Smart Cities

We have shown many ideas for The House of the Future in the past on TreeHugger, and it's back with a vengeance as engineers try to put the internet into everything and build the Smart Home. Last year, when everyone was crazed about Nest and the smart thermostat, I wrote In praise of the Dumb Home, and have been thinking about this ever since. I have been doing a series on MNN, looking at smart technologies; some are silly, some are counterproductive, some are invasive and some are going to make a real difference in the way we live. Here is a roundup for TreeHugger readers: Read more:

What will happen to the smart home hub?

Last week’s acquisition of UK-based smart home platform provider AlertMe capped off a smart-home acquisition spree that includes Nest picking up Revolv in October and Samsung taking out SmartThings in August. If the last six months have shown the market anything, it’s that a number of leading consumer IT giants, including Google, Samsung, and Apple, plus a utility here and there, feel they need a connected-home platform to stay competitive. The reasons for this are complex. For hardware providers like Apple, which should launch HomeKit this spring, the reasons relate to needing to keep users’ interaction with the home within the iOS ecosystem in order to maintain competitiveness in mobile. For utilities like British Gas, which picked up AlertMe, there’s an opportunity to engage customers in ways never possible before, which could be important in deregulated and competitive utility markets. And for a hardware design leader like Nest, there’s value in having some of the best home-netwo

How to Easily Switch to Smart Home Lighting

The smart home is more an evolution than a revolution. Homeowners will mostly integrate Internet-connected devices gradually, rather than all at once. And when it comes to turning on smart lighting, from switches to plugs to bulbs, there are many ways to leave the dark ages and step into an era of intelligent solutions. Over the past six months, I have used two devices from Belkin’s WeMo line: The in-wall WeMo Light Switch and the plug-connected WeMo Insight Switch. A pair of bright products, these two net-connected power-controlling devices have worked well, for the most part — once I got them installed. Read more:

Home theaters are the new must-have for house buyers

If your invitation to Sunday night's Academy Awards presentation at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre has mysteriously gone missing, you might not mind terribly much watching on a state-of-the-art projection and sound system at your very own exclusive party. For the sellers of the homes featured on these pages, these in-house theaters have been the setting for cozy confabs with family and friends. As he has done year after year, Christian Lavoie says he plans to watch the Oscars with his family in the theater at the Shoreham home he is selling because the show has "so many cameras, so many microphones, you feel like you're right in the hall listening to the applause, listening to the music, the dancing and whatever production they put on. It's the best live program all year." Read more:

Worried about spying smart TVs? Try a home theater PC

Reports that new Samsung TVs can capture personal information with their voice recognition feature has sparked concern about what critics perceive as digital spying by so-called smart devices. Nor is Samsung the only smart TV manufacturer collecting this type of data. In Samsung’s case, at least, users have the option to disable the collection. That's not always the case. In November 2013, the owner of a smart TV made by LG Electronics discovered that the device was collecting information about his viewing habits, even when the “collection of watching info” feature was turned off. Worse, the TV also sent back to LG’s servers the names of files stored on external media devices and even network shares. After his report was picked up by the media, the company issued a firmware update to stop the data transfer if the collection feature was turned off. However, a few months later, it issued a new update that asked customers to accept a revamped privacy policy that gave the company

Locking up a home security system

Your home has been burglarized -- or you fear that it could be. You want to make sure that your children have made it home safely from school. You live on an acreage and want to ensure that people entering your property are people you want to be there. You want to know that your elderly mother who is living alone can feel safe and can get medical help if needed These are just a few of the reasons people install home security systems. "The biggest reason people want to install a security system is that they have experienced a break-in, or they are trying to take preventive measures to make sure it doesn't happen," said Paul Harris, who is in sales and service in the Lincoln office of AlarmLink USA. Read more:

Why Is My Smart Home So F**king Dumb?

A few weeks ago, a couple friends and I were about to watch a surprisingly bad sci-fi movie in my crowded apartment. One of them asked if we could dim the lights, and started to head to the switch. “No, no, I’ve got it,” I said, reaching into my pocket. “He’s reaching for his phone!” said the friend. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. Time to show off my smart home. I’d spent the last six months making my home more intelligent with Wink components. That meant six months of programming lightbulbs and installing sensors and adjusting shades and updating hubs. All my effort to connect my appliances added up to this one very public test. My friends didn’t need to walk 3m to the light switch, when I could manage everything with a couple of taps. My friends would be so impressed. I’d talked up my pet project plenty, and now they could watch the future unfold before their very eyes. I unlocked my phone. I found the right home screen. I opened the Wink app. I navigated to the Lights

Smart home: Connected household appliances and systems on the rise, sometimes working together

Wouldn't it be amazing to check the weather on your refrigerator door before you pull out milk for your cereal? That's now possible with the touchscreen of Samsung's Wi-Fi-enabled refrigerator. It would also be awesome to have a thermostat that cranks up the heat based on your GPS location so your energy-efficient home is nice and toasty when you walk in. EverSense is a touchscreen thermostat that can also give you the weather, play music and connect to your smartphone for remote control while you're at home. There also are now home automation apps to manage lighting, window shades, slow cookers, humidifiers alarm systems and even locks on the front door. But when your sump pump can call or send a text to help prevent a basement flood during a power outage, you know your house is really smart. Read more:

Samsung Warns: Don't Have Private Conversations in Front of Smart TV

Companies producing smart TVs often notify the user that the viewing data gleaned from their usage will be shared with advertisers. Although Samsung provides an option to disable voice recognition, allowing the user to utilize predefined “voice commands” and insisting that the user’s words will not be transmitted, the usage data will still be transmitted for data mining purposes. The policy states: “If you do not enable Voice Recognition, you will not be able to use interactive voice recognition features, although you may be able to control your TV using certain predefined voice commands. While Samsung will not collect your spoken word, Samsung may still collect associated texts and other usage data so that we can evaluate the performance of the feature and improve it.” Read more:

Worried about smart TVs listening in? Welcome to the smart home

The smart home is all about sensors – cameras, temperature sensors, motion sensors, humidity sensors, and of course microphones. They will probably come from a variety of manufacturers, because the cost of making a device connected is quite low, but ENISA reckons that the smart TV will become the coordinating hub. This is debatable — there’s also the smartphone as a potential hub — but nonetheless plausible. As the agency said, the screen size allows for the display of a lot of information, there’s a good amount of space for processing power, memory and storage, and TVs are pretty good at integrating with other devices such as consoles and external storage. TVs are already used as hub interfaces in hotel rooms, ENISA noted. Also, TV manufacturers are really keen on their products becoming home gateways of this kind. Read more:

2015's home automation and eco tech

2015 is bringing science-fiction in our homes. From your garage to your kitchen, there are some pretty clever home automation products on the market that make things more convenient and improve their functionality. There is a so called Nest Thermostat that is learning permanently your routine, knows when you’re home so the house is always at the right temperature for you, and there is also an application for your phone from where you can set the temperature from anywhere, so is pretty clever and economic, too. Read more:

At Home Living: Home security, automation systems offer peace of mind

Forgot to lock a door before going on vacation? No need to call the neighbors: there’s an app for that. In just a few years, home security systems have gone from complicated keypads that might lock the doors to comprehensive systems that monitor all types of functions. A number of local and national companies in the Topeka area offer home security services, equipment and smartphone apps. As Kansas Audio Video’s Aaron Koker notes, it’s not just about home security anymore but home automation. “The sky’s the limit as to what can be monitored,” Koker said. “It’s more than just a burglar system.” Koker says you can put sensors on the liquor cabinet to see if the teenagers are sneaking the scotch. According to Koker, almost any door can be monitored. Read more:

D&H Sees Automation, Connected Office Opportunity For VARs, Launches New Portfolio

Ever wondered how home automation and connected devices apply to the channel? D&H believes there is a massive opportunity for VARs to develop connected offices for their clients, and has launched a new portfolio to help its partners take advantage of it. The new portfolio, launched Wednesday, includes enhancements around Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled smart-home-automation devices. Some of the vendors added include Belkin WeMo automation, Oplink Automation Systems, Kwikset "SmartKey" locks, Quirky connected electronics products, Ascend/Quirky garage door controllers and AwoX Wi-Fi lighting. "The pervasiveness of this category at this year's CES event is proof that smart technologies are sharply on the rise, adding to the ubiquity of the Internet of Things, allowing users to maintain control over their business locations, homes and devices from across the office or across the world," Rob Eby, vice president of purchasing at D&H, said in a statement. Re

Google Invents the Smart Door Opener for the Garage & Beyond

This week the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Google that reveals one of the first Home Automation devices that they had their eye prior to acquiring Nest, the maker of the smart thermostat. Is this invention now under the direction of Nest? Only time will tell. Right out of the gate, Google notes the problem that they want to solve: Most garage doors are not capable of being opened or closed from far away. Google's invention covers methods and devices for remote monitoring and controlling a door, such as a garage door and beyond. An implementation of the invention may obtain a state of the door from a position sensor located within a removable device, which may be attached to the door. The state of the door may include whether the door is open or closed. An implementation may indicate, over a wireless network, the state of the door to a user. The user may send a command to a wireless transmitter located within the device to change the sta

Home Automation Comes of Age

Home automation has made great strides in recent years, with wireless technologies enabling users to monitor and control more functions remotely. Yet many builders are including only the most basic elements of automation as standard features in the houses they build, leery that fast-changing technologies can’t yet seamlessly automate all of a given home’s devices and systems at a mass-market price. “Offering 10 different solutions in one house would be costly,” said Dan Bridleman, a senior vice president at builder KB Home , which started offering limited automation in its homes in 2013. “Ultimately, you need one low-cost solution that integrates all of it.” Many builders acknowledge that buyers expect new homes to include modern features, and that full-home automation eventually will be included in that expectation. A survey last year of 4,556 U.S. Internet users by technology research firm Forrester Research Inc. found that 18% were using at least one automation feature in their

Control4 Broadens Product Portfolio with Acquisition of Leaf

Control4 has announced the acquisition of Nexus Technologies Pty., Ltd. (Leaf), an Australia-based provider of audio/video distribution products. Control4 had previously sold select Leaf products to its North American dealer network. Through this acquisition, Control4 is now in a better position to offer a broader array of Leaf products to Control4 distribution partners throughout the world, gain market share in the growing A/V category, and leverage Leaf’s valuable engineering expertise to develop new and innovative AV entertainment solutions. According to Control4, the acquisition of Leaf demonstrates Control4’s continued commitment to provide its end-customers and authorised independent dealers with the best products and the most choice for smart-home owners desiring comprehensive, multi-room audio and video entertainment. With the Leaf product line, AV content from any source can be enjoyed on any TV within the home, rather than needing separate dedicated sources for each te