Monthly Archives: May 2017

How to tech-out the most important rooms of your home

Incorporating smart technology into your favorite rooms creates aesthetics and luxury in any home.

Style and comfort are crucial to any home’s design; and implementing smart technologies into your design plan can provide a custom solution that gives you full control and accessibility of your favorite spaces. Equipping key rooms in your home with technology can provide endless comfort, while still complementing your individual style.

Keeping your style in mind is key. Seamless built-in panels, hidden television units and in-ceiling speakers are just a few ways you can customize your audio, video and lighting experience, without compromising your rooms’ style.

With the proper technology in your design plan, “you can have full control of the technology in your room, and around your house for that matter, from the convenience of your bed.” For instance, by discreetly enclosing television in a beautiful cabinet that matches your décor and in-wall speakers covered by your custom paint or wallpaper, bulky and aesthetically unpleasant equipment are hidden.

But this trend expands beyond just your bedroom. Imagine catching your favorite show while you’re in the shower, or checking up on your home’s surveillance video while you’re cooking dinner. More and more, homeowners are deciding to add technology in their bathrooms and kitchens – ensuring continuous accessibility at an arm’s length.

Finally, don’t forget your favorite outdoor spaces! Integrated lighting, video and audio technology are just as important in your indoor living spaces as they are the outside. Mood-lighting and discreet surround sound speakers can provide the same level of comfort and style in any livable space.

Call us to discuss your indoor/outdoor wish list!

How to Add Music Outside

Your patio is an extension of your home’s living space, especially this time of year!  It can also be a seasonal seating addition for your seaside restaurant.   At home and at work, we’re taking to the outdoors more and more.  We’re gathering around our fire pits and BBQ Grills, relaxing poolside and enjoying dinner at a favorite outdoor bistro.  Whether you’re engaged in an intense Bocce Ball Tournament, sipping cocktails on your chaise, or just puttering in your garden, there’s one thing that could really add to your enjoyment: music.

Choices in Outdoor Speakers

Outdoor audio comes in all shapes and sizes!  Where do you start? Here are some things to consider:

  • How would you like to use the system?  If you have an automated home control system, such as Crestron, your outdoor entertaining space can be added as an audio zone, allowing you to select any of the available sources (your audio library, streaming subscriptions, AV receiver or CD Player).  This integration also allows for signal interruption when the phone or doorbell rings – a convenience when throwing a party poolside!
  • Where would you like to have the music play?  Your outdoor area may consist of one or multiple zones.  You may find that you enjoy the ability to play music in some areas while broadcasting TV in others.  You may also enjoy having separate volume controls in each of those areas. Even if you elect not to do so right away, it is cost-effective and easier to wire for these future upgrades now.
  • Do you want to play the TV’s audio through the outdoor speakers?  The system can be set up allowing you to select either a music source or audio from your outdoor LCD to play through a selected zone or zones.
  • How do you want to control it?  Your smart phone makes a familiar, convenient control device.  You can also choose from simple remotes or waterproof models, either independent to the system or integrated onto a whole house remote control.

What’s the difference between indoor and outdoor speakers?

Quite a lot! Outdoor speakers are designed to endure the elements and to complement their environment.  They are durable, featuring marine-grade finishes and water-tight enclosures.  Speakers intended for interiors can’t brave Vancouver’s extremes of sun, sand, sea, snow, rain or even wind.  All-weather speakers also offer various installation locations. Speakers can be mounted under the eave or on a trellis, placed as an elegant patio planter, installed in your landscaping disguised as a spotlight or even buried underground as a subterranean subwoofer (James calls theirs an earthshaking experience!).

System Design meets “Interior” Design

Outdoor speakers are sleek and aesthetically designed, but the most important part of designing an outdoor audio system is proper speaker placement.  With no obstructions, sound travels easily from yard to yard.  In fact, a swimming pool or waterway can actually help to amplify it.  Speakers offer varying dispersion patterns that can be aimed and controlled within a specified area for smooth, consistent volume.  If you rely on having a pair mounted under the eave to cover a large area, the volume close to the source may be uncomfortably loud, while those at the edge of the patio can barely hear it.  Or, while you may be listening at a comfortable level at your BBQ Grill, your neighbors may be subject to a rock concert.  This is where a few well-placed landscape speakers would serve well, allowing for background level audio to play evenly throughout your space.

At the core

Control of the system requires connectivity.  You’ll want to make sure your Wi-Fi is reliable and accessible. This may mean setting up a separate network (think about the conveniences of a guest network) or at least ensuring adequate antenna coverage for a strong signal throughout the space.

Years of enjoyment

Your outdoor audio system will provide years of entertainment and enjoyment.  While it will endure everything Mother Nature and the Pacific has to throw at it, you can rest assured knowing that your high quality, professionally installed system will be supported by the manufacturer warranty and your integration specialist.

Additional Resources:

https://www.electronichouse.com/home-theater/planning-your-outdoor-audio-and-video-system/

https://www.newhomesource.com/resourcecenter/articles/bring-it-outdoors-the-latest-in-sound-and-tv-for-your-deck-yard-or-patio

http://www.cepro.com/article/6_tips_for_tackling_outdoor_audio

http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/Speakers/Installation-Speakers/Outdoor-Marine/Outdoor.html

http://www.triadspeakers.com/product-tag/outdoor/

James

Outsmarting Cyber Crimes Against Smart Technologies

Adoption of new technologies is on the rise, and so are cybersecurity threats. Gartner reports that in five years our typical households could contain several hundred smart devices. While it’s important to be cognizant of cybersecurity issues, rest assured that LaScala is staying ahead of the cyber criminals to keep you and your family safe. Let’s explore the potential vulnerabilities of smart devices and measures taken to make them secure.

We’ve all heard about baby monitors being hacked, but according to Fox News contributor and CyberGuy Kurt Knutsson, the leading causes for the hacks might surprise you. The simple, avoidable reasons include: parents simply not changing the default password, the home Wi-Fi network password being easily-guessed and security flaws with the monitoring device itself. Knutsson’s article goes on to share steps that parents can take to deter hackers, but there are dozens of other smart devices and appliances that may not immediately come to mind and are beyond the abilities of the average do-it-yourself homeowner to secure—such as cable boxes, video game consoles and even HVAC systems. Professional-level security measures should be taken to ensure that your network is secure and that the equipment is safe and up to standards.

At LaScala, our clients’ security is critical. In addition to working in partnership with our manufacturers, we collaborate with fellow members across the country as a CEDIA (Consumer Electronics Design & Installation Association) Electronics Systems Contractor to ensure we stay current on threats, as well as trends, in technology. To keep your systems secure from hackers, here are some precautions we recommend.

Networks:

  • Have a certified automation/security pro set-up an encrypted network. Always change the SSID (network name) and use the most up-to-date encryption (WPA2 currently) with a custom, strong password.
  • Safeguard your guest network. Establish parameters such as controlling time-of-day access, MAC (Media Access Control) addresses of specific devices and restricting the number of devices allowed.
  • Regardless of protocol, use only certified equipment.
  • Change all factory-set passwords.
  • While we do not recommend that you share passwords, we do suggest you record them in a secure place. We create a passcode document for our clients, should they forget or lose them.
  • Use temporary passwords for occasional use access by housekeepers, etc.
  • Set up a separate network for your automation system.
  • If you need to allow access to various devices from outside (typically called port forwarding) such as being able to control your security or automation system via an app, never use the same inbound and outbound port.
  • Set up “parent/child” relationships, allowing you to share a specific username and password with access to designated devices (like the music server so your friend can stream on your system) and at the times you specify to prevent people from having access to your system without your knowledge.
  • A VPN (Virtual Private Network), such as Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection, is another solution. This is a “private tunnel” to give you, or anyone you deem, access to your network from anywhere in the world.

Equipment:

  • Never leave the generic username and password on any network device. Devices include routers and access points, as well as camera DVRs (digital video recorders), NAS (network access server) drives and any other piece of gear that resides on the network.
  • Replace any outdated or incompatible components.
  • Buy only reputable brands, which are more likely to have a high level of security and regular updates. The National Security Alliance advises “Do your research: read reviews and learn about consumers’ experiences with the products from a security and privacy perspective.”
  • Keep all devices updated with the most current software, and download any patches to mitigate risk.
  • Turn off listening devices when not in use.

Mobile:

  • Install security software on mobile phones and tablets used to control IoT devices.
  • Restrict application access on your phone. Be aware of privacy settings and sharing capabilities on apps, such as calendars, email, location and photos.
  • We recommend passcode apps to keep passwords secure.

First and foremost, work with a known, trusted networked home/security provider. As a CEDIA Electronics Systems Contractor, LaScala has access to up-to-the-minute industry news and solutions. CEDIA leverages the expertise of global technology leaders and manufacturers to educate its membership on key topics such as cybersecurity and the connected home and have recently worked in collaboration with InfoComm International to present at ISE (Integrated Systems Europe) on the subject.

Be aware, be smart and count on trusted professionals when needed. Please contact us with your questions and concerns – your safety and security is our utmost concern!