Amazon Alexa. A Virtual Assistant and…Caretaker?

Alexa, open the shades.  Alexa, play music.  Alexa, ask fitbit what my resting heart rate is. Ahhhhh.

How smart is your smarthome? Can it order a pizza? If Alexa were your virtual assistant it could!  Now THAT’s a SMARTHOME!  Alexa lives in the cloud and is automatically updated.  She comes with Echo, a far-field enabled device that activates upon hearing a “wake word”.  Echo also happens to be a 360° omni-directional speaker.  Ok, it’s not whole-house audiophile quality, but it’s a pretty cool way to stream your favorites through a portable device.

So why do we, a systems integrator, love it?  We love simplified solutions and Alexa makes control of your home’s systems even easier. She’s compatible with your Crestron home automation system, with Lutron Shades and more. And while all that is convenient, there’s a key life-safety feature not to be ignored.  Imagine the peace of mind of having Alexa for those “aging in place” with limited mobility.  Voice-activated technology can restore freedom and grant a measure of security.

Alexa, close the shades.  Alexa, what’s my heart rate now?

Size, sound & set-up matter when choosing the right TV!

4K, HDR, 3D…There are a lot of choices out there that offer stunning imagery, so how do you know which is the “best” and which one is right for you?  There’s more to it than pixels alone!

8,294,400, to be exact.

We’ve heard that 4K is the ultimate in pixel count, but what does that mean to the viewer?  More pixels filling the screen means more details, which means a sharper, crisper picture.  Imagine 4 times the resolution of full 1080p – over 8 million pixels! That’s a lot of detail!

Ok, but we learned when HD was introduced that the capabilities of the unit didn’t matter if the content wasn’t HD, right?  Correct, so let’s fast-forward to 2016’s Super Bowl 50, broadcast in, wait for it…you guessed it, 4K! Now, let’s jet to a rooftop in NYC where Marvel’s Iron Fist is being filmed, one of the first Netflix shows to debut in 4K HDR (High Dynamic Range).  HDR has taken us beyond Ultra High Definition (UHD) and 4K alone.  HDR  factors color, contrast, brightness and resolution to produce an uncompromising high dynamic range performance. It seems as though the tides have turned and content is now setting the pace. While not exactly the new “norm” just yet, 4K content is out there, even through some streaming services and, most definitely, gaming.  For a terrific breakdown, check out 4K TV: Everything you Need to Know.

So, what do you need to consider when selecting one of these amazing pieces of technology?  First is size.  In order to fully realize the exceptional difference, the viewing canvas needs to be worthy of the content.  Those pixels are meant to be seen so, Go Big!  Seriously, we’re talking 65”, 70”, 85”.  At that size, the difference between HD & 4K is stunning!  And while we’re still working through black levels and lost details in bright areas, audio is often overlooked.  An upgraded sound system can help integrate your various home theater components while maximizing your overall experience.

Not Your Father’s Rabbit Ears

These sleek, ultrathin displays are not plug-n-play. They are precision instruments that require meticulous calibrating to ensure the perfect picture – and if you’ve got 4K, watch 4K.  Along with proper installation and connectivity, integration of these fine-tuned machines is a bit tricky too.  This is where your integration experts are essential. They can guide you through the maze of compatibility and the “does this pass 4K?” query.  They’ve got the tools, training and certifications to not only help you select the right model, but get it programmed to work harmoniously with all of your AV components while displaying professionally calibrated picture and sound quality that make it a truly “dynamic” experience!

For more information, check out these articles:

Got a new 4K UHD TV? Here’s where to go to start watching the best 4K content right now

The 10 best 4K TVs of 2016

4K TV and UHD: Everything you need to know about Ultra HD

Today’s wireless world – build a better network

Network infrastructure is the backbone of all of your operating and communication systems, enabling connectivity and management across your enterprise, whether residential or commercial, wired or wireless, or a hybrid.  It’s hardware and software and services.  As its name implies, infrastructure is the platform that sustains a structure.  Now, imagine a major interchange with on ramps and exit ramps, detours and warning signs, roads shooting off to far destinations.  Every ounce of concrete and steel beam is carefully designed to carry the load.  Ok, so that’s a bit exaggerated, but the point is that each connection point, each pathway, is essential to the seamless operation of your network.

A wireless local-area network (WLAN) uses radio waves rather than ethernet cables to connect devices to the internet and network.  When first introduced, wireless connectivity lacked in speed and, most felt, in security.  Today’s wireless networks, however, are robust and feature security protections.  They are cost-effective in that they save installation and cabling costs.  They are also expandable, easy to set up, and offer increased mobility and collaboration as the systems allow for workers to connect from anywhere with ease.  The next level of Wi-Fi connectivity is a wireless mesh network, an emerging technology that utilizes a mesh of nodes (small radio transmitters) that talk to each other, creating a network blanket across a large area.

But that’s a bridge that spans across our “interchange”.

A Hybrid Network, on the other hand, can mean one of two things. Yes, it can refer to a wired/wireless combination as it contains two or more communications “standards” in one design, but it can also mean a network design that is comprised of two or more lines of product.  Both definitions offer plusses and minuses.

No matter the type, networks are designed and engineered structures providing a freeway of bandwidth and throughput for critical data.  We don’t require concrete and steel to meet the performance needs of today’s, and tomorrow’s, connected homes and collaborative offices, but some engineering and ingenuity is a must.  Give us a call. We’ll answer your AV/IT/IP questions and make sure your system is built on a solid foundation!

CEDIA Awards 2015

Thank you to all of our team members and partners who put us in a position to win a total of 5 awards at the 2015 CEDIA exposition, including the coveted Future Home Experience Award. This is a record win for any integrator in CEDIA’s 27 year history!

CEDIA 2015 Awards

CEDIA 2015 Awards

Future Home Experience Award

Future Home Experience Award

Best Integrated Home - Level 4

Best Integrated Home – Level 4

Best Media Room

Best Media Room

Best Documentation

Best Documentation

Best Integrated Home - Level 2

Best Integrated Home – Level 2


Join us for a Garden Tour – June 21st & 22nd

Summer is nearly upon us and so it is time once again to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Many of you have invested heavily in your gardens, whether it was with blood, sweat and tears pruning the flora or perhaps you took a more laid back approach and had someone else do the dirty work. This weekend, La Scala wants to further inspire your love for getting outdoors and give you an opportunity to see what others have managed to achieve in their own gardens and what better way to do this than to walk 16 privately owned gardens as part of the Heritage Vancouver Society Garden Tour.

The Garden Tour, now in its 3rd year, has an eclectic selection of gardens, ranging from grand park-like estates to tiny townhouse gardens showing creative use of small space. There is a garden for all tastes on show including a hidden English cottage garden with Kai pond, a stunning contemporary house and garden, a garden created with salvaged materials and gardens that include fruit and vegetable patches…which one will be your favourite? The event runs from June 21 to June 22.

La Scala will be present at The Garden Tour in 2 of the 16 locations with the goal of showing you what is possible from a modern outdoor audio system. Each of the “La Scala” gardens will be discreetly equipped with a Sonance Landscape System, a system capable of producing jaw dropping audio quality without upsetting the aesthetic or balance of your outdoor space. Traditional outdoor audio setups rely on a pair of weather proof speakers installed on the back wall of your house or “rock” speakers attempting to hide in your planter beds. The problem with these systems is that they look awful on the wall and they tend to produce poor sound – too loud for those near the speakers and not loud enough for anyone further away. They also allow your neighbours enjoy (or not at all enjoy) your music selection.

Sonance Landscape System utilizes multiple discrete speakers and a below-ground subwoofer to produce amazing results, that are perfectly even and balanced no matter what part of your garden you are enjoying your cocktail in. The system also focuses the sound away from neighbouring properties, helping you maintain better relations with those next door. SLS is an infinitely expandable and customize-able system, allowing La Scala to do an outdoor audio design that is perfect for your home and we think there is no place better for you to hear the system before making your purchase.

Let La Scala come to your home and setup a Sonance Landscape Series Demonstration in your very own garden free of charge and with no obligation. Setup takes just minutes and we know you will be amazed at how good your own garden can sound.

For tickets to the event or to book your own private demonstration please contact:

Ian Burrows