NEWS / BLOG

How To Keep Your Home Safe While You’re Away for the Holidays

Crestron Lighting and shades enhance home safety and security in Vancouver

We all know there’s no place like home for the holidays, but the reality is a lot of us have to travel. While leaving your home behind can be a stressful part of the season, we’re here to help incorporate smart technology into your home to keep it and your belongings safe while you’re away.

How “secure” is your security system?

The best defense against intruders and other dangers is a security system. Whether you’ve already installed a system or you’re still looking for the right fit, we can help you figure out the best security system to help defend your home. There are endless options to amp up your security – from digital doorbells and locks, to round-the-clock monitoring. Whether you want all the bells and whistles or just the bare essentials, the right tech can help you make sure your belongings are safe!

Lighting is as crucial as an alarm

This doesn’t mean leave all your lights on while you’re gone, though! Using lighting and shade control to your advantage by setting “scenes” based off the time of day make it look like you’re home, which is an excellent deterrent for unwanted visitors. By incorporating dynamic lighting and shade settings, it will look like you never left home. What’s more, proper lighting and shade control can help you save on energy costs at home or away!

Stay safe! Make sure you’re connected 24/7

All of this smart tech can’t be used to the best of its ability if you’re not able to monitor your home from your mobile device, so make sure you have the best apps to keep you connected to your home! By having the right connectivity, you’ll be able to check if the thermostat is properly set, the doors are locked, your kitchen appliances are off, and chat with whoever just rang the doorbell. Staying connected to your home will give you peace of mind while you’re away for the holidays.

Ask an integrator

Consult a professional integrator when considering new safety or smart home tech to make sure you’re getting the best tech to suit your needs and that your features are compatible! Whether you already have the basics or you’re just starting to look, our knowledgeable team of experts at La Scala can help you.

Why You Need a Smart Kitchen for the Holidays

Smart Kitchen

Whenever you think about the holidays, you probably think about presents or twinkle lights. Maybe you think about friends and family around the table, enjoying a meal and each other’s company – or maybe you just can’t wait for pie! The reality, though, is that you’re probably spending a lot more time in the kitchen. Thankfully, there’s new tech available to help you make sure you don’t miss out on any of the festivities.

Make it personal

Your kitchen is one of the most personal, necessary rooms in your entire home and it’s worth taking the extra time to personalize it with the right functionality to fit your lifestyle. Entertainment features like built-in audio or video screens, smart appliances and voice-controlled smart home automation like Josh.ai give you the opportunity to personalize your kitchen to suit your needs for not only everyday living, but for special entertaining, too.

 Your kitchen can be your new sous-chef

There are countless options currently available for smart appliances like refrigerators, ovens and “hubs” like Josh.ai, Google Home, or Amazon’s Echo. And while these might seem a little frivolous at first, it’s worth taking time to consider the added convenience of having them in your home. Having an app connected to your oven means you don’t have to miss the football game or your favorite holiday movie, and that smart refrigerator can text you a picture of your refrigerator’s contents and save you from a second trip to the store. Connect these smart appliances with a hub like Josh, and you’ve got an extra set of hands in the kitchen even when you’re not at home!

 Smart appliance means safety

With hectic schedules, guests on their way and a lot on your plate, you wouldn’t be the first to forget to turn off the stove, turn off the lights or feel like you need to be in two places at once. By incorporating the right smart technologies, you can maximize safety AND convenience in your kitchen. Your stove and oven can now warn you that they’ve been left on – instead of hearing the news from your smoke detector (or worse). You can also increase your energy efficiencies with smart appliances, which helps the planet and your wallet.

If a smart kitchen sounds like the right solution for your family this holiday season, let us help! We’re here to guide you through the best smart technologies for you and your home.

Additional reading: Preparing Your Home for the Holidays

Restoring Peace of Mind

home security camera system

It seems we can’t turn on the television without witnessing an active shooter event, another major corporate hack or devasting natural disaster. We scan the audience at crowded concert halls and nervously put our children on the school bus. What measures can we take to make our families and community safe?

Personal awareness is your first line of defense. Pay attention to your surroundings, conscious of your vulnerabilities and take steps to ensure the personal safety of your family, employees, clients and community. A great, proactive first step is to install a surveillance camera system. Visible cameras are not only an excellent deterrent for would-be criminals but can also provide critical evidence should a crime be committed. A monitored system is invaluable, especially when tied in to a comprehensive life-safety and security system that includes smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, glass-break and motion detectors and panic button call capabilities to first responders.

Criminal’s Worst Enemy

Automated Lighting and motorized shades are an invaluable and effective deterrent. Both interior and exterior landscape lighting can be programmed to imitate home occupancy, whether you’re shopping at Pacific Centre or traveling abroad. Tied in to your camera system, lights can be triggered when motion is sensed with alerts and even video sent to your smart phone. And, regardless of whether it’s your home, house of worship or grocery store, light is crimes’ worst enemy.

Network Health

Physical safety is not our only concern. We’re seeing more and more data breeches among major retailers and, with the holidays fast approaching and many of us shopping online, we need to be diligent to protect ourselves from cyber crimes as well. Again, be smart, be cautious and take steps to ensure the security of your networks, both at home and in your business. If your infrastructure is outdated, don’t put off that upgrade until the new year.

Be Proactive and Prepared

Finally, have a plan. What will you do in the event of a robbery or natural disaster? Does everyone know how to alert authorities, access fire extinguishers, engage smart door locks, etc.? Take the time to check your community’s resources and formulate a plan. If you are interested in having a complimentary assessment of your security or infrastructure systems, please contact us and we’ll get it scheduled.

Please share links to any resources you’ve found to be valuable from your school, our local law enforcement and fire departments, etc. Together, we can make our community a safer place.

Additional Reading from our blog: Tips to keep Your Home Safe for the Holidays

So You Want to Live in a Smart MDU

La Scala MDU Smart Home

As the trend toward multi-dwelling units, MDU, continues to grow along with booming city populations, the desire for more exclusive, luxurious and high-tech living also increases. Whether you’re designing, building or buying, this level of modern luxury is customizable and affordable.

Smart systems designed with the user in mind

The best way to plan for a smart MDU is in the blueprints. Strategically place your outlets, structure all the wiring and optimize connectivity for the best internet connection possible so that your residents will always have the convenience and automation they desire, without sacrificing their design style. Thoughtful placement allows for minimal interior design disruptions. Wiring before the walls go up and considering features like built-in speakers, storage for entertainment features or a whole-home control center at the front door, ensures that design and convenience stay a crucial design element, without having to worry about unsightly wires or bulky equipment getting in the way.

Custom, personal and intuitive

When you look for a new home – whether it’s an apartment, condo, or multi-family residence – you want it to feel like home. There’s no better way to accomplish that than by making sure your MDU comes with a smart home system that can be personalized to suit your lifestyle. Custom climate control, security features and entertainment systems with personalized moods can transform your space with just the sound of your voice, while still keeping you super-connected.

 Convenience, connectivity and energy efficiency are at the top of any buyer’s must-have list, but incorporating smart home technologies like climate control, automated shade and lighting controls means you can also improve your energy efficiencies whether you’re at home or away – and that’s just as important for the resident as it is the owner of the building.

 Safety is key

Now, residents can know what’s happening in their homes, while it’s happening, because some systems can even alert residents and building staff about potential fire and water damage before they become a big problem. Smart home automation also offers endless options that increase safety – from cameras at the entry points, to smart locks, to timed settings for your shades and lights – that protect the building and its residents inside. Connectivity to the concierge desk and any entry points so that you’re only a touch away from communicating with staff and visitors, as well as round-the-clock monitoring ensure your safety and comfort. All of these features are even more attractive when you connect them to your smartphone or tablet.

Get connected

If you’ve been thinking about building an MDU, or currently live in one and want to improve, talk to us today! We can help you design the perfect system for your needs.

Advantages of a Dedicated Home Theater

La Scala Custom Home Theater

The quality of content these days is unprecedented, as are the vast number of options we have in accessing digital entertainment. Is your home theater or media room making the most of the high definition audio and video available? With summer blockbusters now available for streaming and the holidays just around the corner, now is a great time to add the home theater you’ve dreamed of or to upgrade your existing theater so that you may enjoy the very best audio and visual experience!

Whether you’re a movie lover, serious gamer or avid sports fan, a dedicated home theater is an exceptional space for home entertainment. And with technologies like Dolby Atmos and 4K, enjoying the sights and sounds in a room specifically designed for hi-performance audio and video create the ultimate entertainment experience!

What’s the right choice for you? Home Theater vs. Home Media Room

Your home media room offers a great space for enjoying some family-time movie-watching and for hosting your friends on game day. It can boast stunning OLED or 4K display quality along with Smart TV streaming and social media features. A well-designed and outfitted media room can also take advantage of exceptional audio through a surround sound or Dolby Atmos system. One potential downside however, is its central location; today’s open floor plans often place the media room adjacent to the kitchen. While this is great for engaging conversation, it is not ideal for either sound or picture quality as the room is open to the back and likely flooded with natural light. These features distract viewers from enjoying a truly immersive movie-watching experience.

Creating an immersive cinematic experience

A dedicated home theater includes technologies specifically designed to perform in the controlled space. Acoustic issues have been addressed for optimal sound as well as for noise-control from adjacent spaces. Custom seating is ideally positioned for comfort and viewing enjoyment rather than based on window placement or conversation. Speaker systems, like Bowers & Wilkins flagship custom theater series, can be positioned and calibrated in the defined space as designed.  This space is generally free of glare as it will rarely feature windows. If there are any windows, they will have been treated with black-out shades to maintain the perfect environment to soak in an afternoon football game or to binge-watch your favorite streamed series.

In a purpose-built space, décor doesn’t depend on the rest of the house, so the sky is the limit (actually, it’s not; you can add a custom fiber-optic constellation mural on the ceiling!). A home theater is also a place that reflects your personality and style– from mid-century modern to transitional or something all “you” like the Millennium Falcon, Batman’s lair or a wine cellar reminiscent of the south of France. Here’s a little inspiration: CinemaTech Gallery.

The set up can be one or multiple screens, or a hybrid of multiple screens for watching sports with a large projection screen that drops down for serious movie watching. Integrated controls allow the user to choose from a variety of streamed or local content. The content may be exclusive to the theater or shared across the home’s systems from a movie server.

Theater Trends

Aside from mind-blowing imagery and sound, what’s trending in custom theaters now?

  • Wearable home theater & virtual reality – experiencing virtual reality through wearable technology that transforms your movie-watching experience.
  • Social Media integration – Superfans of sports, gaming and original network series want to connect in real-time
  • Seamless connectivity across a robust network
  • Integrated control throughout the home, with access to content sources, control of security features, whole-house lighting, HVAC and more
  • Voice Control – Limitless searching, command and control of the theater and smart home’s multiple features including the ability to order your showtime pizza via a voice control interface such as Josh.ai!

Where will you be hosting holiday game-watching and cozy mid-winter movie nights? Give us a call and let’s get started planning the best seat in the house! Oh yeah, Josh, please start the movie!

OvrC Enables Highest Level Client Care

OvrC Mobile App for Remote Management

Revolutionary 24/7 remote management of your residential and commercial networks

As technologies get smarter, the technologies that support them need to stay a step ahead. And so do we. We pride ourselves in offering the very best in system design and installation, but sometimes new devices need to be added or updated, or the unexpected network issue occurs. Traditionally, troubleshooting and updates required onsite service calls, but OvrC changed that!

OvrC is a cloud-based remote management platform developed for custom integrators that enables us to remotely manage, configure, and troubleshoot devices on your network. Appropriately named OvrC (oversee), the revolutionary support platform allows us to gain insights into your network for remote diagnosis and issue resolution. This service can potentially avoid costly and disruptive service calls. Dedicated to providing you with the highest level of client care and support, we enthusiastically adopted this service model at its inception.

We understand you need to be able to rely on your network and each of your various connected devices, both at home and in your business, and that interruptions in service are frustrating and costly. With OvrC’s comprehensive support systems, however, we can manage everything from your media room to a corporate networking infrastructure, ensuring all systems are running smoothly.

OvrC your home

We’ve all experienced it. You’re hosting a get-together, or maybe working on a time-sensitive presentation from your home office, and the network goes down. Sound familiar? Well, with La Scala’s expert client care programs that feature OvrC capabilities, the fix may be as easy as opening your personalized phone app and touching an icon to reset it yourself! For more complex issues, chances are we’ve already been alerted and are remotely troubleshooting it before you’ve even had a chance to touch the call button from your app. OvrC provides us with exceptional support so that we can provide you with incomparable support and customer service. See it in action!

OvrC your business

Network disruptions and downtime affect your productivity and are costly to your overall business operations. OvrC enables us “oversee” your systems in real-time, maximizing your uptime and minimizing potential revenue loss. Remote troubleshooting and issue resolution help avoid disruptive service calls. However, should an on-site service call be required, we’ll be better informed and equipped to quickly resolve the problem.

When you need us

OvrC is the latest enhancement added to an already robust line-up of support offerings available to us at La Scala. In addition to the OvrC remote management system, we can live-stream video tech support enhanced by augmented reality and an Essential+ program providing you with:

  • Proactive support
  • Round-the-clock service
  • Fast trouble resolution
  • Mobile management – A personalized app that lets you fix common issues and manage your network at your convenience.
  • Remote Firmware updates –the latest software updates/upgrades to your devices remotely

We are constantly striving to provide you with the best possible long-term client experience. For us, there is no better investment than in providing you with reliable systems that keep your home and business up and running. Call us to learn more about the benefits of having La Scala “OvrC” YOUR network!

The Sweet Sound of Whole-Home Audio

Modelo Steinway Lyngdorf

Everyone enjoys music. Whether you’re a fan of classic jazz, old school R&B, heavy metal or like to keep up with today’s hits, listening to your favorite songs should be always be an experience. Why, then, is home audio not as much of a consideration in most home entertainment systems?

A home theater – but for your music

It seems like home theater systems have become a norm in most homes because of the entertainment value you can get out of your television or big screen projector. But just like speaker placement and configuration are crucial for creating an immersive surround sound experience for maximum entertainment value, your music library deserves the same respect! Speaker type, placement and system configuration are crucial to ensuring you can wrap yourself in the sound.

Different media, different systems

Another important factor to consider when implementing any sort of home audio system into your space is the media type of your entertainment. Have you gone completely digital where all your media is streamed, or do you like to keep it old school with physical media like classic vinyl and your record player from high school? Each form of media require different systems to ensure you’re listening to the music as it was intended, while also allowing you complete access to your favorite artists. For instance, do you need a high-tech touch panel display that gives you access to an unlimited library connected throughout your entire home? Or do you need a dedicated listening room?

Integrate that sound throughout your home

The key is to optimize all of your spaces for the best listening experience possible, which means carrying that sound system throughout your home, as well as potentially outside. Integrating a home audio system throughout your home is great for entertaining just as much as it is for everyday listening. With a whole-home audio system, there’s no reason why a regular dinner can’t be as fun as a holiday party.

La Scala Earns 3 Prestigious 2018 CEDIA Awards Recognizing Exceptional Home Technology Installations

CEDIA award-winning residence

This stunning waterfront residence earned three of the custom electronic design industry’s most prestigious awards: Best Integrated Home, Technology Meets Design and Life Lived Best at Home.

The “Technology Meets Design” award celebrates the best integration of technology that complements the design scheme for the room or home. The judges, drawn from the  architecture and interior design community, were looking for a project that showed a successful working partnership with the integrator and design and build industry partners and our relationship with Vancouver’s Aaron MacKenzie-Moore Design was nothing short of exemplary.

“La Scala’s ability to incorporate technology into the home’s aesthetics are in full evidence here, as the team says:

The homeowners love to entertain but made it clear that the interior look and quality of finish must not be compromised with the introduction of technology. Sound was expected in all rooms of the home but not seen. Invisible speakers were used in 16 zones which included all three guest suites, hallways, closets, laundry room, and invisible subwoofers rounding out the sound in the family room. The media room is a non-traditional room that is also used as a reading lounge that overlooks the beach.

Soft furniture, motorized roller shades, and heavy fabric curtains were included to soften the hard surfaces and increase the acoustic opportunities, as well as to block out the ambient light coming from the beach-front windows.

Life Lived Best at Home, a CEDIA Cornerstone

Having won in the “Best Integrated Home” and “Technology Meets Design” categories, the judges sought a winner for the “Life Lived Best at Home” designation. Beyond the technology and aesthetic design considerations, the judges now were looking for a “residence that used technology to maximize and enhance the client’s lifestyle, providing functionality, safety, entertainment, convenience, aesthetics, and efficiency.” Not only did this project incorporate the technology beautifully into the home’s design, but the judges agreed that it encompassed the homeowner’s desires, considerable enhancing their lifestyles.

A scene called “Movie Night” on the control system, which softens the media room by dimming the lights, rolling down the shades, and drawing the curtains while turning on the media room components.

A single button solution puts the home into “Entertain” mode. The system needed to be flexible, so the homeowner could make minor scene adjustments without the need of a programmer or site visit.

We offer a few control solutions, but the feature of using real pictures of the home to navigate the control system was very appealing for our clients. The Savant system provided this option.

The team at La Scala is extremely pleased with the project outcome and proud of the recognition received. Please contact us to learn more and visit the links below to view the project gallery and read about the additional accolades yet to be won for this gorgeous waterfront home.

See the Gallery of Photos

International Design Award Excellence Finalist SBID 2018

IDIBC 2018 Shine Awards of Excellence

Smart Bathrooms of the Future are Here

Seura Smart Mirror

What comes to mind when you think about a smart home? You probably didn’t imagine a sleek, high-tech smart bathroom.

The smart space you’ll REALLY live in

It’s easy to want the best and newest technology and design for all your living and entertaining spaces, but what about the rooms you actually live in? Most homeowners place such an emphasis on their living spaces – only considering those in which they entertain guests – that they forget about just how much time they spend living in their bathrooms.

So why haven’t you made your bathroom just as smart as the rest of your home? It’s probably the first place you go when you wake up and the last place you go before crawling into bed. You pamper yourself here, you prepare for the day here – not to mention the necessary nature of it in the first place. And if you’re at all concerned about resale value down the road, all signs point to futuristic bathrooms making their way into everyday homes.

From high-tech toilets to functional fixtures

Technology exists for every purpose and place in your home – including your bathroom. Whether you want a television mounted by the bathtub so you can watch your favorite movies, piped-in audio so you can perform a concert in your shower, or a smart mirror to keep your life at your fingertips, consider turning your bathroom into the place you love to live in most.

Consider the added comfort of connecting the smart home control you already have in the rest of your home to your bathroom. Control your thermostat, dim the lights and still have access to your security system so that winding down from the day is just as relaxing as it is necessary. By incorporating the right features into your bathroom, you can create an oasis out of something that used to be seen as utility.

Consult a professional integrator

Regardless of how futuristic or minimalistic you’d like your bathroom to be, the pros are here to make sure it’s just as smart as the rest of your home. Need more inspiration for bathroom tech and design before you start? Check out this handy guide to some of 2018’s trends.

Smart Home Meets Smart Style

Samsung The Frame at LaScalaSo you want a smart home, but you’re not sure how to integrate all of the technology you want into the design style you have. Lucky for you, technology doesn’t have to be a hindrance to your style anymore. Instead, choose technology that stands out and doubles as artwork or has the ability to blend seamlessly in so that you won’t even realize it’s there.

Design That Changes with Your Mood

Think about the way your living spaces are currently configured. There’s a good chance your furniture centers around the television. But what about that space when your television is off? You’re left with a black, blank rectangle on the wall – and that’s a missed opportunity. Consider adding a television that easily doubles as your own personal art gallery, with paintings or photography you can change as you wish, that matches your style and mood perfectly. You can even use your own photographs to add a personal touch to your living space to make your technology work for you, even when it’s off. What’s more, these televisions can be fitted into the wall for a seamless look or come beautifully framed, ensuring your television fits the design, and not the other way around.

A Reflection of Your Design Style

And it doesn’t stop with just television screens. Adding a smart mirror (or a few) to your home is an excellent way to add connectivity to your smart home without compromising style or practicality. Imagine a customizable dashboard complete with weather, social media updates, your calendar – even voice-control of your home’s systems – all from your bathroom mirror. Smart mirrors allow the perfect mix of entertainment, organization and functionality, while also coming in designs that are sure to enhance your space.

Whether you’d like to start from scratch and include a technology integrator from the beginning of your design plan, or need help updating your current living spaces but aren’t sure how to do it without compromising design, consult La Scala Integrated Media to make sure you’re getting the best tech for your lifestyle and interior design.

Is Your Home Ready for Guests?

Summer is in full-swing and the holidays inevitably are approaching. Before you know it you’ll likely be hosting an out-of-town guest or two. You might be ready for visitors – but is your home? Whether it’s a party that requires a reliable system to impress and keep your guests entertained or some in-laws visiting that could benefit from more intuitive controls, there’s a lot to consider! If you haven’t thought about your home’s technology in a while, now might be a good time.  Upgrades to your home automation can ensure your systems are working seamlessly in time for your guests.

Home Automation Simplifies Control

You might have mastered your control panel, but will your guests be able to figure out how to turn the lights on and off and adjust the thermostat before they go to bed? Is your lighting control is a bank of switches at the front door or are your shades on a separate remote? Talk to us about integrating your systems and simplifying control. It’s crucial to make sure your controls are easy enough for your guests to understand.

Service Plan add Peace-of-Mind

Maybe you already have all the right home automation tech in place. However, when was the last time you checked your service plan? Having a proactive service plan for your home automation system from a knowledgeable integrator like La Scala helps ensure you’ll always be up and running.  We’ll be alerted before any potential problems arise. While you’re at it, don’t forget to check your network and make sure it’s robust enough to handle streaming on all your guests’ devices.

Regardless of whether you’re entertaining a few or dozens, for a night or a week, make sure you have the right smart home technology and the best service plan in place. Both you and your guests will be comfortable and thoroughly entertained.

How Changes in Fixtures and Furniture Affect a Project

Conference Room Design featuring Crestron

The AV system was designed to provide the ideal collaborative solution for your team. Perfectly aligned to cast its laser image onto the projection screen while centered exactly on the custom ceiling tile, the projector would descend on a scissor lift at the touch of a button. The equipment order had been placed and the trades were meticulously scheduled. And then, well into the project; a request was made to change the room’s prominent light fixture and consequently, its location. Its new position would place it directly in front of the projector’s path.  It may not sound like a complex issue but repositioning the projector may require either a short or long-throw lens be added, or a longer scissor-lift be specified. The electrical drop may also need to be relocated along with moving any other affected ceiling features. Audio visual systems are integral to any collaborative space and changes to a room’s walls, ceiling, flooring, lighting or furnishings may have a ripple effect that could result in costly change orders and extend your project’s timeline.

Typical video conferencing-enabled spaces will feature either a flat panel display, videowall matrix or projection system, along with microphones, speakers, AV equipment and room control device such as a pop-up touch panel. These elements are all part of an expertly engineered system, each with precise locations carefully documented. If, for example, a change is made replacing the specified 2-pedestal boardroom table with an extended 3-pedestal table, additional in-ceiling speakers or microphones may be required. Placement of these components will likely affect adjacent ceiling features including fire sprinklers, HVAC, occupancy sensors and lighting fixtures. Switching from 2 to 3 pedestals also shifts the locations of the floor boxes for power and connectivity. While these issues can be resolved through collaborative redesign and coordination with other trades, they will certainly impact the project’s timeline and budget.

Change orders of furniture, audio visual systems, electrical and more happen and for a variety of reasons. Custom items may encounter unforeseen delays. Furniture specified months earlier may be discontinued or the designer or client may have requested a change.  Regardless of the circumstances, collaboration among stakeholders at the onset of change is the key to successful project outcomes.

Here’s How to Get the Most Out of Watching Sports this Summer!

home media room sports fan experience

This summer is the stuff of dreams for sports fans, with the FIFA World Cup, the US Open and the College World Series all taking over our televisions. But before huddling in your living room around your old TV to cheer on your favorite team, make sure you’re hooked up with the correct audio-video setup for the most immersive, bright and connected viewing experience for you and your guests this season.

Regardless of your setup, a few things are clear: for the ultimate viewing experience, you’ll need a large screen with the most clear, bright picture possible, complete with fluid motion displays, a setup with no clunky speakers or wires to distract you from the on-screen action, and strong network capability along with the technical support you need to make sure you don’t miss a play. Should you opt for LED or OLED technology? Or maybe a big-screen 4K projector is more your speed? And which audio setup will deliver that immersive audio experience? What’s more, it’s important to consider which cable or streaming service to use. The options are endless.

If you’re ready for the ultimate experience, a home theater with custom seating, a large screen projector and surround sound will help you feel as if you’ve been thrown into the game. If a TV-based setup is more of what you’re looking for, some key features to look for are motion-smoothing technology and color accuracy, as well as a bright picture, since most of the matches are during the daytime. But if you’d rather be outside by the pool, maybe an outdoor setup, equipped with weatherproof speakers and televisions, is your solution.

Whether you’re a dedicated sports fan looking for the most immersive and elaborate experience possible or you’re simply hosting your first watch party among friends, you need an experienced team of professionals to help ensure your home is equipped with the best technology and support to make you feel like you and your guests have been transported into the stadium.

 

Determining the Proper Display Solution, Part Two

Conference room display size

What drives the technology in your meeting room?

“Which screen type is better for my meeting room, an LED display or a projection system?”  It’s one of the first questions we’re asked when approaching a collaborative room project however, to achieve the best outcome it’s important to keep in mind that technology does not drive the best application but instead, the use and goals of the space will drive the technology. While ease of installation, price and total cost of ownership (TCO) are factors, the answer depends on the project’s goals and on the calculated proper screen size. Once the size is determined and the client and AV Designer have a clear understanding of the goals to be achieved, the type of display best suited for the application can be revealed.  Let’s take at look at what each has to offer.

Flat Screens

The main flat Screen display technologies are Plasma, LED, and OLED (organic light-emitting diode), with the most widely accepted being the LED LCD display. Plasma, still in use in a consumer “niche” market by video purists who believe it provides the truest contrast and color saturation, is no longer used in commercial applications. As 4K continues to become more prevalent however,  plasma will be going the way of the VCR.

OLED, dating to 1987 was developed by researchers at Eastman Kodak, is the next great technology sweeping the flat screen market and will likely become the next standard. It may be a short-lived victory however as manufacturers are already looking ahead to direct view micro-LED technology as the next “big thing.”

Although similar in name to OLED, QLED technology is dramatically different. QLED is essentially an LED TV that uses quantum dots to enhance key picture quality areas and boasts of creating deeper black levels and reproducing more colors than ordinary LEDs.

LED Direct View technology is rapidly evolving. Originally making a splash on the likes of NY’s Times Square, over the past few years manufacturers have been able to provide smaller “pixel pitch” (ppx) panels that provide finer, more detailed picture quality.  These units are ideal for close viewing, making them a great choice for retail signage, auditoriums and Emergency Operations Centers or Network Operations Centers (EOC/NOC’s). LED Direct view is also perfect for spaces affected by uncontrolled ambient light. As the price continues to settle and the pixel pitch technology becomes smaller (Micro-LED), we will see more direct view applications in board rooms and smaller spaces.

As shared in Part 1, there are guidelines and formulas for determining the proper viewing screen size in a conference room. Those best practices hold true for 4K displays/projection screens as well but, with the incredible resolution of a 4K display or projector, you’ll need to consider that 4 times the amount of pixels will be displayed (imagine duplicating that screen into a 2×2 grid on the viewing surface). What does that mean for your image? While the resolution is incredibly true and sharp, font size and detailed content such as spreadsheets, will need to be enlarged.

Projection Systems

There are three main types of projection systems in use: traditional lamp (HID, high-intensity discharge lamps) DLP, LCD projectors and the new laser projectors (laser phosphorous projectors).  Laser projectors are quickly gaining momentum in the industry because of their picture quality, long-life lamps and energy efficiencies. A laser projector can run 20,000 hours before displaying a noticeable degradation of light output, whereas a HID lamped unit’s degradation may be detected as early as 1500 hours. HID lamp changes are usually made every 2,000 to 3,000 hours so, despite the added initial cost of laser (approximately 30% over that of HID), it yields a lower TCO. LED lighted technology is still available, but its lower lumens are more appropriate for home theater than a bright office environment.

Flat screen or projection – which is best for your meeting room? Just give us a call. We’ll uncover the right solution to make your meetings effective and productive.

Inspired Cellars and the Benefits of the Automating Your Wine Collection

Home automation and the Wine Cellar

 

Smart home technology might make you think of temperature, automated lighting and shade control, voice-control entertainment and security. What you might not realize is that this technology can extend into your wine collection.

Gone are the days of having your wine unprotected and at the wrong temperature or worrying about a power outage at home while trekking across Europe. There are numerous options for any level of connoisseur and any size collection. New technology from the standard cooler to a fully-equipped cellar, complete with the accessibility and organization at your fingertips thanks to state-of-the-art smart home technology and apps, makes this investment an excellent one for your home.

These systems have many benefits, the most important being their ability to connect with your existing home automation technology. Motorized shades, lighting and audio aren’t just for your living areas anymore – you can utilize your smart home tech to play your favorite music, control the temperature, adjust the lighting and protect your cellar from unauthorized guests. For those with serious collections, many systems offer monitoring of your inventory, so you know what bottle has been accessed, by whom and when.

High-tech options like the Elertus Wine Protection System or the IWG Cellar Cerveau offer your collection protection from humidity, temperature changes and power outages. Systems like the Cellar Cerveau and eSommelier come equipped with label recognition software and RFID label technology to help you track your inventory – down to where the bottle is in your cellar and what your collection is worth. What’s more, some systems come pre-configured with an expansive listing of data like wine types, grape varieties and tasting notes, while others can also offer suggestions for new additions.

Whether you’re just starting your collection or have been an oenophile for decades, consider the value of automating your wine cellar. La Scala has been privileged to work with some of Vancouver’s finest designers to integrate these features into our clients’ cellars and would welcome the opportunity to work with you and your design team. Need a little inspiration?  Check out these five luxury homes featuring next-level cellars with automated controls. Can’t wait? Give us a call and let’s get started!

Determining the Proper Display Solution, Part One

Conference room display size

Effective, productive collaboration is dependent upon the participants’ ability to communicate and engage with the shared content. Content must be clearly visible with displayed text legible from every seat in the room. Designing the space with the appropriate display size, type and placement is key in creating an engaging, collaborative environment.

Addressing the space’s technologies early in the planning phase will allow for the most flexibility in design options and provide the best possible outcome. Determining the ideal display will require an analysis of the requirements and goals. Working with the interior designer and project stakeholders to factor in furniture, calculations of the room’s dimensions, viewing distances and angles can be made. Ambient light, available in-ceiling and on-wall mounting locations, control system, budget and the types of content to be viewed will be factored in as well.

Viewing Distance Determines Display Type

Viewing distance is calculated based on the furthest participant and is a key factor in determining display type.  There are various methods of calculation to determine proper viewing distance and screen size. Our commercial AV industry association, AVIXA (Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, formerly Infocomm), offers the specification “ANSI/INFOCOMM V202.01:2016, Display Image Size for 2D Content in Audiovisual System. This industry standard uses multiple calculations that factor content, image size, font size, viewer positions from multiple locations, ambient light, off-axis viewing, the human eye’s range of sight at various angles, and more. These standards apply not only to presentation spaces, but to more complex applications as well including auditoriums, multi-purpose spaces and large training venues.

Content Calculations

Calculations using a multiplier factor can provide a close estimation of display size that can help guide the design of small-to-medium size spaces including huddle spaces, board rooms and conference rooms. Screen size and distance calculations are greatly impacted by the content being presented, however, because the type of content dictates the multipliers (or factors) used in the calculation.

For corporate environments where presentations including PowerPoint, Excel, Word or Webpages will be shared, a large image will enhance user engagement by allowing participants to clearly and comfortably read the content. To calculate for this scenario, use a multiplier of 6 times the display’s image height (based on 1920 x 1080P resolution) to determine the furthest seating position. If data-rich content such as CAD drawings, Word or Excel documents or Web pages are to be shared, a factor of 4 should be used for added clarity. In rooms using video conferencing (WebEx, Skype, etc.) a multiplier of 4 is also recommended since it is a mixed-use application with multiple windows within the display image.

Video viewing is more lenient respective to screen size and distance. Smaller screen sizes or longer viewer distances are acceptable. The multiplier used for general video increases to 8 times the display’s image height. For example, if using a 55″ Monitor (27″ high screen height), the maximum seating distance would be 18’ (8 X 27” = 216”).  In a mixed-content environment, such as a conference room, the text-content calculation would be the default. An alternative offering great flexibility without compromising design is installing both a flatpanel display as well as a recessed projection screen which can provide a larger image when required.

The 45° Cone

Viewing angles are an important consideration, especially with rooms that are exceptionally wide or where multiple displays may be needed. For ideal viewing, participants should be within 45 degrees from the center of the screen. The top of the screen should ideally be positioned within 30 degrees above eye level. AVIXA’s standard is more exact, but this general guideline will help set the expectation of screen size and positioning for design purposes.

Aspect Ratio and Scaling

Widescreen aspect ratios of 16:9 and 16:10 are prevalent, with 16:9 becoming the go-to. Laptops have standardized on 16:9, but most new displays and projectors can properly scale a 16:10 image to 16:9 and visa-versa. Any incompatibilities in native resolution can be addressed by the system designer.

Providing a screen that maximizes your content will keep your participants engaged and allow for a successful, productive meeting. Do you have a collaborative space that could benefit from a more engaging video solution? Call us for a complimentary on-site assessment of your space!  We’ll do the math!

Making the Everyday Easy

Why home automation?

It’s simple, really. It’s about making your everyday tasks easier and making the complex simple. Some think home technology is purely luxury. Well, that depends on your definition.

Home automation is exactly that; it automates features in your home. Those features may include your lights, window treatment, smart door locks, climate, garage door, security features and more. It makes them work together as one. Sure, it’s a nice to pull up in front of your home late at night and, right from your phone, be able to activate a welcome scene that lights your path and home’s interior while unlocking the door. But it also helps to keep you safe. And imagine if faced with a fire or medical emergency – first responders could easily identify the home with the flashing entry lights. With this technology available, doesn’t it just make sense?

And let’s consider efficiencies of saving energy, time and money. Imagine occupancy sensors that turn off the lights in an empty room and motorized shades that raise and lower to either take advantage of the sun’s warmth to light and heat your home or block it out when the heat is intense. Lighting control with pre-set scenes of slightly dimmed lights also yield savings, while adding ambiance and convenience.

As a parent, home automation offers peace-of-mind. You can get an alert when your teen makes it home safely or remotely open the door when the need arises. As a caregiver, simple automated features, accessed by voice control, can keep an aging loved one in their home longer while sensors can let you know if they’re out of bed and have opened the medicine cabinet.

In this fast-paced world, why not simplify where it makes sense and make your everyday a little easier? Free up some time to enjoy the true luxuries, like extra time with friends and family. Call us today and let’s explore how we can make your everyday easy.

The Misnomers of Sound Masking

Noise is a critical factor affecting room design but, unlike lighting or climate control, it is often overlooked. Effective control of environmental noises and distracting conversations can significantly increase worker productivity while creating privacy from common areas.  These noise control methods can take different form and accomplish different types of noise control. One such method, sound masking, is an effective way to eliminate the distractions, as well as privacy concerns, of overheard conversations but how it works, is often misunderstood.

The ABCs of Acoustics

The ABC’s of acoustic design, as architects refer to them, are a variety of elements that can be employed to address noise control and speech privacy. These include solutions that absorb, block, or cover sound. In any given space, the right solution may include involve one method or a hybrid off two or all three. Sound masking systems cover noise and fit into the C category.

We’ve learned that acoustic treatments absorb noise.  Sound masking, on the other hand, is the addition of sound.  It is an ambient sound, created by digital generators,  that are specifically engineered to the frequency of human speech to target conversational noise rendering it unintelligible and therefore, less distracting. Sound masking does not eliminate all noise or cancel sound in an environment; it simply reduces how far conversations can be heard and clearly understood.

Sound Masking: What it is Not!

Sound masking is often referred to as “white noise” but its frequency varies significantly. Unlike white noise’s irritating static, sound masking is engineered to match the comfortable frequency range of the human voice. When designed and installed properly, the “whoosh” of sound masking will fade into the background of a workplace while simultaneously making speech more difficult to hear and, more importantly, to clearly understand.

Sound Masking Success

Implementation of a sound masking system will be far more successful if activated when workers are not present. It’s simple, human nature to hear something when it’s first flipped on and be overly aware of it. Instead, if your staff were to walk in while it’s already on, they would be less likely to notice it, if they noticed it at all. Ongoing, systems can be controlled manually or automatically, set to activate and deactivate based on staff scheduling.

Auto Correct

If an environment has widely varying noise levels, an “active volume control” can be added to improve effectiveness. Special microphones (emitters) would be installed to measure the conversational speech levels and adjust the system’s output as the noise levels rise and fall. With the system staying in-sync with the environmental noise, the occupants wouldn’t detect a change.

Often a complement to sound masking, acoustical treatments provide barriers and sound absorption, lessening overall noise levels and reducing reverberation from hard surfaces. What’s the right solution for your space? Call us to request a consultation today.

Entertaining in the Elements

Vancouver summers are meant to be enjoyed… outside! Whether you’re hosting a dinner party poolside, sipping cocktails beneath the pergola, or catching Sunday’s game at your outdoor kitchen, a well-placed TV is a great source of entertainment. But extreme temperatures, moisture, dust and even unwelcome insects, take a toll on the display.  This is why it’s important to use a unit specifically designed to stand up to what British Columbia can dish out.

­­­­­­Weatherproof TV adds to Outdoor EntertainingWeatherproof TVs hit the market a few years ago. While they were sealed from the elements and offered a brighter screen to compensate for sunny conditions, they were somewhat bulky. To overcome the unstylish appearance, we crafted custom enclosures which limited installation options. Well, have things changed! Outdoor LEDs today are sleek and provide optimal image quality that overcomes extreme brightness as well as low light levels. Anti-glare and anti-reflective features also improve the viewing experience. Not only do these weatherproof TVs look sensational, but they’re built to withstand our extreme temperatures, resist moisture and seal out dust, dirt and those pesky insects that could compromise the life of an ordinary indoor unit and void its warranty.

TVs built specifically for outdoor use also offer durability and safety. Unlike indoor units that could pose a greater risk of electrical shock or fire hazard if used outdoors, outdoor TVs are built tough with durable exteriors and tempered safety glass for extended enjoyment, safety and reliability.

Weatherproof TVs are not only perfect for covered porches and sunny patios, but for marine use as well. They can take the punishment of the waterways and, when not in use, can be covered with an attractive dust cover made specifically to keep them clean.

Complementing your weatherproof TV with impressive outdoor audio also offers a variety of choices. Like purpose-built outdoor-rated LEDs, speakers and subwoofers created for outdoor use feature weather-resistant materials. Their cones are made of specialized materials and their electronic components are sealed from moisture, but their sound performance is uncompromised. They are designed for even sound dispersion across expansive areas, some even providing full 360° coverage. And the design choices are endless with speakers created inside elegant planters, made to resemble natural stones or sleek landscape spotlights. Subterranean subwoofers are available for hidden underground installations. Outdoor-rated soundbars are also available and provide a designer-friendly solution. And many weather-resistant accessories are available such as wireless gear, seals for cable cover doors and remote controls.

Ready to make some weather-friendly updates to your outdoor living space? Call La Scala today to request a complimentary consultation. We’d love to show you the latest in outdoor living solutions.

Beyond the Lighting Strike: Why Power Management is So Important

Protect your systems from everyday power spikes for improved performance and longevity

Protect your Vancouver Smart Home with surge protectionWe’ve all heard the catastrophic tales of lightning strikes critically disabling a home’s electronic systems. To add to the frustration and expense, these overwhelming losses are seldom covered under your warranty as the failure was not the fault of the equipment and because additional damage caused to circuits is nearly impossible to detect. And the issues with power extend beyond the occasional lightning strike. “Dirty” power, power abnormalities that include voltage or frequency variations, low power factors and surges, critically impacts your system’s performance and longevity.

Digital Performance

Dirty power creates “noise” across your sensitive audio and video equipment. While the external power source may be partially to blame, so is every appliance, motor-driven and “connected” (Internet of Things) device throughout your home as each are drawing power as they cycle on and off. These drops and spikes across a shared circuit result in poor quality and performance.

It’s what you don’t see

Damage is sometime instantaneous and obvious, but often slight damage can occur and go undetected, weakening the equipment and impacting its performance. Over a period of time, this drain will shorten the unit’s lifespan. The use of inexpensive power strips can lead to this type of failure. Not commonly known, many of these devices are “once and done,” meaning that it may be able to protect the connected equipment against one surge, but not against subsequent spikes. So, what if the homeowner were unaware that the power strip had been “hit”, rendering it useless thereafter?

Back it up!

Control processors and other sensitive equipment will experience an immediate shutdown during power outages. As power restoration is attempted, perhaps repeatedly, the system will attempt to reboot. This can affect the software and firmware, potentially losing stored content. By providing a battery backup, the processor can power down on its own and successfully reboot. Lamp displays and cooling fans can continue to run, preventing lamp burnout and overheating. And for the gamer, unsaved “levels” will not be lost!

So, how do we achieve “clean”, constant power? Starting with a robust network, we follow best practices, installing power filters, professional-grade surge suppression and battery back-up. The results are reliable, safe power that improves your system’s longevity and performance while protecting your investment.

Meet Your Home’s New Interface

The tiny interface that can understand your natural language and connect your whole home

Josh aiYou’ve automated your entire home. Your new, smarter home—outfitted by your professional technologies integrator—is complete with all of the control systems necessary to keep your home in check. But how do you plan to keep it all connected?

Meet your home’s new interface, Josh. Josh.ai is a luxury voice control system, designed to work with your professionally-installed home automation. Leading the industry in Natural Language Processing and complete with machine-learning to adapt to you and your preferences, Josh is easy to use. When properly installed by a professional integrator, Josh ensures the best home automation experience.

Josh.ai is “artificial intelligence as unique as the home it runs,” and serves as a whole-home processor, connecting with all of the devices in your network, from pre-existing control systems like Crestron and Lutron. The interface, designed to fit the aesthetic of any room, can go anywhere and do anything you want in your home. Its touch-sensitive surface works to control event triggers like mood lighting or volume control — a feature only outdone by its intelligent voice control and ability to understand natural language.

Josh can help you control the temperature, humidity and lighting in your home to make your home even smarter. Its sensors can tell which room you’re in and can adapt its functions using its contextual awareness. Josh allows you to make your home automation smarter, without even needing to physically interact with it.

If you’re serious about automating your home and making your professional installation work for you, Josh could be the “holistic interface” you need.

Why Technology Needs to be Included in the Construction Plan

Proper planning and implementation of AV & IT will help your business realize the best possible outcomes.

Crestron_Conference_RoomIn today’s hyper-competitive market, AV/IT plays an increasingly important role in our day-to-day operations. Businesses depend on technologies to collaborate and communicate with their customers and internal teams. Technologies integrate our various systems to work as one and connect us to the all-important Internet of Things (IoT). They gather data, and then help us disseminate and act upon it, making our technologies even more effective. They are critical to our daily workflow and operations and key to our business strategy and success. So why are they are often overlooked in the design and planning phase of a project?

The primary goal of your AV systems is to create a collaborative environment enabling effective, productive meetings for faster decision-making. To maximize its potential, it must be easy-to-use and provide the right mix of technologies along with simple connectivity to those technologies. It will likely include an interactive display or projection system, a collaborative platform with wireless connectivity, intuitive touch panel control for room scheduling and meeting control, access to power and to the internet. Depending on the considerations made at the onset of the room’s design, the outcome of this space can be remarkably different.

Ergonomics and Design Aesthetics

Successful design outcomes begin with the user, focusing on their comfort and accessibility to the room’s features. Users should be able to sit at a conference table or in a huddle space, conveniently plug in to a power source, connect to the room’s collaborative devices, comfortably view a screen and easily start a meeting. Without proper planning however, users may have power cords strewn across pathways to access outlets, fumble to connect to the room’s technologies and struggle to view shared content due to improper display size or placement. By determining placement in the design phase, AV & IT infrastructure, power, display or projector and screen and touch panels can be properly located and aesthetically incorporated into the room. This phase also presents an ideal opportunity to review technology strategies and plan connectivity for future growth.

Not only will planning at this phase produce the most comfortable and visually appealingly results which promotes adoption but will provide the best options available while saving potentially costly retrofits and change orders. For example, based on the room’s size and desired projection area, the projector would need to be positioned 12 feet from the screen. If that calculation is not factored in at the onset of the project and a custom, coffered ceiling is designed that dictates the projector be relocated a few feet in either direction, either the size of the viewing area will be compromised, or a specialized lens may be required to accommodate the change, potentially adding cost to the project. Either result is not optimal for the client.

Technology and Interior Design Pros in Partnership for Optimal Outcomes

Working in partnership with design professionals for equipment placement, integrated motorized shades, lighting and room control allows for sleek, custom design possibilities. Rather than a fixed installation, for example, the projector may be elegantly incorporated into the ceiling design, extending from a cleverly hidden lift mechanism. The screen may also descend from a concealed soffit and A/V equipment may be stowed in a custom built-in credenza or, if conduit has been provided, located outside of the room.  Similarly, power and device connectivity can be offered via built-in table pop-ups, if floor boxes have been made available at the table base. Another critical factor in a project’s success is its timeline. A pro will manage the project throughout its lifecycle, coordinating wiring and technology integration with adjacent trades and communicating and resolving any issues that may arise.

Proper planning and coordination with design and technology integration professionals from the project’s inception helps keep it on budget and schedule while delivering the best possible technology and aesthetic outcomes. Ready to start planning your next project and formulate your technology strategies for 2018 and years to come? Call today and let’s get started!

Partnering with a Technologist for Elegant Results

Working with a pro ensures the best design, reliability, performance and service for your home technology systems

Savant Smart Home Luxury LifestyleWith the myriad innovative smart home technology devices on the market today, how do you know which is best…and which is the best for you? Smart locks and security devices are wonderful to have, but they’re much more valuable if they’re integrated into your home’s control system. Lighting control, motorized window shades and automated garage control are not only convenient, but also a great way to mimic that someone is home while you’re away…particularly if you can access them remotely. So, of all the must-have technologies out there, how do you determine the right solution for you – for now, for tomorrow and beyond?

Tech “Talk”, tools and know-how

Your devices and systems need to talk to one another, and we speak their language. As a CEDIA Professional and Technologist, we have an extensive depth and breadth of knowledge in home technologies and stay current on emerging trends. We know what’s available and, based on your needs and desires, can design a system that will work seamlessly together and be easily controlled. We’ll make sure you’ve got the infrastructure to support it (all those connected devices will be competing for bandwidth!) and that we’ve taken future demands into consideration.

Connected, compatible & scalable

What makes a smart home so smart? It’s a system that works together. It’s an orchestration of elegant, convenient features that control music and lighting throughout your home, secure your entryways, control your climate, access your water features and pool pump, watch over your wine collection, close your shades and light up the fireplace. It’s a scalable system that anticipates growth and an increasing number of devices on your internet of things. It’s a maintenance plan that offers peace of mind. It’s an everyday luxury that puts safety, comfort and entertainment at your fingertips.

Leave the worry and wondering up to us. Give us a call and let’s work together to discover the right solution for you.

Enhance the Decor and Enjoyment of Any Space with Acoustical Treatments

Home Cinema with custom acoustic panels

Custom panels absorb unwanted noise while complementing the room’s decor

Listen! Did you hear that? If you’re home in your media room, are you experiencing the audio as it was intended with clean, crisp speech and striking, directional sound effects? If you’re seated in a cozy restaurant for an intimate, fine-dining experience, are you able to comfortably engage in conversation, or is the space humming with deafening chatter and clanking plates? Sound is a critical factor in how we experience a space, yet it is often completely overlooked in the room’s design.

Laughter and lively conversation create a fun, atmosphere but, if the space is designed with only hard, reflective surfaces, the noise level in the room quickly escalates, reaching an uncomfortable level. In fact, according to a ZAGAT survey, when restaurant-goers were asked what irritated them most about dining out, 25% responded “noise”, a staggering percentage coming in second behind only “service”. A survey by the Action on Hearing Loss found corroborating results; 91% of respondents said that they would not return to a venue where noise levels were too high.

Background music and normal speaking levels are desirable sounds, but noises that bounce off the high ceilings and hard surfaces need to be controlled. That’s the job of acoustical treatment, a thoughtfully engineered and aesthetically designed system of ceiling, wall and floor treatments to absorb unwanted noise and improve sound.

Sound & Surfaces

A sound wave will bounce around a room, reflecting off surfaces until it hits an object that either diffuses or absorbs it. Made of sound-absorbing material like foam or fiberglass, sound absorption products are intended to absorb unwanted noise, such as echo, within a space. Acoustic panels, tiles, ceiling clouds, & ceiling baffles are all sound absorption products that are designed to dampen sound in a properly treated space. An acoustical analysis will determine the treatments required to improve the room’s acoustical properties. Once determined, the design choices are endless with custom fabrics, materials, shapes and placement options that will complement the architecture and décor.

Comforts of home

Uncomfortable noise & distractions aren’t limited to public places. With the trend of many people choosing to work from home, a focus has shifted to controlling sound levels not just in our home theaters, but throughout our homes. Not surprisingly, many newly constructed homes and multi-unit buildings now have noise blocking requirements. For homes that do not offer these initial treatments however, noise control can be combatted with carpeting, area rugs or floating hardwoods, luxurious draperies, plush upholstered furnishings, and, of course, elegant acoustic panels. Panels created for the home can mimic art, featuring works from a favorite artist or perhaps your favorite movie, musician or vacation destination. To open a space, panels can even create faux windows with sceneries and exquisite skylines.

What do you hear?

So, listen. Are you able to have a conversation with the clerk behind the service desk or with your waiter, without shouting? Can you conduct a comfortable video conferencing call from your office without raising your voice above the office chatter and HVAC? Sound is an essential element in the overall experience of a space and the treatments to overcome unwanted noise are extensive and elegant. Are you ready to have a “conversation” about how to address the acoustics in your spaces? Call us today – we’re “listening”!

Additional Resources:

Rules for Placement of Acoustic Panels in a Theater Room: Technology in Education, Mark Valenti

10 buildings with extraordinary acoustics: Where to find a sonic surprise, The Spaces

Eating Out Loud: Why Restaurants are Getting Noisier, New Statesmen,Caroline Crampton

Soundproofing, ExplainThatStuff, Chris Woodford

Introduction to Acoustic Treatment, Home toys, Ethan Winer

Smart Home, Smart Investment

Smart Home Tech Increases Home Value

Are you part of the 25 percent of people who own some kind of smart home product? If you’re not, you’ve probably at least heard about Amazon’s Alexa, if not seen its latest Super Bowl commercial.

What you might not have heard is that smart home technology is taking the real estate industry by storm. In fact, artificial intelligence and other smart home technology can actually increase the resale value of most homes – an important factor to consider now that more and more Millennials are buying homes and interested in smart, connected devices.

This trend makes sense. Smart home technology can increase energy efficiency, saving homeowners money on utility bills, while also providing eco-friendly perks. Combine money-saving with the added convenience of controlling your thermostat and connecting all of your media, to the safety and security of keyless entry, video doorbells and 24/7 monitoring, and it’s no wonder why so many homeowners are investing in this tech and making the switch to a smarter home.

Houzz also reported an increase in the desire for smart technology integration amongst home buyers, especially first-time buyers, in their 2017 Houzz and Home renovation overview. This came along with an increase in “green” energy and material trends, as well as improving the functionality of a home and alleviating health concerns, which can also all be addressed with the right smart technology.

Controlling every aspect of a home is so crucial to some home buyers, that integrating these systems can not only increase the overall market value of your home by 3-7 percent, but also speed up the time it takes to sell it. Need help deciding which tech to implement before you sell? According to A Lot Living, “the [automation systems] that can add the most value include whole house lighting control, automated door locks, temperature control that works from a phone, and security cameras, as well as home alarm systems.”

In a culture where people are busy and constantly connected, more and more home buyers are prioritizing the connectivity and convenience offered by home automation, artificial intelligence and other smart technology systems. So whether you’re looking to buy your first home or sell one you’ve had for a while, consider the benefits of a fully-automated home.

Weaving an Integrated Lifestyle

The choices in color, weave and design of window shades are anything but beige!

We’ve been touting the benefits of automated window shades for years. They’re an elegant choice in window treatment and offer a variety of unique shading solutions across your home. They save energy. They filter glaring sunlight, adding comfort while protecting your furniture from fading. They can be programmed to simulate that your home is occupied, acting as a deterrent for would-be burglars. And the list goes on. But, as extensive as their features and attributes, are their exquisite array of color and fabric choices.

Motorized window coverings can provide anywhere from minimal coverage to complete blackout. If you’re in need of multiple shading solutions, such as a sunny living room that transitions into a cozy, dark TV viewing area, dual roller systems are available, providing an option between the two. The level of sheerness is referred to as the “openness factor”, a ratio of the open space in the fabric. The denser the weave, the higher the light filtering properties. Sheer shades are typically measured in the 1% to 10% range while a blackout shade is at 100% for total blocking of light. A sheer shade filters glare while still allowing clear visibility to the outside. A translucent or dim-out fabric, on the other hand, can range from a low openness factor up to 95% but creates privacy by limiting the amount of detail seen through the weave. Blackout shades block all light and are perfect for home theaters and bedrooms.

The weave, or pattern is also a consideration for both design detail and design requirements. Roller fabrics are commonly offered in basketweave, twill and jacquard weaves, each with a unique, directional pattern and manufactured in limited widths. If you have an expansive window opening, the fabric can be turned horizontally and pieced together. This is referred to as railroading. Factoring weight and pattern, certain fabrics lend themselves better to achieving these widths. We’ll guide you through it.

One of the nicest features about custom motorized shades is that they can be programmed to stop at select intervals, lowering and raising them throughout the day. Not only does this allow you to take advantage of capturing or filtering daylight, but aesthetically, it enables the shades to rest at desired design features such as mullions or chair rails.

Customization doesn’t stop there. Your shades can be programmed in harmony with your lights, music and more to create custom “scenes”. “Good Morning” may lower the shades 50% and brightly light the kitchen while “Good Night” closes the shades and softly illuminates your nighttime paths. For specialized windows, wirelessly controlled shades are the ideal custom solution. Skylights, French doors and dramatic, impossible-to-reach, feature windows all benefit from the energy savings and privacy that motorized shades provide. And color? Check out the available color match solutions that allow you to pinpoint your pantone color or match the exact shade of a favored object!

The selections and solutions are endless, so how do you determine the right openness factor, weave, color and control? Let’s set up an in-home consultation. If you’re working with an interior design professional, we’re happy to work together to design window coverings that will complement your décor, add value to your home and weave elegance into your automated lifestyle.

Resources:

Lutron’s extensive wireless solutions

Lutron Fabric Collections Inspiration gallery

Lutron Roller Shade Fabrics

Crestron Shading Solutions and Custom Color Match

Audio & Aesthetics. The Soundbar Solution.

As the choices in mounting options for TVs grow, so do the challenges in speaker placement. Today’s thin, sleek, lightweight displays can be mounted just about anywhere; above the mantle or slim console, in a custom alcove or on a clean, open wall. So, where do you place the speakers? While in-walls offer an elegant solution, installing them is not always feasible. Enter the soundbar and its versatile installation and feature options.

Many leading audio manufacturers offer a soundbar solution, an all-in-one speaker system that delivers high-quality audio without requiring the space of a home theater receiver and surround sound speaker system. Mounted or placed below your display, they offer exceptional sound and stunning design. A remarkable improvement to your TV’s speakers, the soundbar features a center channel and often a full LCR (left, center and right channels) experience. Some are designed to be paired with surround speakers and a subwoofer while others replicate full surround sound.

Connectivity, control and quality are prevalent across today’s models, offering conveniences such as music streaming, wireless connectivity and simple IR learning for integrated control through your current remote.

Touting exceptional performance, Triad has an extensive array of options ranging in size and capabilities. They offer micro and mini LCR’s as well as a micro 3-in-1 speaker designed for use with shallow flat-panel televisions. New to their line-up is their on-wall Mini LCR 3.0 SE (Special Edition), offering “unparalleled” performance with 3 separate audiophile speaker systems integrated into one sleek, acoustiperf-grilled package.

Custom fit & finish

An elegant choice, James Loudspeaker offers a variety of soundbar solutions. True to their brand, their line of soundbars is completely customizable and offered in an array of both standard and custom colors. The line-up includes an extensive variety of formats to suit client preferences and range from center channel, stereo bar, or complete LCR package. James’ soundbars are custom fit to the TV for seamless integration and elegant design. For added design versatility, they are available in vertical or horizontal configurations. And the sound, well, they raise the “bar”!

Dimensions of sound – Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos has the sound “bar” even higher and a select few manufacturers have integrated the immersive technology into their soundbar line-up. Dolby Atmos “frees” sound from its channels for heightened impact by enabling finer control of individual sounds. Through strategically positioned speakers, sounds move around the listener from every dimension for an immersive, life-like experience.

Samsung has this mastered. Paired with one its breathtaking 4K displays, Samsung delivers a seamless 4K Hi-Res Audio experience with its HW-K950 Soundbar speaker system. The system replicates cinema-style sound with 15 built-in speakers including 4 upward-firing drivers and rear wireless speakers for crystal-clear sound all around.

On-wall or on console, wireless and Bluetooth, surround sound or Dolby Atmos, the choices are endless but all are great solutions for incredible audio and gorgeous design. Give us a call. We’ll help determine the best features and solutions for your overall system requirements, connectivity, control and space.

Smart Home, Healthy Home

The Integration of home automation and healthcare is life-changing

We’re just beginning to realize the extensive benefits of home automation. For years, we’ve recognized the luxuries, conveniences, comforts and safety aspects of an integrated home, but we’re learning that those attributes are just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s smart home can aid the disabled, monitor the ill and enable our Vancouver residents the opportunity to stay in their homes longer.

It wasn’t so long ago that baby monitors hit the market. We could breathe a sigh relief while carrying the walkie-talkie-like device around from room to room. And then…baby cams were introduced and suddenly we could watch over them day and night. Flash forward and now we can check in on our homes via our smart phones anytime and from anywhere. We appreciate the convenience and peace of mind that brings in terms of home security or even keeping watch of our pets, but imagine the comfort of being able to watch over an elderly parent.

Automated Healthcare

Modern healthcare is finding new, innovative ways to capitalize on our connected homes, allowing people to remain in comfortable, familiar surroundings longer. Automated, simple-to-use devices can remind an elderly person to take their medication or instruct an autistic individual how to prepare a meal.  Caregivers can be alerted when an Alzheimer patient opens a door or when a diabetic’s glucose monitor sounds. For an added measure of security, automated lighting can be triggered as well so that, in the event an audible alarm is missed, visual cues will wake the caregiver while lighting the way to their loved one.  Visual prompts can also be life-enhancing for the hearing impaired and elderly.

Voice and “Stress” Control

The more recent introduction of integrated voice control has opened up a whole new realm in home healthcare. Individuals that may otherwise be unable to physically or mentally operate a touch panel or control device can now gain control of appliances, entertainment and security devices, affording them independence.

Home automation and, more specifically, voice-controlled devices also have a positive impact on our mental health. Multiple medical studies from various academics from Rutgers, Stanford, and University British Columbia have concluded that individuals who feel a greater sense of environmental control demonstrate increased persistence, motivation, and optimism, and have been shown to have lower risk for psychopathology. That research extends to a homeowner’s ability to be “in control” of their smart home, accessing features that reduce worry and, therefore, stress levels.

The life-saving stories are many and we can each likely envision a scenario where remote monitoring, automated lighting, cameras, door locks and voice control can make ours and our family’s life easier, healthier and more gratifying. Innovative technologies continue to transform our lives. Home automation, once considered purely a luxury, has become a wonderful, life-changing tool and essential part of our daily lives. Healthcare, along with our homes, just gets smarter and smarter.

Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Smart Home, CEPro

Health Care in Home Automation Systems with Speech Recognition and Mobile Technology, American Journal of Engineering Research (AJER)

Digital Doctors: Home Automation is Redefining Healthcare, Collective Evolution

5 ways tech is changing retirement, Ameriprise Advisors

After Son’s Diabetes Diagnosis, IoT Exec Sees Big Role for Home Automation in Disease Management, CEPro

How Alexa’s best skill could be as a home health-care assistant, CNBC

How Often Should You Replace Your Smoke Detectors?

What you may not know about smoke alarms

You made a wise decision years ago to install smoke detectors throughout your home or business, keeping your family and property safe in the event of a fire. As the seasons changed, you’ve changed the batteries as recommended, but did you know that those trusted detectors actually have a limited shelf life?

It’s not just the batteries that need to be replaced

Smoke detectors have an expiration date and many currently in use have exceeded their full functionality as dust has accumulated over time, desensitizing the sensors.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends replacing smoke alarms every 10 years.  The date of manufacture can be found on the back or side of the smoke alarm. Wired or wireless, all alarms should be replaced 10 years from that date and not the date of purchase or installation. Making sure they are in good working order is critical because, according to Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA, “Working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a home fire in half.”

Interconnected smoke alarms offer an added measure of safety. Instead of just one sounding when smoke is detected, all units will be activated, signaling every section of the home. When replacing an alarm within a connected system, experts recommend replacing all units within the system, even if some are still working. In addition, any alarm that continues to chirp after its batteries are swapped needs to be replaced, regardless of age.

Resolve to put safety first in the New Year!

If you’ve got any questions about home life-safety and security or are interested in updating your current system or integrating a new system into your home automation system, please give us a call. We wish you and your family a happy, healthy and safe 2018!

How to Set Up a Productive, Collaborative Home Office

The environment and infrastructure requirements for today’s remote workforce

According to a recent survey by Randstad, non-traditional workers (freelance, flex, remote employees) make up 30% of Canada’s workforce with 85% of them projecting a rise over the next 5 years. Similarly, projections estimate that by 2020 mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3%) of the total U.S. workforce.  Mobile devices and simple, yet sophisticated, collaborative tools have enabled today’s workforce to effectively work from anywhere – an airplane, a hotel room or a well-appointed home office. Remote work is a boon to productivity and can lead to higher efficiency and lower turnover. Not only does it attract younger workers (Millennials highly value flexibility and technology), it keeps older workers in the workforce longer. So, the benefits are many but establishing a remote environment that represents the employer’s brand while providing a productive, collaborative space for the employee requires more than simply plugging in a laptop.

The Space

The first step is to define the space. The design will be driven by the type of work performed, the equipment required and the available spaces within the home. The room should be a space separate from daily living areas, free from distractions that could potentially interfere with work or interrupt calls or video conferencing. It will need to offer adequate storage and easy accessibility to the home network.

  • Color – Furnishings and walls should be ergonomically pleasing and conducive to extended use. Opt for neutral tones or soft, muted shades such as periwinkle blue, avoiding harsh, dark or vivid shades. Choose a matte finish over reflective glossy sheens. Wallpapers and fabric wallcoverings with subtle, non-reflective designs also work well.
  • Backdrop – Consider the background when video conferencing. Keep the space clear of clutter and personal affects. Portable pop-up screens (plain or imprinted with the company logo), elegant room dividers and organized bookcases provide a professional backdrop and element of privacy.
  • Acoustics – Create a quiet space. Carpeting, area rugs and upholstered furnishings help to manage reverberant noise. Acoustic treatments, including custom wall panels, also aid in noise absorption.
  • Lighting – The more natural the lighting, the better the overall experience. Take advantage of natural sunlight by positioning the desk to face the window, avoiding shadows while on camera. For harsh, direct sunlight, add motorized window shades, available in various light-filtering, non-reflective weaves. If the room’s design is not conducive to proper desk placement and the light source is behind you, blackout shades can be added to properly control the light levels. Ceiling fans with lights create a strobing effect on camera and should be turned off. An integrated home automation system provides agile control of lighting, window shades, ceiling fans and HVAC, ideal for the working from home.

The Infrastructure

A secure, stable and robust network connection is essential for reliable network connectivity and a quality conferencing experience.  Hardwired broadband is recommended over wireless when possible. Also important to consider is the number of users in the home that are competing for bandwidth.

The Tools

Based on network capability and hardware compatibility, there are numerous platforms available for seamless collaboration. Implementing a few tools that enhance audio and video will afford an even better experience.

  • Audio – Conferencing requires 2-way audio and can be problematic without the right equipment as devices can produce distortion and echo. Rather than relying on the laptop’s built-in speaker and microphone, opt for an external echo-cancelling speaker with mic for clear communication. In a reverberant environment, a headphone with built-in microphone will filter distracting background noise.
  • Video – A high-performing, properly positioned camera is critical for effective collaboration. Invest in a high-quality auxiliary unit rather than using the built-in camera that restricts control and image resolution. The camera should be placed where the user is focused, just above the monitor’s content for a near-to-natural experience. This will simulate “looking” into the camera. Common mistakes include mounting the camera below the screen which produces an unnatural angle or mounting it on a monitor other than the one hosting the content, showing you looking away from the camera.

Trial Run

Evaluate the quality of the experience by conducting trial runs. Most platforms offer the ability to record your meeting, giving you the opportunity to view the meeting as if on the far side. Record sessions using various scenarios – both while the room is quiet and when things from across the house are “active” – pets, HVAC, dishwasher, etc.  Type on the keyboard to gauge the sound level of keyclicks, assess how the background looks and adjust camera position and lighting to simulate a face-to-face meeting.

The “agile workforce is coming!”

Getting started requires thoughtful design and know-how, but it’s an investment that will be realized through effective collaboration and increased productivity for years to come. As experts in both the technologies and design aspects of this rich, residential/professional hybrid environment, LaScala can help you with the infrastructure and hardware requirements and work with your interior design professional to create the ideal remote workplace.

Resources:

9 Ways Tech companies Can Accommodate Millennial Workers, Randstad Interim Inc. [CA]

Workforce 2025: The Future of the World of Work, Randstad Interim Inc. [CA]

IDC Forecasts U.S. Mobile Worker Population to Surpass 105 Million by 2020, Business Wire

Considerations When Setting Up a Room for Video conferencing with ViewStation (Polycom)

Today’s mobile workforce: any time, any place, The Telegraph

American Workplace Changing at a Dizzying Pace, Gallup News

How to Design the Ideal Home Office, Entrepreneur

10 Best Jobs for Americans Over 65, The Fiscal Times