NEWS / BLOG

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

Smart Ways to Invest Funds Remaining in Your 2017 Budget

Crestron Mercury

As 2017 draws to a close, so does the availability of funds allocated for 2017 spending. The New Year brings opportunities to upgrade existing infrastructure, increase productivity through updated collaborative technologies and promote your brand through dynamic lobby displays and improvements to client-facing spaces.

By purchasing equipment now that will be implemented into your 2018 projects you’ll be able to take advantage of the additional funding while stretching the capabilities of next year’s budget. We can help you and your team strategize, aligning your technology systems with your vision and overall budget. Here are some items for consideration:

Digital Upgrade

Does your system provide connectivity for today’s digital devices? Users have an expectation of utilizing a meeting space with plug-and-play technologies. Transitioning from outdated analog to digital capabilities is paramount to ensure this functionality. Does your system, for example, have connectivity for wireless, HDMI and mini display port?

Meeting Spaces

Meeting spaces that are easier to use and more collaborative increase user adoption which, in turn, results in faster decision-making and greater productivity. In the trending open-office environment, huddle spaces offer a focused, collaborative meeting space for small group presentations and ad hoc meetings. Interactive collaborative displays, robust cameras that are soft codec-enabled (Skype for Business, Bluejeans, etc.), and wireless presentation connectivity promote efficient, productive meetings in these spaces.

Traditional conference rooms with audio and video-conferencing capabilities would benefit from these enhancements as well as an automated control system.  Lighting scenes and motorized shades can also be integrated into the room’s control for an improved user experience. If your room features an older projection system, an upgrade to a laser projector would offer a more engaging presentation along with a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

Client-facing Areas

Your lobby/reception area is your first opportunity to engage your customers or prospective employees and convey your brand. Dynamic digital signage can enforce your branding, promote your products and services and inform dwellers of important information and events. Innovative meeting spaces in these client areas make a lasting impression.

Hands-on Experience Centers are a great way to engage clients through various interactive displays and immersive technologies.  Architectural features in these environments are accentuated by inspired mosaic displays and exceptionally designed lighting for the ultimate customer experience.

Sound Management & Speech Privacy

Proven to increase worker productivity in today’s open office environments, sound masking eliminates noise distractions. It also adds privacy of enclosed meeting and office spaces from common areas, rendering speech unintelligible.

Acoustics are another noise control solution providing barriers and sound absorption that lessen overall noise levels and reduce reverberation from hard surfaces. This increases intelligibility in desired areas and provides a more comfortable working environment. There are numerous ways to address acoustic control. LaScala can provide consultation and recommend the appropriate solution for your space.

If you’ve done a great job at controlling your budget throughout the year and find yourself with a surplus, consider an investment in technology that will help grow your business, increase efficiency and foster an innovative and collaborative environment for your employees. Give us a call to strategize ways to put your remaining budget to work for you in 2018 and for years to come.

Living with a Smart Home

In this ever changing world that we live in, there is no escaping technology.  Our personal world appears more and more to be enveloped by a device we call a “smart phone”, although more and more of the ‘phone’ use is being replaced by a myriad of ‘apps’, and other functions of the device.  From capturing visual moments on the fly to directing us to our next destination, to telling us how to cook our favourite dishes, this device has come a long way since its inception over twenty five years ago.

Today’s vehicles are also following suit in the technology game.  Most new vehicles today don’t require a key to open the door or start the car, instead opting for a ‘fob’ device one can keep in one’s pocket or purse, and which transmits a signal notifying the vehicle that you are within its vicinity.  More, the car will know that it’s actually ‘you’ that is near, and adjust the seats, mirror, and other features to your taste – automatically.   Voice commands and other formerly futuristic features are now becoming commonplace in today’s vehicles as well.

But what about your home?  When most people arrive at their door, they pull out a device that was invented in the 1840’s – a tumbler lock key.  Once inside, you feel around for the light switch, invented in 1884.  You can probably guess where I’m going with this – the home hasn’t caught up with technology, or has it?   While only 12% of homes currently might be considered ‘smart’, that figure is projected to double and triple over the next few years.  Why?  Because the technology is truly getting ‘smart’, and the price is way down.

Much is being said about devices in your home being integrated and controlled by a singular control device.  Be it shading, lights, temperature, security, locks, the pool/hot tub, and any number of other electronic devices, there are systems that will control them all, via a wall mounted or portable ipad or remotely through your ‘smart’ phone.   But what about Automation?  A True Smart Home should work for the home’s occupants, just like your car does.  When you arrive home, your home should know it and act accordingly.   You can have your system set up so that certain lights turn on at a pre-set time, the shades close, the temperature goes up, and even have the door unlock if the system sees that you are within feet of the door.  You could also have one button programmed on your control device that says “Party”, amongst other feature sets.  The lights in various areas could alight or dim, the music could begin to play from your favourite source in various specific areas of the house that you’ve previously chosen, and at a pre-set volume level.  The gate could unlock for a specified timeframe to allow guests easy access.  When you leave your home, press ‘goodbye’ and the security could engage, the shades could close, the music could turn off, the temperature could drop, and all the lights could turn off.  If you’re away for an extended period, the lights (and other devices like music) could turn on and off based on your previous two weeks of use so it appears as if you’re home.  The list of options is endless.  Wake up options, going to sleep options, dinner party options, and more.  This year will see a surge in Voice Activated command technology, offering even easier control of all home devices.  This is not just a ‘cool’ gadget, but something that will become a mainstay of home control system installations.

At a time when technology is offering so many opportunities to enrich and simplify ones daily life, it is clear that technology is moving into the house.  For more insight into the options available see your La Scala Integrated Media representative.

Tips to keep Your Home Safe for the Holidays

Put Your Smart Home to Work

Exterior lighting adds to securityThroughout the year we strive to keep you abreast of the latest in technologies and trends. 2017 has witnessed the adoption of integrated voice control, amazing advances in LEDs, incredible strides in virtual reality and much, much more! Our smart homes are getting smarter, but how can we use their features to make our homes safer? Well, here are some simple ways to put your home automation system to work, ensuring you and your family a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

Light it Up!

Every deterrent counts when your home’s vulnerability is assessed and a well-lit home is your first defense against would-be burglars. Use landscape lighting, flood lights and motion-activated lighting around your entire home.

Fake them Out!

Inside & outdoors, create lighting scenes that realistically mimic your patterns while you’re away. Lights, shades, televisions and even the Christmas tree can be programmed on alternating sequences to simulate that lived-in look.

Gate it off!

Be cyber safe by updating your home network. We’re savvy to the latest potential threats and can help protect your home’s critical infrastructure.

Lock it down!

If you’ve got a home security system, use it. If you don’t have one, call us. If you’ve got one and haven’t used it for a while, call us to schedule to check. Aside from deterring potential thieves, a monitored security system alerts first responders to fire and medical emergencies. And this is a great time to check that your carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.

Lock it Up!

Automated door locks (keyless smartlocks) with integrated alarms and anti-pick shields add an extra layer of security and convenience.

Keep an eye on it!

Enhance your security system with cameras and motion sensors. Their presence alone is a great deterrent.  You’ll be able to keep an eye on things while away and access recordings should any misdeeds occur.

Download the App!

Embrace the technology at hand and use the myriad features available. They offer incredible convenience and peace of mind.

Pull the plug!

Eliminate the possibility of having your garage door breached while you’re away for extended periods. Simply disconnect it from its power source.

Resist the urge!

We’re our own worst enemies. Don’t flaunt those exquisitely wrapped gifts in the windows for all to see, hold off on that social post from your exotic holiday locale until you’re back home and break down the boxes that your new electronic toys came in to avoid curbside advertising of what’s new on the inside.

Be smart and stay safe and healthy this holiday season. If you have any questions about home automation and its role in your safety and security, please contact us. We’re here to help. Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays.

Additional Resources:

A New Way to Keep Your Things Under Lock and Key

Outsmarting Cyber Crimes against Smart Technologies

Protecting Your Home from Burglars during the Holidays

 

The Emergence of the Technologist

Mike Chorney

An interesting shift is occurring. In this fast-paced race to digitalization, the role of the technology integrator has, once again, transformed. As more devices, features, systems, services, apps and appliances exist on the network and integrate or “talk” to one another, the technology integrator is transpiring as the single-source service provider for all things “technology.” Hence, 2017 has witnessed the residential systems technology integrator, a low-voltage provider specializing in everything from network infrastructure, communications, security, energy management and HVAC to elegant lighting and shade control, home entertainment and fully integrated control systems, emerge as the “Technologist.”

The Art of Technology

As a Technologist, we design, build, program and service our clients’ connected homes, ensuring seamless compatibility of systems across the platforms for an easy and intuitive user experience. We’ve been positioning our clients for this over the past several years noting that a pantry full of ingredients does not make a master chef. It’s the art, the science, of pulling those ingredients together.

At LaScala, we make your home comfortable, safe, productive, convenient, entertaining and beautiful. We partner with you, exploring your wants and needs, developing a technology strategy that will grow with you and your family. We stay current on emerging technologies and inform you of your myriad choices. We stand by you through the years, offering valuable service coverage to keep your systems running efficiently, effectively, trouble and worry-free. We make life simpler.

Our extensive training and years of experience in this evolving field have allowed us to foster valuable partnerships with design professionals and adjacent trades. From inception to implementation, we work with an outstanding team of architects, interior designers, builders, landscape architects, plumbers and electricians, managing all aspects of your home project. We communicate the aesthetic and technical requirements of your connected home and make sure provisions are made for future needs. From the simple to the sophisticated, we strive to be your go-to resource for all things technology, your trusted technology partner, the Technologist.

Preparing Your Home For the Holidays

Company’s Coming to Town!

Crestron home with automated shades and multiscreen displaysThe holidays are around the corner! Soon our homes will be filled with festive decorations, mouthwatering scents wafting from the kitchen and guests to entertain! Whether you’ve been thinking about sprucing things up before your guests arrive or simply want to make some comfortable home improvements that will add to your holiday merriment, here are some things you may wish to consider.

Home for the Holidays

Nothing says “Welcome” quite like lighting design. From the moment your guests turn the corner, they’ll see your beautifully lit landscape and inviting walkway.  Highlighted artwork and the soft glow of a chandelier in your foyer make a stunning first impression. Programmed lighting scenes can transform the mood at the touch of a button (or a simple “ask” of your voice control). An “Entertain” setting may turn your kitchen into a bustling center of activity full of food prep and laughter while lowering the downlights, sconces and chandelier in the dining room, setting the stage for the elegant evening meal. Following dinner the lights come back up to your “Clean-up” setting and your favorite holiday playlist ques up, drawing everyone to gather around the fireplace (also integrated into your Crestron home automation system).

On milder evenings you may wish to entertain on your covered patio. Lighting scenes showcase architectural features, planters and fountains for added drama while highlighting uneven walking surfaces and stairs for comfort and safety.  You and your guests can enjoy cozying up with your quilts around the firepit to watch your favorite holiday classics on a weatherproof TV or outdoor projection screen.

If the weather outside is Vancouver “frightful”, bring the party indoors into an updated media room or dedicated home theater. We’ll help you plan the perfect space with plenty of plush custom cinema seating for everyone!

Be the Envy of Your Neighbors

If you’re one who wants to share your joy and seek to become a “destination” (or the next viral video) by putting on an outdoor display that can be seen from space, you’ll need a sound system that’s worthy of the task. Those synchronized music and lighting displays are sophisticated but, if you have an integrated home automation system, we can get you in control and in “sync”!

While the neighbors are out gawking at the lights and enjoying the orchestration, unless you have an infamous Leg Lamp prominently displayed in your front window you may want to add some beautiful motorized window shades.  Automated shades can be integrated with your lighting scenes and come in an elegant array of weaves, styles and colors. They are the perfect solution for hard to reach floor-to-ceiling windows in voluminous rooms and can be on separate settings. They’re also great for blacking out light in areas for TV viewing and are available for custom installations over skylights, stairway/foyer accent windows, etc. Check out this beautiful guide outlining the Top 10 Reasons to Add Crestron Lighting & Shades to Your Home for some great design ideas.

Like a Warm Cup of Cocoa

While preparing your guest rooms, imagine offering them the luxury of automation. Easy-to-read and use touch panels, keypads and hand-held remotes that control lighting, fans, fireplaces and more in their room add elegance and enjoyment to their stay.

All Snug in their Beds

While we’re off dreaming of sugar plums, others are up to Grinch-like behavior scheming to steal the joy from our celebration. Yes, sadly, according to the FBI, nearly 400,000 homes are burglarized during November and December each year. Burglars are opportunists and will move to an easier score when a few simple deterrents are in place. Strong, automated door locks will keep them out while allowing you the ability to “buzz” your family and friends in if you’re caught in holiday traffic. And nothing says “we’re home” like well-timed automated indoor and exterior lighting. And your lighting control can be integrated with your home security system for even greater peace of mind.

So give us a call and let us help you prepare for the holidays! We’ll put together the perfect system for you. All you need to do is create your holiday playlist, address your invitations and start shopping! Shopping? Oh yeah, we’ve got you covered there too! Stay tuned for our gift giving guide. We’ll help you find something for every tech-enthusiast on your list!

Need more Décor ideas? Visit Vancouver Christmas Market

Entertaining ideas outside of your home: Top Things to do in Vancouver at Christmas

Lutron Lighting Design – Inspirational Design Gallery

What’s Important to Know About Furniture for AV Storage and Wire Management

Technologies for today’s homes and offices are sleek, contemporary and elegant. Some elements, such as touch panels, custom-framed displays and speakers that look as incredible as they sound, are meant to be seen. But then there’s the behind-the-scenes components; the receivers, amplifiers, switchers…all the things with the blinking lights and knobs that you choose to either showcase or hide away. Either way, they all “live” somewhere and that somewhere has specific requirements.

Custom Rack Installation

Custom Rack Installation

Technology systems are comprised of various electronic components that require power and, inherently, produce heat. Like your laptop or other electronic devices, they need proper ventilation for reliable, peak performance. Not all furniture is suitable to store electronics.

Choices for housing audio video gear are numerous and offer clever solutions for providing air-flow, managing cables and allowing IR signal visibility when required. Regardless of whether your components are stored in an equipment rack in an out-of-the-way storage closet or front-and-center in a media cabinet or credenza, purpose-built AV furniture will provide these critical features.

The AV Rack

AV equipment racks are available in various heights, measured in rack spaces or units, depending on the requirement of the components.  They can be installed inside of a media cabinet, on a wall using a swing-out mount or placed on casters for ease of accessibility when servicing. For extensive whole-house or integrated commercial systems, multiple racks may be required. Racks can be placed in the room or located in an off-area such as a centrally located, climate-controlled closet. Some installations will require forced ventilation through the use of thermostatic rack fans that will draw heat from the gear.  When gear is stored in an enclosed unit, it is imperative that air be allowed to flow so that the heat can adequately dissipate.

Wireless But Not Cordless

The beauty of an integrated system is, well, that it’s integrated; all the systems “talk” to each other.  Talking equals connectivity and connectivity equals cabling and cords, including wireless solutions. While wireless gear and speakers offer elegant, wire-free signal, electronics still require power. AV furniture provides access to the components as well as rack “rails” or channels to attractively conceal or “manage” the wiring.

Once the cabling leaves the rack or unit, the best path for wire runs needs to be determined, along with factoring in the length of the run and calculating conduit specifications.  This is where LaScala shines. We’ve got the tools and know-how to get cables from Point A to Point B with minimal impact and while factoring in future demands and incorporating those unattractive wires into an aesthetically pleasing (or even invisible) design.

Depth is also a consideration when placing components. In addition to allowing some space for airflow, connecters and cables add to the depth required for the back of the gear.  At a minimum, plan for a depth of 20”. Knobs and control access are also a factor for various reasons. First, units with doors need suitable clearance to close properly. Second, if the system is IR-controlled, a clear line-of-sight must be established otherwise an IR distribution system will be required.

Gaming consoles and media storage present additional considerations. With all that processing going on, game consoles give off considerably more heat than AV equipment and, while they are RF (radio frequency which does not require sightline) allowing for entertainment unit doors to remain closed, gamers still need convenient access to the unit to charge their controllers.  And, even though it seems the thing to do, Media should be stored separately from electronic equipment so the heat does not affect the digital content.

Customization and Communication

While audio video racks and entertainment units are available in a wide variety of sizes and styles, custom units are often desired. Some people embrace the high-tech electronics and incorporate the sophisticated gear into the room’s design through custom-framed racks that face the interior. We love this approach but advise that they be installed at the back of room so as not to be a distraction while viewing an LED display or projection screen.  Another popular solution is that of the “floating” shelves or enclosed media unit. These units are bracketed to the wall without a base as if they are hovering above the floor. For any of your custom work, we can provide you or your interior design professional with detailed drawings and/or dimensions for millwork. We will also communicate with your electrician or other trade where power drops need to be located.

Form and Function are One!

Today’s purpose-built AV furniture – credenzas, entertainment centers and glass étagères -will offer proper ventilation, accessibility to components and elegant wire management.  We’ll determine the space requirements and share with you and your designer a variety of elegant choices or, when a custom solution is desired, provide the details needed to create the perfect solution for your home or office technology.

Feature-Rich and Trouble Free! How to Optimize Your Enjoyment of Your Home’s Technology Systems

We’ve recently talked about getting together to assess your home’s technology systems. It’s always a good idea to make sure you’re abreast of the latest technologies available and how to implement new devices both now and in the near future. The other key to satisfaction with your technology systems is ensuring their technical health. Simple things, such as cleaning components in the equipment rack, go a long way in preventing equipment from overheating. Part 2 of our annual Tech-Up addresses the advantages in having a preventative maintenance plan that would include a visit from one of our technicians.

Proper Digital Health Requires a Regular Check-up and Some TLC

While everything may be running smoothly, it’s possible you’re due for a firmware or software update that could potentially activate new, desirable features. We’ll put your network and systems through a thorough test to ensure functionality and make necessary security updates. We’ll also check to make sure everything is properly connected to your network, preventing trouble down the road.

We suggest you make a note of any questions you’d like to ask during the service call and be sure to advise us of any new devices, features or systems you’re interested in learning about or adding.

An Ounce of Prevention

To optimize your enjoyment and satisfaction and to prolong the life of your system we offer our LaScala Client Care Plan. The Plans offer proactive monitoring and maintenance of your systems. Our goal is zero system downtime and 100% client satisfaction. We understand that from time-to-time, equipment will fail. The goal of our Plans is to be able to discover problems before they occur.

Healthy Network, Happy Home      

All La Scala systems are backed by a Lifetime Warranty on workmanship without exception and our annual service programs ensure years of uninterrupted enjoyment of your system. A proactive service visit with a LaScala Client Care plan would typically include:

  1. Thorough check of network, AV and Smart Home systems, testing each system through a complete operational check to ensure functionality.
  2. Firmware, software and security updates installed as needed.
  3. Minor programming and personalization improvements.
  4. Analysis and tweaks of audio and video performance

 

Your home technology is a part of your everyday life. We want you and your family to get the most out of it and we want you to know we’re here to help. We’d love to hear from you – please call or email us with any questions or to schedule your maintenance visit today!

Time for a Tech-Up!

The transition to fall brings many changes; mild temps that have us rushing outdoors to enjoy fall festivals and food trucks, our beautiful Vancouver bursting with color (plan a trip to VanDusen Botanical Garden!), the onslaught of pumpkin-flavored everythings…and the slew of marketing messages stuffed into your bills suggesting it’s time to review your policies!  Just like your homeowner’s policy, auto coverage and health insurance are affected by the change in seasons and life events, your home’s technology systems may benefit from an annual assessment too. 

Imagine all of the devices connected to your personal “internet of things.” How many of those devices have been added since your network was initially set-up? A network upgrade may yield a remarkable difference in your system’s performance.  And of those new devices, how many were added to your home media system? Are you getting optimal image and sound quality? And how are they controlled? Some minor programming tweaks could go a long way in how your family uses and enjoys your home’s technology.

To Your (System’s) Health!

As a CEDIA professional, we recommend an annual “tech-up”, a comprehensive assessment of your home’s technology systems to ensure your system’s “health” and to gauge how happy you are with it and what it provides.  We all know how fast time flies and, in “tech” years, that’s “amplified” even more. If it’s been a year, or 3 or 5 since your system was installed, chances are you’re not taking advantage of all it has to offer.

You’ve got Questions, We’ve got Answers

Let’s set aside an hour to just sit down and talk about how you use your home’s systems. We’ll talk through all of your technology questions; what can my new Apple watch do? How do I set up Alexa to control my automated shades and lighting? Is my media room 4K ready? How do I integrate CDs onto a new platform? Can my new gaming console be integrated onto my remote control so I can stream movies?

There’s nothing we love more than to talk tech! Let’s get all your questions answered….maybe even some you hadn’t thought of! We’ll explore your existing system demands. Maybe you added new users to your network or are working from home. And we’ll determine if there are any upgrades available that could maximize performance or add features. We can also address anything you’re currently wanting to add or change and, together, develop a strategy for implementing NextGen technologies.

It’s an exciting time in the home automation industry. Systems are integrating more elegantly and efficiently than ever before and voice commands are at the center of it all. Art and technology are truly fusing to create innovative, sophisticated forms of concealment and google and Apple continue to influence everything that touches tech. We’ve got lots to talk about!

Make a Note!

Like prepping for any valuable appointment, as your technologist we suggest you start of list of things you’d like to discuss during our visit so that we get the full picture of your technology needs. Do a quick walk-through and think about how adding or tweaking a feature could be beneficial. Write down your questions, what you’ve added to your system and what you want to add!

Your home’s technology is a part of your everyday life and we appreciate you entrusting us with its care. Please know we’re here to answer your technology questions and help you make the most out of your systems, now and for years to come. Call now and schedule your annual Tech-up! We welcome the opportunity to reconnect.

And be sure to check back soon. We’ll discuss optimizing your system’s health through a comprehensive preventative maintenance program that takes the worries out of everything from changing batteries in the smoke detector to checking for firmware updates. Stay tuned!

We Now Accept UnionPay International

LaScala is pleased to announce that we can now accept the UnionPay card.  We are privileged to be part of this growing global network and excited to be able to extend this service to our clientele.

Cleanse Your Home of Wall Acne

It’s time for the glow up

When coming home from a long day at work, the last thing you want to encounter when you walk in the door is a wall of various wall plates, switches and knobs – all of different sizes, shapes and functions. This “wall acne” is not only inconvenient and confusing, it’s often a serious design obstacle in many homes. Thankfully, recent technological advances in home automation have brought sleek, stylish and sophisticated back.

Imagine combining all of your many controls in your entry way, by the garage door, or in your bedroom using one seamless keypad, instead of a mash up of random buttons and switches. This new, design-forward approach to technology synthesizes your lighting and temperature control, security and entertainment systems, and even your garage door opener into one user-friendly interface – reflecting the current trend in minimalism and ease-of-use.

It doesn’t stop at just convenience and style. This new home automation can help you improve your energy usage by automatically adjusting the temperature or lighting and shade control, depending on the weather or the amount of people in the room.

Your home automation tech specialists can help you design the right system to clear up your acne and reveal clean, smooth walls.

Wait! Where’s the TV?

Interior Design and Technology

Technology in Design by Vanilla Ice (Vanilla Ice Project)

It’s quite the dilemma. Many of us are fixated on home renovation shows, becoming obsessed with shiplap and subway tile.  We’re into open floor plans and oversized clocks. We want large dining rooms and dreamy outdoor spaces for entertaining, but when we’re ready to settle in on the comfy couch for our favorite weekly drama, or curl up with the family to stream a movie, we’d like to see a TV!  Have you noticed what’s missing in some of the “fixer upper” shows? Technology! Why IS that? Granted, some embrace technology-free zones with no disruptive television, gaming consoles or mobile devices in designated homework or family dinner spaces. That’s great, but many technologies actually keep us safe, comfortable, informed and entertained. Window coverings, LEDs, control devices and lighting design are elegant and convenient. So, why is technology so often overlooked in design?

Plan Now or Patch Later

First, for the best possible outcome, let the technology solutions provider (us) work with the Interior Designer from the onset of the project.  We can determine the technology requirements and provide the needed infrastructure before the shiplap, subway tile or custom wallpaper goes up. We can provide the cabling and determine power requirements, saving time and costly refinish work now or down the road. Sure, that painting looks great over the mantle, but would you eventually like to hang an OLED there? Let’s wire for it now so we don’t disturb the brick or wood later. Or, even better, let’s hang it now and conceal it with custom framed artwork that scrolls up to reveal the display! Oh yes, we can!

Wireless Isn’t the Only Answer

Windows are another key design element that require careful planning. Not only should consideration be made for the type and size of windows in media areas and other TV viewing areas, but thoughtful pre-wiring for control and power will be appreciated when you decide to install motorized shades.  It’s true that control for some features can be via wireless remotes, but we still need a power source. The same holds true for keypads and touchscreens, projectors, security features, architectural speakers and especially the home’s equipment rack.  The equipment rack is the technology hub, housing some or all of the system’s components. It is often centrally located in a closet that offers adequate ventilation and the ability to run cabling for every device and control interface to each room of the house. Homes with crawl spaces, basements and attics make this task somewhat easier, but often times we are faced with concrete, wood beams or even glass walls and floors of exquisite hardwood or tile that don’t allow access.  Get the picture?

Speaking of exquisite features, one “designer” that truly embraces tech is South Florida’s Vanilla Ice. While his over-the-top “bring on the bling” style is as different as our landscapes, his luxury designs focus on the elegance, entertainment and fun-factor of well-planned integrated technologies. From outdoor living areas, kitchens, master bedrooms and baths to outrageous home theaters and virtual reality gaming rooms, he focuses on how the family will use the space and designs around the technology. Say what you will about a rapper-turned-house-flipper, but his VIP (Vanilla Ice Project) designs require no retrofit (and he’s all about that fancy wallpaper).

So, let’s get the whole design team – the homeowner, the interior designer, architect and technology solutions provider in sync.  The end result will be a happy homeowner and beautiful, untouched high-end finishes (or maybe even some shiplap)!

Coming to a Stream Near You – Lossless Audio!

The music you play is as important as what you play it on and what you play it through. The truest, cleanest, highest bit rate content will yield the best sound under all the right conditions (connections, components, calibrations). Analog may be the “original”, but access and format are a challenge. So, how can you enjoy truly lossless audio?

What’s Missing?

We want our music and we want it now…but are we willing to compromise on quality? That answer seems to be yes, but to a point.  While earbuds and a smartphone can produce rather impressive sound, we understand that digital content is compressed and that we’re missing out on some of the depth (think standard definition vs. 4K). Portions of the music that have been deemed indiscernible to the human ear have been carved out.  This may be acceptable for casual on-the-go listening or while at the gym, but not when you want to really experience music. But that’s about to change.

On a mission to make available top-quality digital sound at a reasonable cost, rocker Neil Young is preparing to launch a high-quality streaming music service, Xstream. Xstream is based on a technology developed by Orastream and will be an adaptive streaming service that changes with available bandwidth. His feeling is that the higher bit rate will provide a more authentic analog sound vs. the more “squared-off” (more compressed) bit-rate which loses, in some ears, the essence of the music. While the technology behind the service is amazing in that it is capable of complete high resolution playback, Young himself expressed doubts that smartphone chips could adequately decipher the high-quality files.

Making a splash in the streaming service is Tidal.  Tidal is the first subscription streaming service to offer High Fidelity music along with HD music videos. Their lossless audio will stream on Apple devices and Android systems, as well as on a PC or when integrated in a wide range of hi-fi network players. To really appreciate the difference, they offer an audible demonstration of Lossless 1411 kbps (kilobits per second) music, as compared to the Vorbis 320 kbps of Spotify’s desktop version and iTunes’s AAC 256 kbps*.

Popular streaming service Spotify is reportedly testing the market for lossless audio too.  The service tier referred to as Spotify Hi-Fi would be competively priced between $15-$20/mo. Great news for those who want to access a vast library of tunes on a quality sound system.

If you’re one who enjoys hearing every note that every instrument plays which, until recently has meant analog, then these new streaming options are music to your ears. What you play it through (hi-end audio system) is another story, and one in which we at LaScala are eager to assist!

*As reported by Tidal

Additional References:

How to Build the Ideal Audiophile Listening Room

Bowers & Wilkins Blog: Digital Music – a Quick Guide to the Best Lossless files

Sony Music Goes Back to Vinyl Records

The Home-Field Advantage

Why go out to the sports bar, when you could build one in your own home?

 What comes to mind when you think of college football in Canada? Does the image of a crowded sports bar, or your friends and family struggling to view the same television screen come to mind? What about the ultimate in-home sports bar? Now, finding the best seat for the University of British Columbia game means never leaving the comfort of your own home.

When it comes to designing the ultimate in-home experience for game day viewing, a personal sports bar, with comfy furniture and lots of space to entertain, is highly sought-after. But what really matters is creating an immersive experience, complete with a large projection screen and high-definition projector or a huge flat screen television, and a complete surround sound system to bring the sights and sounds of the stadium into your home.

With your own in-home football zone, you never have to worry if the bar will be playing the right game, or if you’ll be entering into enemy territory. Your space can be designed around your team’s colors and memorabilia. Just think: acoustic paneling, comfy theater seating and wall art tailored for the ultimate UBC fan. Integrating your memorabilia and colors with the best audio and video can transform game day into an ultra-engaging sports experience.

Are fantasy sports more than just a hobby for you? Consider opting for multiple screens and watch multiple games at once, so you never have to miss a play. The ability to view multiple games and toggle between audio at the touch of a button gives any fantasy player an advantage on tracking stats.

And the options aren’t just limited to your home. Consider taking your dedication on the road with you, and deck out a mobile home like these Auburn football fans did, so that you always have the home-team advantage. Regardless of where you wish to create your personal “home team advantage,” give us a call and we’ll get your project kicked-off!

What’s Trending in Home Automation? Luxury

Gone are the days of home automation and luxury being two separate conversations and design concepts. More and more, luxury living is embracing home automation in order to provide optimal comfort solutions.

Imagine walking into your home, and the first thing your eye is drawn to is the artwork in your foyer – highlighted using experienced lighting design. Entertain guests with your high-tech wine cellar, complete with automated climate control and inventory management system. Even more, control the quality of the air inside your home.

And the options don’t end on the inside. Control luxury water features, audio and video entertainment systems, even operate a summer kitchen by the pool.

Home automation technology provides the epitome of luxury when combined with your own design style. The right technology will allow you to personalize your system to suit your lifestyle, giving you control of everything in your home – from the window shades, to the temperature and air quality, to your lights and even your security system. Advances in this technology provide you easy access to your entire home from your phone or tablet, and some systems can even operate via voice-activation.

With today’s trends in home automation luxury, nothing is off-limits. Whether you want a top-of-the-line smart kitchen, an all-encompassing security system, or an over-the-top outdoor movie theatre – there is a right mix of home automation technology for you that can be designed to suit your individual home design style.

How to Build a Listening Room, Part 2

We talked about performance speakers and the importance of proper speaker placement in Part 1 of our Listening Room feature. We also covered the acoustic properties and critical dimensions of the room design. Now, let’s dive into what drives the sound!

Key Components

The heart of your system driving sound to each channel is the amplifier.  Unlike your Home Theater’s AV Receiver that houses an all-in-one pre-amp, amplifier and processor for surround sound, hi-end audio systems have dedicated amplifiers, often one per channel. A more sophisticated set-up will have 2-way or 3-way amps that support each speaker. A pre-amp serves as the input device. It will convert signals from all audio sources such as a tuner, turntable and streaming devices to the signal that the amp wants.

It’s essential that the amplifier be matched to the specifications of the speaker to provide optimal output. LaScala can guide you through your choices and design to your listening preferences.  Our go-to is Classé, part of the B&W Group. Their line of components offers exquisite sound to complement any hi-end audio system. Check out this recent review of the Sigma 2200i integrated amplifier by Stereophile.

Connections

It is common knowledge that HDMI Cables are required to pass 4K and hi-end audio has similar requirements. Like video, quality cables are recommended for a solid, clean connection.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, just of good quality and appropriately sized for the given application. We can calculate the appropriate gauge cable that will deliver the necessary wattage to the speaker based on the distance. As for the connectors, gold are preferred over silver or other metallic. Locking connectors are a good choice for equipment that is seldom moved.

Having sufficient, clean power is paramount to the sound quality. Every AV system needs a name brand, purposely built, surge protector. Surge protection will remove artifacts from your power, filtering out spikes and dips. Insufficient power can make the amplifiers put out harmonics that will “color” the sound, creating unwanted distortion.

Commissioning

Once the system has been designed and the components selected, the next step is installation and commissioning. Measuring and testing the room’s characteristics, reverb, etc., we’ll “tune” the room to enable undistorted sound.   By adjusting equalization (EQ), gain structure and speaker placement, we target a flat frequency response.

Content in Controversy

We often hear that a turntable’s needle against vinyl is the only way to listen to music. It can be argued that the harmonic distortion created introduces a mild alteration that is perceived by many as warmth. The pops and crackles the needle yields evoke a “vintage” sense that some find pleasing and quite authentic. However, according to Mark Slee of Facebook, “In terms of fidelity and accuracy of sonic reproduction, CDs outperform vinyl in significant ways. With that said, there are sonic artifacts and emotional attachments with vinyl that many find pleasing. This creates a preference for vinyl – which some would describe as better, but this is a subjective quality as measured by the ear of the beholder.” With turntable sales up 16%, there’s apparently some “old schoolers” out there that agree.

The higher the bit rate of the audio, the more accurate the sound. Analog is uncompressed and the format truest to form. Overly processed audio, on the other hand, can mask or cancel parts of the music, eliminating the ability to hear everything as it was mastered.

All things being equal, the more information a format can transmit, the better the sound produced. For the best listening experience, the sound transmitted should pass through quality cabling and components and be listened to in a space that is purposefully designed to capture every nuance. Are you ready to hear what you’ve been missing? Let our award-winning team at LaScala help design or retrofit your personal listening space and enjoy music as it was intended to be!

Additional Resources:

Is the sound on vinyl records better than on CDs or DVDs?

Vinyl Vs CD/Mp3: Insights into Music Formats & the Metaphysics of Our Music

24/192 Music Downloads…and why they make no sense

Sony Music Goes Back to Vinyl Records

What bitrate is needed to sound like analog FM?

Move Over Man Cave, The Lady Cave is here to Help Her Disconnect

Men aren’t the only ones to enjoy their personal space. She Sheds, Woman Caves, Lady Caves are throwing the man cave a “curve.” Feeling a need to escape the chaos and disconnect from the disruptive, hyper-connected world, the woman cave provides a soft sanctuary that continues to grow in popularity. Despite all the talk of “disconnecting”, many technologies can actually add comfort, convenience and the fun-factor to the space that is “for girls only!”  Here’s some things to keep in mind as you contemplate designing your personal corner of the world.

Choose your space

This is where the creativity begins. She caves are as varied as their female occupants. A spare bedroom with sunny windows that look out across the harbor may serve as a charming, relaxing haven while an outdoor she-shed (a transformed utility shed) may suit the clever crafter or budding artist quite well. With a little renovating, the attic could become the perfect refuge for the creative writer or provide some quiet “me-time” of yoga. Even a generously-sized closet or dressing room can become a cozy reading nook and, of course, the basement can make the ultimate gal-pal hangout, complete with wine frig and big screen.

Yours and Yours Alone

So, what’s your plan? Your space may require some outfitting or updates to make it comfortable and offer the amenities you desire. Disconnecting doesn’t necessarily mean a space void of any and all connectivity either. If you’re a fitness fanatic or serious music lover, you’ll want your she cave decked out with a nice sound system and HVAC control. The work-from-home entrepreneur will need to rely on a solid, secure network and the wine enthusiast may wish to consult her eSommelier or favorite Vivino app.

Additional smart technologies such as lighting and shade control, remote-controlled fireplaces and water features and user-friendly access to music or video streaming (yes, Chic-flicks!) can actually make things simpler and more comfortable.  And, while you may not want disruptive emails in your sanctuary, you do want to be reached if needed – safety first! And speaking of safety, nothing is more “glam” than security – both physically and digitally. Home technology can help you keep an eye on things – the front door, the crib-cam – which is comforting. Automating tasks such as locking all the doors, lowering all the window shades and turning on the alarm can instill a sense of calm after a chaotic day.

Design

No matter the look or theme of your space, properly planned technologies will not distract from your Zen. Whether working with your designer or putting the space together on your own, we can help by introducing you to gorgeous framed artwork that lifts to reveal your on-wall LCD and speakers that disguise themselves into the ceiling or wall without detracting from the décor. And imagine replacing that unsightly bank of light switches with an elegant keypad or touchscreen!

So, curl up on your chaise, grab your tablet or mirror your laptop on the big screen and scroll through these inspired spaces.  Imagine your perfect little getaway from the everyday and give us a call. Mom cave, shabby chic she shack…whatever suits you, and let’s get started!

Additional Resources:

At Home: The “she-shed” – women’s answer to the man cave

“She Shed:” The Answer to the Man Cave, WSJ Video

Today: Introducing the “She-Shed”: Women’s answer to the man cave

How to Build the Ideal Audiophile Listening Room, Part 1

B&W 800 Diamond Series

Hear the Music. Really Hear it.  “I’ve listened to that song a thousand times and I’m hearing things I’ve never heard before.”  That’s the definition of your perfect Listening Room. While our world of listening has transformed dramatically over the last decade, all that matters is what you want to hear. The science and mathematics are real, as are the hi-end audio components. The rest is subjective.

The Speakers

Loudspeakers convert electrical impulses into sound. Depending on the dimensions of the room, as well as the listener’s preferences, a well-designed audio system will transmit the desired range of frequencies (note that it may not be the widest range). Some audiophiles swear by 2-channel, with speakers positioned a calculated distance apart and at an optimal distance from the listener, facing the listener for a 2 dimensional listening experience.  The 2-channel system creates a virtual sound stage.  When professionally set-up, the listener is able to close his/her eyes and actually pick out exactly where, on the “stage”, that musician was positioned. Unlike viewing a movie, there is no need for various sounds (voice, music, effects) to “follow” around the room, so rear speakers or a full surround sound system are not desired. In fact, some find it unnatural for instruments to be heard behind them. The perfect speaker system, in the perfect acoustically treated room, will reproduce the sound as authentically as possible. However, while science can measure all facets of sound, the listening experience is quite personal and our passion for particular brands is rather cult-like. We, of course, have our favorites too.

An industry icon with a prestigious reputation built over 5 decades, Bowers & Wilkins touts its 800 Diamond Series as “the industry standard for accurate sound.” We couldn’t agree more.  The Diamond Dome tweeters of the iconic 802 D3 deliver natural treble while its Continuum cone and Aerofil cone provide amazing, subwoofer-free, midrange and bass, respectively.  Frequently the subject of audiophile reviews, the B&W Diamond Series does not disappoint. The D3 was unveiled last summer in Boston. Here’s a review featured in Audioholics that details the author’s experience of both the D3 as well as B&W’s flagship speaker, the $60k per pair Nautilus. The line’s CM Series, with its minimalist exterior and “tweeter on top” technology, also offers incredible audio performance. It is designed with the highest quality components and a “less is more” philosophy that ensures “nothing gets between you and the sound the artist intended you to hear.”

The Construction

Equally as important to the components is the environment.  The ideal listening room will be free of ambient noise and other distractions. Acoustic treatments will absorb the hum of the HVAC and rattling water pipes.  The space will be free of harsh lighting, filled only with soft, relaxing light and there will be no capacity for video. This combination of exceptional components producing nearly flawless sound and the distraction-free environment, will allow the listener to hear subtle artifacts in the music that were previously unnoticed.

The room’s furnishings and physical dimensions are essential to the experience.  The proper room requires some soft surfaces – some will say that even a glass coffee table or leather couch is not suitable as they will reflect sound, opting instead for fabric seating. The height of the seat back is recommended to be below the listener’s ear level, allowing unobstructed hearing without reflection. The single seat should be positioned in what will be known as the “sweet spot” or “money seat,” as determined by the engineer’s calculations. The calculations for the room itself are also of great importance.  To determine an acoustically accurate room for optimal listening, audio engineers employ the Bonello Graph, a method of calculating the ideal room ratio of dimension and volume, explained here by AcousticFields.com.  In the audiophile world, this is also referred to as the acoustic amoeba.

Are you an audiophile or serious music lover that wants to experience all that the music has to offer?  Hearing is believing! Let’s set up an in-home consultation and schedule a demo – you can even bring your own music. And stay-tuned. Part 2 will cover amplification, calibration, connectivity and content. Did you know Neil Young was launching a high-quality music streaming service?

Additional Resources:

Ideal Room Size Dimensions and Ratios for Audiophile Listening

Ideal Room Size Ratios & How To Apply The Bonello Graph

A Room to Listen In

B&W 800 Diamond Series

B&W 800 Diamond Series

A New Way to Keep Your Things Under Lock and Key

Smart Home Basics: Locks 101

We’ve all been there – you’re running late to work and you realize you never locked the door or closed the garage and you’re already at the office. If you are one of these people, a smart lock or garage might be for you!

With these smart security features, you’ll no longer need to rely solely on your existing monitoring system. By pairing your monitoring system with a smart lock or smart garage, you’re gaining 24/7 remote access to your home and who’s allowed in it – all from your smartphone or tablet. With features like keyless entry, remote locking and alert options, leaving a key under the mat is no longer necessary.

Smart locks and apps like Alarm.com’s have the ability to send you alerts whenever someone enters your home – and you will always know who it is, thanks to unique security codes you can set for each user. And good news for those forgetful folks: these apps can also send reminders whenever you forget to lock the door or close the garage, thanks to GPS monitoring on your phone. Thankfully, you’ll always have the ability to remotely lock and unlock your door.

Want more? Considering a smart lock with a video doorbell, or a camera that records each time your front door is opened. And if you’re one of the 70 percent of people who uses their garage as their main point-of-entry, some apps also feature alerts when movement is tracked by image sensors in your garage. And with a top-notch camera system, such as Luma Surveillance, you can even access remote playback and view live feed via their app.

Regardless of which smart home security technology you think is right for you, make sure you pair it with a professionally-monitored security system.  LaScala can help you pair features with your current or desired home automation system. For monitoring, we partner with Provident Security to keep your home secure. Give us a call and let’s get started. Then, you’ll be able to rest assured that your family (and belongings) are safe.

Additional Resources: Crestron

What are the Advantages of Custom Motorized Window Shades?

As chic as they are functional, motorized window treatments provide elegance and convenience to any space. They harvest natural daylight in sleek, sophisticated styles.  Motorized window coverings integrated into your home’s automated system make life easier, especially since many can now be controlled with your smart phone or tablet.  And, as they have become more popular in recent years, an added benefit is the increased value they bring to your home or office space.  But that’s just scratching the surface.

Designer-centric

There is a fabulous array of styles and custom solutions available that will complement any setting.  Aside from the huge variety of colors, patterns and weaves, the types of coverings are also extensive, ranging from pleated to honeycomb and roman shades to automated draperies.  Motorized treatments are even available for skylights, vertical and bottom-up applications for a unified design across all openings.

A 2017 trend is “clean”, multi-layered window treatments, pairing simple drapery panels or sheers with blinds or shades for the perfect combination of light and privacy.  As a CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) professional, we’ll partner with your Interior Designer to create an expert blend of technology and design, pairing the right combination of weave and color with exquisite patterns and luxurious textures.

Another design-friendly benefit is the prevention of fading of fine furnishings through the UV protection properties of the shades. Aside from the practical aspects, the design applications seem endless! Window treatments no longer rely on wired connectivity and power. Battery-operated units allow for use on doors and other applications where wiring is not possible.  Motorized shades and draperies are not confined to windows either. Imagine the drama of elegant draperies parting at the touch of a button to reveal your home theater screen! Or being able to install a hidden drop-down projection screen in front of a window thanks to having black-out shades! For more ideas, visit our gallery.

Eco-friendly

Energy-saving is a prime function of shades. They are designed to both harvest daylight and block generated heat, offering substantial reduction in costs.

People-friendly

Window shades promote biophilic design, maximizing sunlight while reducing glare and fatigue.  While natural light is often sought to fill space however, according to a recent blog in ASID’s icon, “…sometimes natural light is just too bright. Blocking it out can be as important as letting it in. New innovations and technologies in shading are making it easier for designers to obtain the optimal balance of highly sought natural light and much needed light control.”

Another people-friendly feature is serving as nature’s alarm clock.  Imagine the peaceful, subtle awakening to the natural glow of sunrise.  Shades can be set to open gradually in the morning and close again at sunset.

Safety & Security

An important advantage to motorization is the lack of chains or cord pulls that entice children and pets, posing a serious safety hazard.  Another advantage is in your home’s security.  Just like programming lights to go on and off throughout the day while you’re away, shades opening and closing simulate a lived in look, deterring break-ins.

Privacy

Shades are an elegant solution for privacy.  They are perfect for hard-to-reach windows such as those surrounding your garden tub, an elevated vaulted ceiling area or featured stairwell niche.  In a space with multiple windows and French doors, this is a tremendous convenience and time-saver. And some fabrics even offer a one-way weave, blocking visibility into your house or hi-rise without interrupting your view to the outside.

In an office environment, shades are a simple solution to transforming glass-enclosed conference rooms into private meeting spaces.  Coupled with their acoustic properties, they also contribute toward privacy compliance measures.

If you’re considering updating your window treatments, consider not only integrating them into your home’s design, but into your home.  Let us show you why LaScala is “The Art of Technology” and how shades can transform your home or office.

Additional Resources:

Houzz: Small Luxuries: Motorized Window Coverings Offer Benefits to All

Electronics House: 10 Things to Know About Motorized Shades

http://www.lutron.com/en-US/Residential-Commercial-Solutions/Pages/Residential-Solutions/ShadingSolutions.aspx

https://www.lutronfabrics.com/fabrics/shade-type/roller-shades and check out inspiration gallery

Are millennials making smart technology more common?

With more millennials buying their own homes, smart home technology is on the up-and-up.

Houzz’s recent survey found that first-time home buyers – millennials in particular – are prioritizing smart home technology in new home construction and renovations.

New residential developments are emerging across the country, equipped with the latest and greatest features in smart technology. Texas, for example, is about to be home to a new development incorporating room for the smart technology decades from now, and how could impact its construction. High-speed fiber networks, outdoor technology with interactive capability and neighborhood safety and features have become a mainstay in residential construction, right at the top of their wish list.

Houzz’s survey also uncovered an interesting trend in integrating smart technology into their home renovations, for those who don’t want new construction. If you’re one of the 33 percent of recent home buyers who are considering investing in some form of smart technology in their homes, make sure you’re hiring the right pros to do it.

With home automation technology on the rise, it’s widely available. The demand for more innovation and creativity in smart technology is good news for both the home buyers and the integration professionals – especially now that more home owners are spending money on optimizing their space with tech. The right smart home technology has the ability to transform any home into a stylish, comfortable and safe home environment.

Even though smart technology can keep you safe, it’s just as important to protect your devices from hacking and other threats. According to Twice, customers are consistently seeking out IT support services in order to protect themselves from hackers. Consulting with professional integrators will help you determine the best tech for your needs and your home, without compromising safety.

Simple, Collaborative Presentation Systems

It’s a basic expectation really. You want to walk into a meeting room, easily connect your laptop, and make a presentation.  And you can.  Your conference room or huddle room system can be a simple plug-and-present; a wireless solution or one that is controlled by your smartphone. But, like all good designs, great outcomes depend on great input.  While any of those solutions may be an effective presentation system, if it doesn’t suit the needs of the user, it will fall short of expectation.  An effective presentation system is not as much about the technology as it is the user experience.  A few simple questions will uncover the right solution for you and your team.

Collaborative Conference Room

Define and Design

The first step in designing a system is to define the desired user experience for all users.  The right solution will depend on:

  • Who will be using the system? Will it be a defined group or will the room be open to visitors or personnel from other offices?
  • What is their experience level?
  • What are your company’s workflows?
  • Are you wanting teleconferencing, video conferencing, content sharing, whiteboarding?
  • Is there a company standard such as Skype for Business?
  • What is the desired interface? Minimal interaction, single-button press or plug-n-play? Do you want to avoid the use of small, uninstalled units such as a hand-held remote control that may disappear in a huddle room?
  • Will users be mobile – on smart phones or tablets? And how many connections are anticipated?
  • Do you want the system to detect user mobile phones, syncing the system based on the room’s scheduled calendar event?
  • Are you wanting to create a standardized solution that will be replicated across the enterprise?

Let’s Be Clear

In this era of rapidly evolving technologies, new acronyms and terminologies abound. VC, VTC, VMR and UC, for example, can mean a variety of things depending on who you’re talking to.  One person’s definition of video conferencing may mean a traditional conference room setting with dual-screen monitors and sophisticated cameras that track movement, displaying far side participants as well as shared content.  Another may be imagining a video call in the cloud with a completely remote or mobile staff.  Collaboration is another term that requires a clear definition.  To some it means simple screen sharing via Webex or Go-to-Meeting while others imagine a fully interactive experience that allows wireless sharing of multiple PCs or collaborative whiteboarding.

Wired, Wireless and your IT Department

Wireless presentations from a laptop, tablet or mobile phone (Bring Your Own Device) can offer seamless, convenient connectivity to the shared display, but not all IT departments allow this accessibility due to network security. Several solutions on the market today offer point-to-point connectivity, enabling connectivity via a self-contained Wi-Fi without being on your network.  Some companies require heightened security measures, restricting wireless and providing only a secure wired solution.

Designed to Scale

Your communications, conferencing and presentation systems are a strategy, not a trend.  Be sure your system is based on your needs and desired outcomes and not the latest solution offering by a particular manufacturer.  It should take into account your potential for future needs and growth and provide the required scalability.  As you add spaces and staff, standardizing on a solution that can be replicated throughout the building or across the campus is a clear cost advantage.  Not only will it save in design and installation costs, but users will be more likely to adopt and use the technology in the room if they are already familiar with it.  Savings are also realized on employee training.

Scalability needs to support technology needs as well. A well thought out strategy and design will provide IT infrastructure to support growth over the next 5 years or more. Network and data requirements, multiple VLANs and robust Wi-Fi can be implemented now, along with conduit and pre-wire for future expansion.

The solution drives the best possible outcome. Partner with an AV/IT professional to create huddle spaces, meeting rooms and board rooms that are efficient, effective and impactful, for your users and for your bottom line.

Additional Resources:

PC Magazine’s “The Best Video Conferencing Software of 2017

Crestron fully Integrated, Effortless Meetings

Extron features simple, intuitive collaboration

LaSala’s Engineering, Design Services and Deliverables

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

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

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

Home automation in the Master Bedroom

Home automation adds elegance and comfort throughout your home

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

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

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

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

Let’s get started on your wish list.

How to Add Music Outside

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

Choices in Outdoor Speakers

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

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

What’s the difference between indoor and outdoor speakers?

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

System Design meets “Interior” Design

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

At the core

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

Years of enjoyment

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

Additional Resources:

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

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

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

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

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

James

Seek Professional Help! From a Certified Specialist, that is!

Resist!  It’s a sunny afternoon and you find yourself in your favorite home improvement store.  You stroll down the electrical aisle in search of a replacement wall plate and, BAM, there it is, DIY lighting control.  Dimmers, outdoor lighting…Oh, just imagine…”Honey, did you turn off the basement lights? No? Ok [picks up remote], I got it.”  Bliss. Sigh. You round the corner and on the end-cap display, spotlighted as if the clouds have parted and sopranos are welcoming a new dawn….motorized window shades!  With a remote! Simple, elegant…You’ve been dreaming about blackouts for the Master Bedroom and Home Theater…maybe a lighter weave for the family room to protect the furniture, ease glare on the TV and block the heat…sounds perfect but….not so fast!

While DIY has its place, we caution you when it comes to automated lighting control and motorized window shades.  We’ve recently experienced many homeowners calling to ask us to re-program their lighting and window treatments, integrating their weekend project into their system, only to find out that what they’ve installed is a single-room solution.  For us, the beauty of whole-home lighting and shade is just that – a whole-house integrated system.  Pre-set configurations; all-on/all-off, entertain, away, Good Morning!, Goodnight! modes– Portrait lights on while the shades are down, can lights on with shades at 50%….elegance, control and options galore!

So, be tempted by that jaw-dropping display…be inspired…but before placing anything in your cart, please check with us to learn your options.  We want to be sure you’re happy with your investment. Put the drill down and pick up the phone. We got this!

Transforming an Integrated System into an Integrated Lifestyle

More than incorporating various electronic components, an electronics systems contractor integrates lifestyle – in your home and in your office.  In today’s digital world, it’s what we’ve come to expect.  Don’t let those expectations fall short.

Proven methods ensure positive outcomes

A true differentiator in the digital environment, as a CEDIA Designer we subscribe to a proven design-build process: Discovery, Systems Design, Engineering, Implementation, Service & Support.  This process begins with a thorough discovery that allows us to understand your current and future needs and wants, along with your budget and timeline.  This is a critical step that drives design.  Equally as important is the documentation that communicates that design.

More than a list of gear

When presented with a design, it is critical that you understand how the system will perform.  Too often a business or homeowner is presented with a list of components.  That gets you to the bottom line, but what will the system do?  How will it function in each space and how can you trust it will perform as specified?  Along with expert system design and engineering, you should be presented with a comprehensive document package that demonstrates proven design; project drawings, schematics, easy-to-understand scope-of-work, hardware and labor requirements.  Once approved, this package communicates the design to the installation team, programmer, architect, interior designer, plumber, electrician, millwork carpenter, etc.

Lifecycle to Lifestyle

Once engaged, the implementation process begins.  We manage the project throughout its lifecycle, communicating during each phase to keep you informed and in charge! Our R&D Process further aligns results with expectations.

Designing your integrated lifestyle is more than a list of stuff, it’s how your devices and applications work together seamlessly throughout your day.  We want you to know what to expect. Expect to be blown away!

OLED is Flexing its Muscles, and its Design Capabilities!

On-Wall displays, once avoided by the Interior Design Professional at all costs, has thrust itself into the realm of stunning artwork, worthy of being featured, not hidden.  OLEDs of 2017, consuming less power than LED TVs, offer striking blacks and brilliant whites from surfaces that are no thicker than a credit card!

While the video technology’s curved, flat or even “wallpaper” configurations allow for incredible flexibility in design options, audio solutions have become equally as creative.

For example, LG’s newest OLED Wall-Paper, introduced at CES earlier this year, is so thin and light, it actually mounts to the wall with magnets, leaving no room within the display unit for AV control, connection ports or audio.  Their solution is an external shelf-like sound bar, mounted just below the video display which boasts Active HDR with Dolby Vision as well as spectacular Dolby Atmos for the sound.  You may imagine that professional installation is needed.  While some embrace the sleek design, others would prefer a less conspicuous solution: and perhaps it’s in the works.

Sony jumped back into the OLED arena, introducing its new Bravia A1 OLED TV, which turns the glass front into a speaker! The “Acoustic Surface” vibrates to create audio. The super-thin design also means there’s no need for a traditional stand. Instead, it features a pop-out lean stand similar to that of a much smaller tablet.

Samsung deviated from OLED by developing QLED which features “reinvented Quantum Dot technology.”  Truly designer-friendly, it comes with “invisible connection” for nearly undetectable cabling. For audio they’ve developed the Sound+ soundbar with subwoofer, complementing their line of flat and curved units both aesthetically and acoustically.

Interior Designers can now embrace technology in design with OLED TVs that are beautiful whether on or off.  So, which is right for you?  Give us a call – we’ll help you navigate OLED!

Virtual & Augmented Reality: Ready for Take-off?

We’ve heard about it for decades, but is Virtual Reality, with its sleek companion Augmented Reality, finally ready for prime-time?  Over the holidays, we all watched the commercials with people of all ages laughing, gasping, stunned as they were submerged into a deeper reality.  It’s only now that we’re seeing the potential, and how amazing VR & AR truly are.

Prevalent in the gaming world, augmented reality blends real-world with virtual world, allowing users to interact with virtual content in a real setting.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Imagine where that will take us.  Here’s just a sampling from the floor of CES2017.

AR goes beyond any other experience and its applications are as infinite as its experiences.  We’ll explore the gear in another post.  For now, just fathom where this incredible technology can transport you to…..

At home: Take a destination vacation, virtually

At work: Recruiting, training, visualization and providing a real connection for your remote workforce.

At play:  Pokemon was the tip of the gaming iceberg. Coming soon to an Xbox near you (2018) is mixed reality! And Six Flags partners with Samsung to launch a VR Roller coaster!

In retail:  VR/AR enhances experiential marketing and customer engagement

In healthcare: Imagine if your surgical team had access to augmented reality?   And for those experiencing low vision (blurry vision, tunnel vision or blind spots that can’t be corrected), a University of California, Berkeley Professor is working to bring a lower cost aid to this community, helping to restore their sight.

In education: True abstract learning at all levels.

In worship: Imagine.

Ready for take-off?  At the speed of sound! Mr. Sulu, set course for Earth. Punch it!

Recommended Sources:

https://www.cnet.com/news/gaming-vr-virtual-reality-ar-augmented-reality-help-restore-sight/

http://augray.com/blog/augmented-reality-virtual-reality-gaming/

http://augray.com/blog/augmented-reality-helps-reinventing-customer-engagement/

Add Luxury to your Vacation Home & Value to your Income Property

Your vacation home should be just that, a vacation.  It’s a restful sanctuary free from headaches, unnecessary chores and stress.  This is where an automated home can shine, literally.

You may be imagining your lakefront home with automated control of your lights, shades and water features. Or perhaps your mountain retreat with outdoor audio, a weatherproof LCD and remote control of your fire feature.  These features add enjoyment and value to your property.  But when you’ve made your Friday afternoon escape and pull into the drive, the last thing you want is a surprise such as a burst water heater, an A/C that’s been left on or, worse, evidence of a break-in.

From basic security features and keyless entries to more sophisticated occupancy and water sensors, your home can alert you should something go amiss.  If a pipe bursts you can react immediately and get a service technician on the property, hours before you may be able to arrive.  You can grant him access and have the repair performed before long-term damage can occur.

As a rental property, there is a tremendous perception of luxury and value in automation.  Easy navigation of the home’s unfamiliar entertainment system, for example, will increase their overall “experience” and enjoyment.  And they’ll appreciate the added security, particularly in remote areas.  You’ll appreciate that you can remotely mange your guest network, controlling which devices are allowed to be controlled, as well as the ability to turn off the A/C or heat when a door is left open.

Upon your guests’ check-out, you can remotely assess the home’s condition, ensure the lights are off, the shades are closed, the appliances are as they should be, the thermostat is set and the gate is latched.

When you’re ready to plan your perfect vacation get-away home, give us a call, even if it’s out of our area.  We can help design your luxury system and work with a trusted network of integration partners to make sure you’ll receive the service you’ve come to expect from us.

What’s My Line?

I’m often asked, what is it, exactly, that you do”? In some professions, that’s an easy, straightforward answer. For me, well, maybe it’s not so easy. Remember the iconic mid-century “What’s My Line”?  How many clues would it take to uncover my role?  It might be easier to say what I’m not.

I am CEDIA.  As a CEDIA Pro, I’m an Electronics Systems Contractor.  Others may refer to me as a Technologies Systems Integrator.  I have some specialties such as a Home Theater Designer.  And some call me a Residential Systems Integration Firm.  Hollywood gives me a bad rap (White House Down , the bad guys pose as AV Installers!)  Wow, that’s really not what I do!  For what I do, there’s rarely a drop-down selection that comes close because what I do is deliver the life you’ve dreamed of.  Really.

I integrate your home’s systems to perfectly operate as one – your climate, audio, video, security, lighting, shading…it’s automated, to your comfort and for your enjoyment.  My team and I masterfully make the system work as one – that’s the secret to simplifying everything on your end.  Easy, simple, elegant.

As a CEDIA pro, I believe life is best lived at home, simply. And that’s who I am.  I craft the personal home experience that delivers the life you’ve dreamed of for yourself and your family. A life lived best at home.  So, what do I do? I make the complicated simple. I put the lights on and open the shades. Yes, I do windows. More importantly, I let you know when the kids are home, and I keep you comfortable and entertained.

How do I do it?  I listen.  If you asked an architect to design a house, what would it look like?  What would it be made of, how many rooms would it have, do you want a big kitchen?  They’d start with a few questions: tell me about your style, your kids, what you enjoy doing together, do you enjoy cooking?  The same holds true for the technologies inside. They complement your lifestyle and make your house your home.  And that’s what I do. I am CEDIA and I’m listening.