Category Archives: Automation

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

Throughout 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

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!

The 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.

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.