Category Archives: Lighting Control

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

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.

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

 

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

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!