Category Archives: Tech Trends

Entertaining in the Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Your Home’s New Interface

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio & Aesthetics. The Soundbar Solution.

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

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

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

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

Custom fit & finish

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

Dimensions of sound – Dolby Atmos

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

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

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

Smart Home, Healthy Home

The Integration of home automation and healthcare is life-changing

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

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

Automated Healthcare

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

Voice and “Stress” Control

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

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

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

Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Smart Home, CEPro

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

Digital Doctors: Home Automation is Redefining Healthcare, Collective Evolution

5 ways tech is changing retirement, Ameriprise Advisors

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

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

How 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