Category Archives: Tech Trends

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.

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.

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.

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:

  • Thorough check of network, AV and Smart Home systems, testing each system through a complete operational check to ensure functionality
  • Firmware, software and security updates installed as needed
  • Minor programming and personalization improvements
  • 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!