Smart Homes: Start with a Smart Hub

Best smart home hubsBy the end of 2017, you can expect to see an increase in the average home’s IQ, thanks to the booming industry trend of home automation (a.k.a. smart homes). With so many corporate launches of new services, products and all-around better technology, we wanted to spend several weeks focusing on some of the biggest and most exciting home automation possibilities in a blog series dedicated to smart homes.  

To kick off our series, we will be focusing on one gadget that will control them all: the Smart Hub. Key players in the Smart Hub trend are, of course, Amazon, Google and Samsung. Each has released their own smart hub onto the market; however, the market itself is still in its infancy. The companies are still trying to work out brand partnerships/integrations to create software that will allow seamless syncing between smart hub and smart devices (e.g. heating and cooling systems, appliances, security systems). Not only do these partnerships need to be identified but the software integration alone takes a considerable amount of time before it can be released for public use, which is a problem for consumers who want to get involved in the smart home trend but are confused about which hub will support which smart device.  Their confusion is for good reason since the companies themselves haven’t figured that out.

Amazon’s Alexa has been on the market for a while and is making significant strides in capabilities month to month. Alexa seems to be far ahead of the curve with their brand integrations with numerous integrations announced during last month’s CES. Alexa’s integration plans include: Ford, LG, ADT, Dish and Huawai, to name a few. If you are looking to join the smart home trend but want to start small, the Amazon Echo Dot is a great budget-friendly way to meet Alexa and see if you like her ($49.99 on

If you already have quite a few smart products in your home and you would like to get them connected to a hub, then Samsung’s SmartThings ($99) would be a great option. It has the ability to connect to over 200 gadgets and gives you the ability to create different scenarios for all the gadgets in your home. For example, if you would like your front hall lights to turn on when you unlock the door, you can set that up. However, the syncing between the multiple systems is not by any means fluid and may take some patience to get set up just right for your needs.  

Google Home ($129) gives you the ability to control your smart home devices as well as stream music. Those of us who use Chromecast can also control that through Google Home.  However, the selling point of Google Home is that it is fully integrated with Google Assistant, meaning that you can “Google” anything through voice control.  So far Google Home is the only smart hub program that offers an unlimited search function.

If you don’t currently have a smart hub in your home, there’s a good chance you will by the end of 2017. We will continue to see new integrations between brands announced throughout the year, which will hopefully help us all make more informed decisions about which hub will be the right hub for our homes.

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Dish Network Sees the Future

Dish Network hit a few home runs at the 2017 CES with their unveiling of AirTV, Dish Anywhere and the first peek at their Alexa integrated voice control. These three services will eventually decimate consumers’ needs for Dish’s current and traditional service offerings, but Dish has no need to worry as they are set to tap into a new generation of consumers.

Air TV

Dish has evolved their Sling TV service that debuted in 2015 into AirTV. AirTV takes all the offerings of Sling TV and adds in Netflix. Maybe not so impressive at first glance, but when we tell you that AirTV also provides over-the-air (OTA) channels in HD via a TV antenna, you might have a different sentiment.

All you need is the AirTV Android box and an antenna set-up for the OTA channels, and you are ready to roll. Dish will install an antenna (outdoor or indoor) for $120-$150. Since AirTV is an Android device, it can play any app from the Google Play store (Netflix comes pre-loaded). If you are planning on utilizing the OTA channels, you will also want an AirTV adapter plug that will connect the box to your antenna.

Dish Anywhere

Don’t we all wish we could take the comforts of home with us wherever we go? With Dish Anywhere, you can. That is if you qualify “home” as television, which of course any good American does. With Dish Anywhere, you can take all of your local channels, programming guide, DVR, video on Demand and live TV with you anywhere you go. “Anywhere” meaning any spot on the globe with a television and an HDMI port.

The device will be similar to that of the Amazon Fire Stick or Chromecast and will come with a tiny remote. Don’t forget the remote!

Voice Control

We’ve known for a while that Dish has been working with Amazon to integrate Alexa voice control. At CES, we finally caught a glimpse of the pre-production integration.

Dish will be the first to offer this native voice control integration for television. When the service launches, there are a few functionalities that will be excluded or not available. For instance, you will not be able to turn the TV on and off through voice control, open Netflix or give the command “pause”. Unfortunately, for those functions you will need to reach for the remote, at least for the time being.

Dish Network was definitely a bright light at CES 2017, offering some very aggressive plans for television and technology in the coming years. And that boldness will most likely pay off for them with a new and younger consumer base.

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3 Home Theater “Must Haves” in 2017

For consumers who made a New Year Resolution to have more fun, a home theater system is a great way to check another resolution off the list. Or it could just be a good excuse to start a little home improvement project.

If you’re in the market to create for a new home theater or dedicated media room space in your home, we have three recommendations for setups that will be on-trend in 2017, and beyond!

Home Theater Must Haves 2017

3 Home Theater “Must Haves” in 2017

Multiple Screens

You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood during March Madness with the first home theater trend. Taking inspiration from your local sports bar, imagine having your own space with dual and multiple screen setups – including flat screen panel TVs on the same wall for standard television viewing – and a larger front-projection screen for movies or the biggest game. Another home theater room option is to include smaller screens in various areas of the room, especially combined with comfortable seating to help increase your enjoyment of what you are watching. Whether you’re hosting a party or spending time with your family – while you’re all watching different shows, naturally – having multiple screens can create a great party room.

Social Viewing

Watching programming with your closest friends is great, but what if you could watch it with millions more? One of the latest trends for home theaters is to include real-time posts from social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as feeds on a separate screen, allowing consumers to follow commentary and scores from others while they watch a live awards ceremony, sporting event, or television show. Home theater installers create this environment with smart TVs and tablets accompanying larger flat screens. Another benefit to this trend? Smaller smart TVs and tablets can be used to stream music or play games when they aren’t being used to tweet.

Multi-purpose Room

Home theaters and media rooms are excellent investments, but for space-limited homes, it might not be prudent to reserve an entire room to watching movies. Enter the multi-purpose room; a hybrid home theater and entertainment room that can be used for almost anything. These rooms tend to be designed more like a living room, with lighter color decor, comfortable chaise lounges, and maybe even a bean bag chair or two. The digital components, however, are installed to the exacting standards of a typical home theater space. With a multi-purpose room, you have the best of both worlds.

Ready to take the leap into a home theater for the new year? Contact us today at 704-870-2448 and let us help you incorporate these ideas into your new setup.

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Using IP Address Discovery to Save Time and Keep You Safe

IP Address DiscoveryIf a device is on your IP address and you don’t see it, can it cause problems? Unlike the old adage about the tree in the forest, we know the answer to this riddle — unseen devices can cause major problems for your home network.

With more and more pieces of technology becoming “smart”, networks must link to more IP addresses than ever before, which make finding, identifying, and monitoring these devices extremely important. Luckily, our world of innovators has expanded, and crowd sourcing IP detection has eased the burden on consumers and network administrators alike. Continue reading

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Voice-Controlled Tech & Your Home

Voice Controlled Tech in your HomeAs we countdown to the new year, let’s continue our home theater trends series and look ahead at the hottest trends in home theater entertainment & home automation expected in 2017.

In 2016, we saw a huge trend in voice-controlled gadgets being released onto the market. Most notably being Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Both Alexa and Assistant are in-home gadgets that are marketed as personal assistants. Users can verbally request information from the devices such as weather forecasts and also verbally create shopping lists, set alarms or stream music.  These capabilities should sound familiar as they mirror the capabilities of Apple’s Siri, which has been standard on iPhones dating back to 2012. Continue reading

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Home Theater On-Demand

With only a couple weeks left in 2016, we continue our series on the coolest trends of the year and what to expect in home theater entertainment & home automation in 2017.

Two decades ago, choices for just about everything were limited – consumers had the same type of television sets, Walkmans, cable boxes, and sound systems. Now we live in an on-demand, connected world; you can ask a hockey puck-sized AI system to download a movie for you to watch and use your Uber app to get McDonalds delivered straight to your door. Continue reading

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Structured Wiring: Why It’s Making a Comeback

As the years fly by, technology changes — most often, for the better. We are counting down the coolest trends of the year and what to expect in home theater entertainment & home automation in 2017.

A decade ago, no new home build was complete without structured wiring. New homeowners could step into their brand new abode with a whole-house network of audio and video signals, all distributed equally throughout the home — making comforts like home security, home theater, and whole-home audio a move-in ready reality.

Benefits of Structured Wiring in your Home Continue reading

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Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality Headsets

As the years fly by, technology changes — most often, for the better. We are counting down the coolest trends of the year and what to expect in home theater entertainment in 2017.

Virtual reality may seem like something about of a SciFi movie — futuristic headwear born from the gaming industry and pitched as a next-generation video game device. Since virtual reality company Oculus unveiled their first VR headset two years ago, companies such as Samsung and Sony have pumped money into the VR industry, helping to bring it to mainstream entertainment. Continue reading

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DirecTV Now: AT&T’s In-Home Streaming Service

With the success of in-home streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now, it was only a matter of time before we would see a major cable provider jump into the game. Shortly after the announcement that AT&T would acquire Time Warner, the company announced its plans for a new streaming service, DirectTV Now, which will launch in late November 2016. While the exact channel lineup has not been disclosed, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has indicated that the service will offer over 100 channels. Continue reading

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Missing Remote? Not Anymore Thanks to Sideclick!

You’ve already designed a lavish home theater that could rival any of the theater chains in the country. You’ve decked it out with a speaker system carefully installed to provide exceptional sound to every spot in the room. You have a TV set with impressive color and depth, and all the latest entertainment at your fingertips thanks to your Apple TV or Roku.

You have popped your popcorn, and lowered your lights….but now you can’t find your darn remote to start the streaming magic. Continue reading

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