IFTTT What?

Ever heard of IFTTT programming?  It’s okay if you haven’t, its pretty nerdy stuff.  Whether you know it or not, it's already a part of your life.  It stands for “If this, then this.”  Known as event-based programming, it is simply when one event triggers one or more automatic events.  Think of how when you open your car door, the interior light comes on without you having to do anything. If you get this, you get IFTTT.  The fact is, engineers have been using this way of thinking for the consumer for decades when they added some sort of automatic feature to a new kitchen appliance, car, TV, etc.    


Now, smart homes are giving people the ability to program IFTTT events to their home!  To me, this is a huge upgrade to what we’ve been doing for TV and music, as it makes the home’s electronics perform around you without having to get out your phone, remote control, or anything else.  You just live, and the home reacts.

One of the first things most of us do when we approach our home is open the garage door.  We can now use this event to program an IFTTT string like “If garage door opens….” And add whatever we want.  Most commonly, we would want to disarm the security system, change the room temperature to a comfort setting, turn on the lights, start Pandora in the kitchen, and maybe put the news headlines on in the living room TV.  You can even take this a step farther by making the first event as your phone joining your wifi.  This can trigger the garage door opening, and everything else subsequent.

Other IFTTT programming can include the last few to do’s before bed.  Instead of walking around the home doing 10 things, what if the first thing you do is arm the alarm to “stay”?  You can now program that one event to turn off all of the lights, lock all deadbolts, ensure the garage door is closed, turn off all the TV’s and music, and drop the thermostat a couple of degrees.  No more pajama walk.  And believe me, this is just the beginning.           

- Michael

 

What to do about your Thermostat

Often times I do not dive into the small details of individual items within home automation.  Today I’d like to discuss the often overlooked, power sucking HVAC system.  More specifically, let’s talk about your thermostat. If you’re reading this from home, go have a look at what you have.

If there is a little plastic slider at the bottom that you use to adjust the temp, cue the loud sirens!  Get rid of it.  It’s wasting AT LEAST 10% of your power bill.  Simply put, if your power/gas bills are $200 per month, you’re wasting around $250 per year.

If your thermostat is digital, but does not allow you to program a schedule, you’re in the same boat.  Again, wasting money. 

If your thermostat allows daily programming, congrats! But are you utilizing the scheduler to tell the thermostat when you’re not home?  If not, your no better off, so stop reading this article and go program a schedule. 

For those that want premium energy savings, there is a smarter thermostat.  Rather than simply programming a schedule, the Nest thermostat “knows” if you’re at home or not.  They do this by using a built-in motion sensor to determine whether to be in comfort or efficiency mode.  As you override this, it actually learns your behaviors, and tries to anticipate the best setting.  These are known to claim an extra 5% savings over the 10% of the earlier one. 

What we at Audio Intersection prefer is a smart thermostat connected to other devices in your home, like your security system or garage door.  If the system is armed to “away,” it knows to be in efficiency mode.  If it’s disarmed or in “stay” mode, the thermostat assumes comfort mode.  When you close your garage door in the morning, efficiency.  When you open it in the evening, comfort. While still saving as much energy as the Nest, you are less likely to have the system kick to efficiency mode while you’re sitting motionless on the couch.  And there’s no schedule to program.  And to me, that makes all the difference.

For the Love of Music

I recently attended CES in Vegas, and one of the highlights of my trip was seeing how popular turntables have become.  I knew that they had been showing up here and there for a couple of years now, but I think vinyl records just might be here to stay.  And even today with digital downloads coming in hi-res, a record is still the most uncompressed way to listen to your favorite artist.  With great speakers, a big amplifier, and a quality turntable, you’re getting as close to the real thing as is humanly possible.  So this month’s blog is about my journey back to vinyl, after a 30-something year hiatus.

I bought a cheap turntable in my basement a few months ago and borrowed my Mother-In-Law’s collection from the 80’s.  This was exciting, but the stereo gear was a bit substandard. Then in January, I saw a beautiful red wall-mount turntable by Pro-Ject that I had to have.  It took 3 months for me to get, but was worth the wait.  We installed it at our store, wired it back to our A/V cabinet, and piped the audio to the 12 music zones. This included our Theater room that has a High-End set of Palladium speakers with a USA-built AudioControl amp to power them. 

Truly, I have not been this in love with music in years.  My first purchase was Sturgill Simpson’s “A Sailor’s Guide to the Earth.”  First of all, the actual act of opening a record was amazing.  So was the artwork liner notes.  And then, hearing it on vinyl was like hearing it for the first time again.  The saxophones and backup vocals lit up like an aura around the lead vocals so much that all 3 of us in the room dropped our jaws.  I followed this with Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” and once again, the room came alive with realism.  James Taylor rounded out my taste test, and by the time it was over, I was already on Amazon buying more records, and I can’t wait for them to get here.          

 

TV is About to Get Cheap

For years, I have been talking with people about “cutting the cord.” In the past, it usually wound up being too good to be true, because most of us watch live sports and news, and all cheap or free options have had little to offer in this area.  This is no longer the case.  DirecTV Now and Dish Network SlingTV have now released $20 packages that have Internet Based TV programming, and Google just announced something coming called YouTube TV for $35/mo.  All of these services are phenomenal at getting your TV bill down to almost nothing, but with caveats.

I find that most of my clients spend between $150 and $200 per month for TV.  With Dish and DirecTV’s new plans, you only get the service on a smartphone or tablet, and then will have to “Airplay” it to an AppleTV.  To me, this is easy, but not everyone will agree.  Amazon is working on adding Dish’s SlingTV app to their FireTV boxes, but I’m not sure if that’s a reality just yet.  The main gist for you to know here is that it’s possible to get this new Dish and DirecTV service on your TV, but it’s not as simple and seamless as you’d prefer.  You’ll most likely have to spend a little cash on new equipment, and learn a few steps on how to watch TV this new way.

Google’s YouTube TV is the most promising, but is still a few months away, so no one truly knows the ins and outs.  They are stating that you’ll get 40 channels for $35/month, and so far, includes all major networks, all 3 ESPN’s, Fox News, and more.  I would be surprised if this service is not available on any device that has the YouTube app, which is basically EVERY smart TV, AppleTV, Roku, and/or internet connected Blu-Ray player.  In other words, the DAY that they pull the trigger, there will already be millions and millions of devices ready to hit play, and chances are that you already own whatever’s needed, and will start saving over $1,000/year on your TV bill.            

CES 2017

Having been in the tech industry for over 20 years, CES is still one of those Mecca moments for me.  It’s a time where I get to indulge myself into literally thousands of gadgets in one place that no one has ever seen.  It’s my crack, really. Here’s a summary of the highlights of CES2017:

The Smart-home device industry has hit a point of saturation.  There were no less than 100 companies displaying indistinguishable dimmers, lamp modules, smoke detectors, etc, all interconnected and operable from an app.  It was so saturated that I got bored and stopped visiting “just another IoT booth.”  In 2017 and beyond, companies will need to try harder to differentiate, and show why we should care about their version.  Worthy of mention here is that interoperability between each other’s devices still leaves much to be desired.  Many items were designed in Europe and/or Asia, and so there’s little focus in making sure that one particular brand talks to another.  This will need to improve.

 From GPS for dogs to shirts that monitor heart rate, wearable technology has officially exploded. Under Armor displayed shoes that connect to a training app, measuring jump distance, running speed, and more.  Athletes can now better measure themselves in their effort of constant self-improvement.  More awesomeness was a smart bicycle helmet, capable of music, communicating with other cyclists, and notifying EMS of a crash.

I am now 100% convinced that we will all be buying our self-driving car of choice NO LATER than 2020.  Every known manufacturer (and some unknown, like LeEco) had fully autonomous cars on display.   Thanks Elon, for disrupting that industry. 

 My favorite sighting was an obvious re-focus on record players.  Everything was on display, from $200-$12,000, ranging from simple wall-mount players, to amazing new ones that digitize the music and play through whole house systems.  I can’t wait to get my hands on a new one by Pro-ject that was made from solid Walnut, with a frosted acrylic base.  In a world of downloads, these prove that tangible music can still be both relevant, and absolutely gorgeous.     

Interoperability

We all love gadgets of one type or another.  Lately, there have been several new gadgets for the home, from coffee pots to washing machines, promising connectivity to a “Home Kit” of some kind.  Even if you are not that enthused about your refrigerator going online to re-order milk, you may find yourself replacing your broken fridge and wondering which cool new one to get. As more and more examples of this come through, you’re going to have a smart home by default.  This can be a really great thing if you place focus on interoperability, and a frustrating thing if you don’t.

 

            Viking makes fabulous ovens.  They now have models with a smart meat thermometer that flashes the lights in the home when the turkey is done.  How cool.  Never burn the turkey!  But the only way to have this feature in your home is to have a Viking stove in conjunction with the interoperable light switches. 

 

Same with your garage door opener.  One day you will replace it, and when you do, you’ll see that Liftmaster makes one that is connects online, and controlled by your phone.  Much like the oven, it can tell the alarm to arm, the home’s lights to turn off, the thermostat to change, and more, if you’ve purchased interoperable dimmers and thermostat. 

 

            But rather than talking to each other, the key to doing this right is choosing components that talk to a particular “ecosystem.”  This is what Apple, Google, and Amazon are trying to create, but many other companies exist that already have ecosystems in place.  A few brands of these are Control4, Savant, and Elan.  These guys try to be “Brand Agnostic,” and talk to whatever you buy.  That way, you can pick out whatever new gadget you want, and know that it will work with everything else in your home.

 

             The price of these 3rd part ecosystems range from $500 to $5,000, depending on just how elaborate your plans are, but rest assured knowing that this is the smarter approach, at the moment, than whatever G&A come up with.

ISP Reality Check

Internet Service providers stink. Comcast took in $75 Billion last year, and AT&T grossed $146 Billion, all while customer service stayed in the gutter.  They are so terrible that I often have our employees hang out with our clients all day, just to battle excuses that Comcast installers give for wanting to give up before completion.  The bigger the house, the more excuses. 

 

Nearly all of the ISP’s of the world are equal offenders. I have a client in Marietta with AT&T that has been having issues for months because of crummy infrastructure. AT&T is finally running new lines, but only after their neighbors banded together to get action. Windstream in Big Canoe is the same way. No one is exempt.  One of our most rich and famous clients has terrible DSL internet because it’s the only thing available in his neighborhood.

 

It makes sense why so many Americans Shop Local, but for those areas of our life where shopping local isn’t an option, it stinks putting up with the hold times and crummy service. I often have clients call our office extremely upset about losing TV service, and they want us to do anything we can to prevent from them having to call the ISP’s 1800 number.

 

To all of you let me say that you are not alone.  Remember to give any and all corporations with crummy service as little of your money as possible. Shop as much as you can from companies that care, and surely one day we’ll get Internet from a company that gets this. For now, with ISP’s, I have seen no real solution other than remaining vigilant.  As soon as there’s an alternative with awesome customer service, I will inform you of them, and we should all jump ship.  Until then, figure out who has the fastest service at your house, put up with as much as you can stand, but stand up for what you are paying for.  If you’re not sure who’s best, feel free to call me and I’ll help you find out.      

Voice Control

For years, I have been trying to control electronics with my voice.  I think it started in 1999 with my first Samsung cell phone.  At that time, I had to go through each contact and record my voice saying my contacts, and it would call them.  To be honest, I can’t say that much has improved since then.  On the one hand, I have Siri at my fingertip, and my friends have Google Assistant, but truthfully, both of those services leave much to be desired.  From my iPhone, I still cannot say in plain English “Play Pandora, Sevendust Radio.”  To put it mildly, voice recognition has stunk, until last month when I bought my first Amazon Echo.  Everything has changed now, and in a huge way.

 

To start, the first thing I did after taking it out of the box and setting it up, was say “Alexa, play Pandora Sevendust Radio,” and it immediately fired up and started playing my favorite rock band.  I then asked it for things like “give me the local weather,” “set my alarm for 6am tomorrow,” and all worked flawlessly.  But as a home automation guy, I was not ready for what happened after that. 

 

It appears that with the Alexa, Amazon has been sending out their info to 3rd party manufacturers like Samsung, Control4, and many other automation companies.  The result is that minutes after setup, I can now say things like “Close the Garage door,” Lock the front Door,”  “Turn up the lights,”  “change the temperature to 70 degrees,” and so much more. In fact, the amount of phrases I can tell Alexa is almost limitless.  I can also write my own custom phrases like “Turn on Family Room Netflix” and the living room will come alive and do everything needed to get you all the way into the Netflix menu inside your TV.         

 

Normally with new products, I say things like “with time, this will be an incredible technology.”  Now with the Amazon Echo, I can truly say that out of the gate, this technology has blown me away, and will only get more amazing with time.         

First World Problems

I love living in the first world, and solving first world problems.  We may be filled with guilt about all of the world’s issues, but here in the US of A, I have to say it ain’t bad.  For a moment, in the middle of the political insanity that is our current 24-hour news cycle, I want you to take a break, and listen to a few of the first world problems that occur in our town, and how lucky we are.

Client 1:  “Every morning, I wake up and walk out to the veranda for a cup of coffee, listen to my favorite music, and read the paper.  It never fails, that while having the music turned up, UPS is ringing my doorbell so I can sign for a next day air package.  I inevitably miss the package.  Can you help?”

After hearing such a trying story of a man and his music, we solved it by installing a wireless sensor on the doorbell that tripped the music system to pause.  While we were at it, to make sure he doesn’t confuse the music’s pause with internet trouble, we made his veranda sconce lights flash.  Now he never misses his morning air.

Client 2: “I have Italian globe lights hanging in my great room. I’m having a movie filmed at the house and wanted them to twinkle.”

We certainly didn’t want our client to do without, so we installed 3 dimmers and programmed a loop program that, when the light switch is pressed, continuously raise and lower the lights to make them appear to twinkle.  As first world as it may have been, it was pretty sweet.

Let me say, with emphasis, that we as a society are lucky that people among us have these issues.  It simply affirms that there is a cure for nearly every ailment, and more importantly, that these issues only arise when we have surpassed certain levels of societal development.  We can say with confidence that we are far removed from our hunter-gatherer roots.

 

Pajama Walk

Ever heard of the Pajama Walk?  No, I’m not talking about a fundraiser in which the citizens of a given area march down the street in their nighttime wears.  I’m more referring to the parents out there that have other members of the house that seem to leave everything on in the house when it’s bedtime.  While I do not want to discriminate, it seems to be a common American thread where the Dad of the house is always turning down the thermostat, killing the unused lights, TV’s stereos, etc.  Of course, if we keep going with this stereotype, Moms are usually security minded ones, and they tend to be more concerned with closing the garage doors, locking the deadbolts, arming the security system, and things of this sort. 

Whether this stereotype fits or not, I’ll be you that if you’ve got a big family and bigger house, you and your spouse do parts of this every night before retiring to the master quarters. You may have even bought a fancy new thermostat or deadbolt that you can control from your smart phone in the name of automating this activity, but getting out your phone, going into the app, then turning down the temp really isn’t saving you time, right?  Let me offer a better way.

With true automation, you have a small keypad on your night stand that says “Good Night,” and “Good Morning.”  With a properly installed system, the Good Night button turns off every TV in the house, all the music stops, the lights go out, the dead bolts lock, the garage door goes down, the security system arms itself, and the thermostat drops the temperature.  The “Good Morning” button can be programmed to do the opposite.  You see, with the new smart home, it’s not just about buying a new gadget that comes with a fancy app to control it, it’s about having a single button press that cuts a 5-10 minute nighttime activity into a 2 second button tap.  What you do with that extra time every night is up to you…    

American Made

As we all know, many American manufacturing companies are struggling to compete on the world stage.  It has definitely been disheartening to see GM being bailed out by the taxpayers, and even worse to see a company as American as Budweiser get bought by the Europeans.  Lucky for us, we still have a stronghold in the world market for something you may not have known…audio equipment and electronics!  Whether you know it or not, American electronics are the “Rolls Royce” of the world, sometimes costing 10 times more than foreign equivalents, but truly the best. 

We invented rock and roll, and so we also produce the best equipment to reproduce that sound.  For years, Japanese companies like Denon, Sony, Kenwood, and more have been producing amps that have more features, but never sound as good as an American-made McIntosh (Not Apple) amp.  A good comparison is to say that the Lexus may have more bells and whistles, but nothing compares to the raw power and performance of a Corvette.  In the audio world, nothing touches the amplifiers made by Bob Carver, McIntosh, B&K, Harmon Kardon, Crestron, and many more. 

 You may have heard of JBL?  That stands for James B. Lansing.   He was the inventor of the modern speaker back in the 1920’s.  Since then, his same basic design has been replicated by thousands of manufacturers.  Here again, foreign companies have tried very hard to do better, and the Europeans and Canadians have succeeded in making fantastic products.  But speaker design companies like Martin Logan have continued to push the envelope, and Americans remain in the top standings as one of the best.

Lastly, let’s talk Home Automation.  We Americans are killing the competition!  US based companies Crestron, Control4, Elan, and many more ARE the world’s inventors and innovators.  Making homes easier to operate, more energy efficient, and a more pleasant place to live is catching on like wildfire.  When the world saw the financial crisis and double-digit losses of 2009, Control4 was “upset” to only see a 20% increase in revenue.  As the smart grid takes hold in our neighborhoods and homes, be prepared to see more and more of these guys.

 As it relates to in-house manufacturing, it’s a mixed bag.  While Crestron manufacturers nearly all of their equipment in their New Jersey plant, Control4 designs the stuff here and imports it from overseas.  As a result, Crestron is much more expensive (for example, they sell a $13,000 remote control!). Either way, though, the profits stay here, and that’s what matters in today’s economy.   I feel extremely fortunate to be on the forefront of an industry that we as Americans have created and are currently dominating.  So when making your purchases, try to ask for the American version, and know that when it comes to electronics, you’re getting the best.         

            

Nanny Cam

Normally, I sit in front of my computer and try to think of what the latest fascinating new technology is, and how I can share that with you, the reader.  This month is much, much different.  Instead of the norm, I’d like to share an experience I had this past month.  

 

My company doesn’t just install TV’s and cool gadgets.  We install security systems and video surveillance systems in homes and businesses, mainly for theft prevention.  But I received a different kind of phone call about cameras a couple of weeks ago from a client that was concerned about the care his children were getting from their stay at home nanny.  At first, I thought this was a little extravagant.  He even wanted them hidden so that they looked like motion sensors for a home alarm system. I found that a little invasive, but hey, the customer is always right.  What he does in his house is his business.  I soon found that my weird feelings were gone.

 

We installed six cameras throughout his home, from the living room to the office.  Twenty-four hours or so later, the nanny in question reported for duty.  Within 24 hours of that, the nanny was fired.  What the homeowner found when reviewing the video footage was appalling.  

 

As soon as the parents left for work, she placed the youngest boy, an 18-month-old, in his playpen, and left him there for hours.  In fact, she left him there while she left the house to pick up the four year old from preschool!  As soon as she got back from picking him up, she went to the office and surfed the internet until the parents got home from work.  

 

I have not yet been blessed with children.  My wife and I are attempting to see every continent over the next few years (three more to see), and then taking the plunge into parenthood.  But make no mistake, parent or not, I think I was just as shocked and angered to find out that someone who calls themselves a nanny would violate someone’s trust and treat children this way.  

 

 

    So now I stand on my soapbox.  If you can afford a stay at home nanny, you should invest in a camera system to make sure they are doing their job.   They make ones that aren’t ugly, and they even make ones that you can see from your cell phone while away at work.   My one slight difference with the aforementioned client is that I would advertise the fact that they are installed throughout the house, rather than keeping it secret.  Be proactive instead of reactive.  If they don’t like the idea of being watched, they don’t deserve your trust, period.

American Made

As we all know, many American manufacturing companies are struggling to compete on the world stage.  It has definitely been disheartening to see GM being bailed out by the taxpayers, and even worse to see a company as American as Budweiser get bought by the Europeans.  Lucky for us, we still have a stronghold in the world market for something you may not have known…audio equipment and electronics!  Whether you know it or not, American electronics are the “Rolls Royce” of the world, sometimes costing 10 times more than foreign equivalents, but truly the best.  

 

We invented rock and roll, and so we also produce the best equipment to reproduce that sound.  For years, Japanese companies like Denon, Sony, Kenwood, and more have been producing amps that have more features, but never sound as good as an American-made McIntosh (Not Apple) amp.  A good comparison is to say that the Lexus may have more bells and whistles, but nothing compares to the raw power and performance of a Corvette.  In the audio world, nothing touches the amplifiers made by Bob Carver, McIntosh, B&K, Crestron, and many more.  

 

You may have heard of JBL?  That stands for James B. Lansing.   He was the inventor of the modern speaker back in the 1920’s.  Since then, his same basic design has been replicated by thousands of manufacturers.  Here again, foreign companies have tried very hard to do better, and the Europeans and Canadians have succeeded in making fantastic products.  But speaker design companies like Klipsch, Martin Logan, and more have continued to push the envelope, and Americans remain in the top standings as one of the best.

 

Lastly, let’s talk Home Automation.  We Americans are killing the competition!  US based companies Crestron, Control4, Elan, and many more ARE the world’s inventors and innovators.  Making homes easier to operate, more energy efficient, and a more pleasant place to live is catching on like wildfire.  When the world saw the financial crisis and double-digit losses of 2009, Control4 was “upset” to only see a 20% increase in revenue from 2008 to 2009.   As the smart grid takes hold in our neighborhoods and homes, be prepared to see more and more of these guys.

 

As it relates to in-house manufacturing, it’s a mixed bag.  While Crestron manufacturers nearly all of their equipment in their New Jersey plant, Control4 designs the stuff here and imports it from overseas.  As a result, Crestron is much more expensive (for example, they sell a $13,000 remote control!). Either way, though, the profits stay here, and that’s what matters in today’s economy.   I feel extremely fortunate to be on the forefront of an industry that we as Americans have created and are currently dominating.  So when making your purchases, try to ask for the American version, and know that when it comes to electronics, you’re getting the best.        

Interview

This month we are showcasing Audio Intersection, the business creation of a local Canton resident, Michael Buckner.  Michael got his start in the electronics industry 14 years ago selling TV’s at the Canton Wal-Mart while attending Cherokee High School.  Soon after, he moved up to commission sales at Circuit City and Hifi Buys.  After graduating college, he became a regional trainer for Pioneer Electronics, traveling the country to share his knowledge of consumer electronics.  After a few years of traveling, in 2006, Audio Intersection was created to bring the knowledge back home, and help local clients make better electronics purchasing decisions.  He hasn’t slowed down since.  So far, nothing has slowed them down.  It’s the years of knowledge, along with a passion for the business that sets Audio Intersection apart from the “big box” retailers.  His clients even have his personal cell phone number in case something goes wrong with their system!  Since 2008, Michael has been a monthly contributor to our magazine, assisting our community with choosing between TV providers, plasma or LCD, and much more.        

This month, in an attempt to shed extra light on his growing business, we decided to sit down with him to ask a few questions that many people are curious about:

Frequently asked questions:

1. What is the difference (s) between DirecTV and Dish Network?

DirecTV is best known for sports, while Dish Network has less expensive plans.  Generally speaking, the technologies are about the same, and both have better picture quality than Comcast.   The reason that we install both is because they run promotions that benefit customers differently depending on their situation.  

2. I’d like to purchase a new television for my family room.  Do you recommend LED or OLED or should I look at something else?

The LED models that have been introduced by Sony, Samsung, LG, and more, use less energy, are thinner, and look beautiful, but OLED is definitely the best technology out there.  They are a bit more expensive, though.

3. We just finished our basement and I’d like to set up an entertainment area with TV, surround sound, etc.  Where do I start?

You start by getting an audio guy in there before the sheetrock goes up.  You can save hundreds, even thousands in some cases, by making sure all wires are there first.  Talk with them about how big of a TV you want, lighting control, and see if he has any opinions about changes he would make.  It never hurts to hear the ideas of a TV guy before making too many decisions about a media room.  

4. In the past, we have always used a DVD player, but Bluray players are becoming more popular.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

To be honest, neither are very popular anymore because of streaming, but if you still have discs, there are no benefits to DVD over Blu-Ray.  Blu-Ray will play your old DVD collection, plus give you better picture and sound quality.  Also, many Blu-Ray players connect to the internet, allowing you to bring in music, Netflix movies, and more!  

5. Tell me about the whole house system.  Are there various ways to control it and exactly what can it do?

Whole House music and video is the most exciting thing that I do.  There are 1000 different ways to do it, but keeping it simple is the most important goal.  If there’s a big budget in mind, we provide touch screens in the walls and handheld ones to carry around the house, and that is your command center.  You can pull up virtually any song available, bring up the game on the back porch, you name it.  When we’re working within a tight budget, we place volume controls throughout the house, and allow the other rooms to play either music or the game that are controlled on a handheld remote or on the living room TV, instead of multiple touch screens.    

Pricing Structure of Electronics

 

Small retailers that try to maintain a high employee to client ratios have been fighting hard to stay in business against online retailers like Amazon.  As you, the consumer, buying from a small business is nice because of the one-on-one service with an expert to help you with product selection, design choices, compatibility issues, etc.  This sometimes comes at a higher cost for the goods than Amazon, especially when compared to the grey market.  Electronics manufacturers have 2 kinds of prices out there for, say, a pair of speakers.  There's Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), and Minimum Advertised Price (MAP).  But there’s also the “grey market price” (GMP).  Knowing which price to buy at is extremely important.

 

MSRP is best known as "full-pop." Retailers usually charge this price when there are no holiday sales going on, or if it's a product in high-demand and does not go on sale.

 

Then there's Minimum Advertised Price, or MAP.  It is the lowest price allowed by the manufacturer on a given product.  This is usually 10 or 15 percent below MSRP, and is typically charged during Labor Day sales, etc.  

 

 

Ultimately, you should always buy from whatever authorized retailer will sell to you for the MAP price.  This price ensures that you get a brand new product with full warranty.  If you can get it from a store at MAP, you should prioritize this over online purchasing.  This lets you talk about the product with a person, making sure it's right for you.  More importantly, in the event of an issue, an in store purchase allows you to walk up to a person to figure out what's wrong, or swap it out.

 

Then there's the grey market pricing.  This is a price that you will see on a few random, sometimes shady looking websites, or individual sellers' sites within eBay and Amazon.  This is buyer beware. These sites are usually on a "forbidden retailers" list on the manufacturer's website.  The reason they are grey market is because you are not getting any real guarantees on brand new product, and/or they do not have a warranty, even if the company says differently on the site.   After all, the retailers typically charging this price are doing so because they do not fund the support network needed to provide you with service after the sell.

 

 

Kid Control

 

            Being that I am submerged in the world of home automation, I would like to tell you about all the cool home tech stuff out there that can assist you in being a parent.  From monitoring their departures and arrivals to limiting their usage of games and TV watching, your individual desires can be custom matched.

 

            Most automation systems today have notification options.  For example, the systems that I install are compatible to the new deadbolts that have the number pad on them.  This means that you give each of your children their own code to the front door.  When they get home from school and open that door, you get an email or text message alerting you.  Also, you can use this for your teenagers for monitoring when they get home at night, to make sure they got in before curfew. 

 

            Nearly every parent that I come across complains that his or her children watch too much TV or play too many video games.  This is one of the easiest things to fix.  With a little bit of simple programming, we make the TV or game system shut down after, say, 1 hour of use, and not come back on for another 2 hours.  

 

            Something a little more fun is a high-tech dinner bell.  One client of mine got tired of having to choose between walking up and down the stairs or screaming at the top of her lungs to tell her two boys it was dinnertime.  For this reason we dreamed up a lighting trick.  She now has a button on her iPhone that makes the boys’ bedroom lights start flashing.  This lets them know to come to the kitchen.  In the event that they are caught up in a video game and ignore the page, she can shut their game system off from the iPhone as well.  A little side benefit for your kid here is that we often add speakers in that bedroom, and turning on the light in there can make their favorite playlist start!

 

            Ever follow your kids through the house turning off light switches behind them?  We hear of this a lot too.  This area of technology has exploded recently, and there are thousands of ways to address this.  For example, we tie the alarm system into the lighting, and whenever the motion sensors stop sensing motion, the lights go out.  A more popular solution is placing a “goodnight” button on the nightstand and, when pressed, kills all the lights in the house, preventing the “pajama walk” of the parent having to go around killing all the lights that the kids forgot to turn off.

 

            All in all, kids are the best adopters of new technology.  This is no surprise.  But you can, however, surprise them with cool home tech that helps you with your duties as a parent!

 

Home Presets

I often wonder “Why do we welcome technology more in our cars than in our homes?” After all, let’s go back to the last time you approached your car.  You probably pressed the button on a remote that unlocked the door and disarmed the alarm.  As you pull back on the door in your car, the light conveniently comes on for you inside and the seat moves back.  When you sit down, and either put your key in or press start, the seat moves forward, the steering wheel moves down and towards you.   As you take a drive down the road, your favorite music is just a single button press away on the 6 presets.  Why doesn’t your house do all this? 

 

            In our homes, thousands of products are available to give you the same experience as in your car, people just don’t know about them.  For example, there are ways to install a remote on your keychain that unlocks your door and disarms the alarm.  It’s also rather easy to install a simple keypad beside your entry door.  These six buttons acts as “presets” for you and your home.   Much like the 6 buttons on your car stereo, press the #1 or “Welcome” button, and your house takes on the setting that you prefer, like having the lights illuminate the path to your bedroom closet, your thermostat change to “comfort mode,” and your favorite music to start playing throughout the house. 

 

            My favorite preset is the “Wake Up” button.  First, every morning at my scheduled wakeup time, my thermostat raises the temperature, and easy listening music comes through my speaker system very softly for 2 minutes.  After 2 minutes, the volume increases and switches to my rock playlist.  After I am up and headed to the shower, I press my “Good Morning” button.  This plays that rock playlist through my bathroom speakers, and the lights very slowly work their way up to 70% over 2 minutes.  When I am finished getting ready, I press the “Goodbye” preset, and all of my music shuts down, my thermostat lowers if it’s winter, raises if it’s summer, the security system turns on, and all lights turn off. 

 

            In the past, this was the technology for millionaires.  Anyone that knows me can tell you that I am far from 7 figure status, but you couldn’t tell from my smart home.  Of course, the level of extravagance can increase the price exponentially, but to give you an example, a 6-button keypad is only $199.  It goes without saying that you have to have the other stuff like speakers and a stereo system to take full advantage, but I am constantly going into clients’ homes and making all of their rooms talk to one another with their existing equipment.  So every time you hit that keyless entry button on your car, or hit that favorite channel preset on the stereo, think of how cool that could be in your house. 

Summer Sound

 

            I love music, and I love sunshine.  The only thing better than each of these is both at the same time.  Throw a cold adult beverage in the mix and you’re gonna have a hard time getting me away from that spot.   I also really love helping people get this same experience at their home, and so it drives me nuts when I go to someone’s house who has all the equipment they need to have music in their back yard, but the last A/V guy at their house just failed to mention that all they needed was a pair of speakers.  Since this has happened over and over, let me explain what you should be looking for on your equipment.

 

            If you have a surround sound system look at you’re A/V receiver that powers everything.  Most of these receivers are made by Yamaha, Onkyo, Sony, and Denon, so look for one of those name brands in your stack of equipment.  Does it say Zone 2, Multi-Zone, or Speakers A/B?  If it does, then there’s a 95% chance that all you need to buy is a pair of speakers ($100-400 per pair), run wires where you want them to be, and viola, you now have an outdoor sound system!  Now, of course, there are no less than 1,000 ways to control the music going to this area, but I’ll try to help there too.

 

            For $99, you can buy an Apple Airport Express.  This will let you sit in your lounge chair and use your iPhone or iPad to send music to the speakers outside using what’s called Airplay.  This isn’t the best solution out there, but it’s one of the cheapest.  Another way to do it is to call us and get a Sonos unit.  This works with both Android and Apple products, and gives you more choices in music than you could ever listen to in a lifetime.  Sonos is approx $350 to get started, and is amazing.  One of the only tradeoffs here is that Sonos does not actually control you’re A/V receiver, so you may have trouble trying to change volume, you can’t change channels if it’s a TV channel that your listening to, etc. 

 

            The ultimate experience is the combination of Sonos and Control4.  With these 2 together, you can change to any music, volume, channel, etc.   You can also control your landscape lights, pool controls, hot tub, etc.  These prices can vary depending on existing equipment and desired results, but the sky is the limit here.   But at the very least, look at your receiver.  If it says multi-zone, be kind to yourself and get some outdoor music!   

The Best Internet Services for Your Home

The Best Internet Services for Your Home

By Michael Buckner, Founder and SEO of Audio Intersection

How to Get Quality Coverage in Every Corner of Your Home

As a nerd, all day everyday, my life depends on reliable internet.  Literally, if the internet were to die tomorrow, I would scramble to keep my business alive.  On top of this, my business depends on my clients having reliable internet.  If their electronics cannot access Netflix or YouTube, I get the phone call that their Wi-Fi network installation is faulty, even when it’s their ISP that is to blame.   For this reason, I have an interesting perspective on making sure that YOU know how to achieve reliable internet in your Milton, Georgia home.

Home Security Tips

Home Security Tips

By Michael Buckner, Founder and SEO of Audio Intersection

Invest in a System That Give You Control of Your Entire Atlanta Home

Home security and surveillance systems are in over 100 million homes in the US.   If properly installed and used regularly, they can be there for you when you really need it.  Many people, however, either have a system that doesn’t protect as well as it should, or they aren’t even using it!  Also, your alarm can be used for controlling all the things in your Atlanta, Georgia home.   When you’re not at home, today’s security systems allow you to check in from your hotel room to make sure things are still in order.