Technology that empowers you – and your home
Many new devices and apps
We have so many choices today. There are a ton of innovative home applications hitting the market. You can buy wireless home monitoring & security apps, smart controls, lighting and sound devices, smart thermostats, remote smoke & carbon monitors, Wi-Fi gaming, hidden projectors and drop-down screens, service robots, and wireless vacuums. It’s quite amazing – our homes have been empowered.
Enjoy your place called home
No matter what the latest technology tools or toys are, we all enjoy having these things at home. We browse for new devices. You know, a better coffee maker, an improved cooking system, a better wireless system to stream music, or a better device to download a movie. Conveniences allow us to create unique places and enjoy special times. When the work day ends, enjoy your place called home.
Creating your entertaining space
Designate a space in your home where entertaining won’t aggravate other people at home or wake your neighbors at midnight. Customize your entertainment area and choose a theme. Find a great HD flat screen or multi-purpose HD projector. Add a new wireless audio system, maybe some gaming controls. You could go big and design your own in-home theater. Plan wisely and create a great space, then enjoy.
Research carefully and meet with leading retailers
You can buy a car over the internet, but savvy buyers inspect a vehicle in person and test drive the car before buying. The same is true when it comes to buying technology. First perform online research, read product information and view ratings, then visit a reputable retailer. Speak to technicians, test components, and compare warranties and financing options. Technology is costly, so invest wisely.
Secure and insure
It’s a good idea to secure your technology or home theatre area – a room that can be locked is best. Entertainment systems are obviously expensive, so avoid high traffic areas in the home. Words of Caution: Electrical components can be dangerous to small children or pets so safeguard the room, and technology is a major target for thieves so speak with your insurance agent about proper coverage.
Emerging Products: Soundwall
Fill Your Home With Art & Music
Technology fused with creativity has brought previously mundane household items to a new art form. Gas fireplaces, for example, can be accessorized with crystals and lights that can be programmed and operated with an app to turn an ordinary flame into a colorful light show. Speakers to broadcast music morphed from clunky brown boxes to cool, curvy little plastic cubes that can fit into the palm of your hand.
Whole house audio systems that used to be reserved for the wealthiest homeowners who could pay someone to install speakers are now accessible for as little as $35 for a Google Chromecast audio streaming system. Smart home devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home can stream music in your home and send it to your stereo system.
For people who enjoy both music and art, Boulder-based Soundwall has developed speakers that function as paintings for your home.
Soundwall has fused art and music with a flat-panel speaker made of aluminum artwork that wirelessly streams music. The entire surface of the Soundwall is the speaker, yet any visitor would assume the piece is there as an art object.
High-tech approach to sound
You don’t have to be standing directly in front of the speaker to hear the music. The Soundwall speakers use "Distributed Model Loudspeaker" technology that fills your space with omni-directional sound. Instead of the music coming from a traditional cone-shape like old-fashioned speakers, the entire surface of the artwork resonates with the music.
Soundwall has two categories of speakers. Their first product, called Solstice, which starts at $499, can be customized with art from a collection curated by the company or you can upload your own image for complete personalization. This product also gives you the option of changing the image since the art can be rolled on and off the speaker.
The company’s newest product, called Nova, starts at $900 and provides a multidimensional experience. Like Solstice, you can upload your own image or choose from the catalog of art more than 150 paintings available on the website. The image is then infused into the aluminum speaker.
With Nova, you can touch the art to control your music and to activate mood lighting that can be programmed along with your favorite music.
The Nova Soundwall has a touch bar along the side and can also be controlled by the Soundwall app. You can choose from a variety of preset ambient backlighting on the artwork, such as deep blue when you’re listening to jazz or warm red when you’re listening to romantic music. You can also choose a simple white backlight. The Nova speaker has been programmed to detect the presence of someone walking by and emits a warm glow.
While you can always use an app to control your music, the Nova speaker also offers the option of touching the right side to swipe up or down to control your volume. You can also touch the art to play, pause or skip songs.
One of the benefits of innovative technology for your home is that fun items such as voice-controlled sound systems and artwork that you can touch and program for music and mood lighting is accessible and user-friendly for "regular" people – not just the superrich.
Emerging Trends: Virtually Visualizing Your Future Home
You’ve seen the Oculus headset and maybe even the cardboard Google glasses used to play around with virtual reality, but did you know virtual reality is increasingly important to homebuyers and builders? While the old-fashioned way of looking at homes, tramping from model home to model home or visiting numerous properties listed for sale, still has its merits, buyers are increasingly willing to preview and even buy homes sight unseen.
In fact, a May 2017 survey by Redfin real estate brokerage found that one-third of homebuyers purchased a home without seeing it in person, a big jump from the 19 percent of buyers who did so in 2016. Buyers are predicted to become more and more comfortable with purchasing a home without physically visiting it. Redfin’s survey found that 41 percent of millennials in the survey said they would be likely to make an offer on a house even if they hadn’t seen it in person.
High-end condos offer virtual reality experience
While only a small number of builders use virtual reality so far for buyers, increased use of the technology is anticipated as more consumers embrace it. Industry insiders think the primary use for virtual reality will be as an adjunct to a model home. For example, a builder may opt to build just one model home in an area and then offer virtual reality versions of additional models. That way consumers can see and touch at least one home to get a feel for the quality of the building while also being able to “walk-through” alternative floor plans via virtual reality.
The first developers to jump into virtual reality have been builders of expensive condos in New York City, Miami and Washington, D.C. Condos typically need to sell a certain percentage of units before the building is complete. A virtual reality tour of a unit and building amenities can entice buyers even before a model unit is available. In the past, buyers only had floor plans and renderings to view. Many people have difficulty picturing the space of rooms from a floor plan. Virtual reality lets viewers feel as if they are walking through a home or a community and get a better sense of the dimensions of the rooms and the layout of the home.
Using virtual reality to choose options
Another use for virtual reality anticipated to be used more frequently in the future is for buyers to choose their optional features. Toll Brothers recently announced a pilot program called Kitchen 360 that allows buyers to create millions of combinations when designing their kitchen. Buyers can start by personalizing features within their floor plan on a tablet and then put on an HT Vive headset to walk through their kitchen to see what their choices look like, including appliances, cabinets, finishes, flooring, counter tops and paint colors.
While your first experience with virtual reality may feel like a video game, using this technology can help you choose or design the home of your dreams.
Lights, security cameras & home entertainment systems should all speak the same language
Homeowners motivated by safety, convenience and fun when choosing home automation systems can also add voice-enabled capabilities in their home components, according to Dave Pedigo, vice president, emerging technologies for CEDIA, the global trade organization that represents those that manufacture and install technology in the home.
This is particularly popular for kitchens and master bedrooms where users utter such commands as "turn on the lights (please)" or "raise the heat (thanks)." Some operate without a command when temperatures escalate too high or permit users to multitask—maybe, wash dishes while having a TV channel changed, says Pedigo. And they're more affordable in many cases than having a room hard wired.
But a professional should be consulted and install the technology when several are used, advises Pedigo. For example:
- Systems selected need to speak the same language to operate seamlessly, what’s called "interoperability" since the language could be ZigBee or Z-Wave, the equivalent of French versus English;
- Professionally installed networks should be implemented so data remains secure and less of a risk to hackers;
- Homeowners remain current about what’s new, improved or more affordable, from motors that retrofit shades to open automatically to TVs with better color and contrast ratios, and augmented reality (AR) systems that alter views of a real-world setting through computer generated sound, video or graphics.
To find a Technology Consultant near you, visit: www.cedia.org/find-a-cedia-professional
Barbara Ballinger is a professional writer, author, blogger and speaker who has long focused on real estate, design, and personal finance. She has co-authored many books, including Successful Homebuilding and Remodeling, The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space, and The Garden Bible: Designing the perfect outdoor space. She regularly contributes to the National Association of Realtors® Website and magazine.
Margaret Crane is a nationally known freelance writer, blogger and journalist who has co-authored with Barbara Ballinger several books and articles on real estate, design and family business. Her byline has appeared in Realtor® magazine. With more than a half-dozen titles to her credit, Margaret’s latest design book is The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space.