2Gig Technologies New GC3 Panel – Everything you need to know

CIMG87122Gig Technologies showed off their GC3 panel at ISC West 2014 earlier this month.  

The new GC3 panel boast and impressive set of features including a large  7” inch touch screen, WiFi, Cellular, Bluetooth Low Energy and Z-Wave Radios plus a USB Port which can be used as a service or expansion port as well as possible future applications.  

The GC3 is 2Gig’s first panel to incorporate builtin Wi-Fi which can be used for firmware upgrades, future internet services, apps and integration with third part Wi-Fi devices and peripherals.  When 2Gig first introduced their GoControl (GC1) panel the Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon had not yet exploded so the original GC1 panel contained only a Cellular (GSM, 2G and later 3G) radio port and a built in Z-Wave Radio for home automation devices.  While Z-Wave is still a popular choice for home automation devices, Wi-Fi devices are gaining in popularity in various areas of home control and they have a universal mass appeal over Z-Wave, ZigBee or Radio Ra2 devices.  Who hasn’t heard of Wi-Fi,  now ask yourself or client what Z-Wave, Zigbee or Radio Ra2 is ?    2Gig did not officially say which Wi-Fi devices will be supported by the new GC3 panel but if Lowe’s Iris panel is any indication look for Hot Water Tanks, Air Conditioners, Water Values and Water Sensors, Pool Sensors and of course Wi-Fi Thermostats and Lighting Control modules and devices to be incorporated into the new 2Gig Panel.  

CIMG8709In addition to Wi-Fi Internet of Things devices the Wi-Fi radio can be used for alarm communications via broadband in areas where cellular coverage is spotty or non existent.  Wi-Fi could also be used as a second form of communication for redundancy or backup where required.  Lastly Wi-Fi will make over the air or in this case broadband firmware upgrades fast and inexpensive. 

Remote firmware upgrades over 2G or 3G radios on the current GC1 panels involved an additional cost to the customer and often took long periods of time to complete and could even result in some panels not working properly due to data corruption.  Wi-Fi and broadband connectivity should solve these issues.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) will be built into every 2Gig GC3 panel.  Bluetooth LE can be used for proximity detection to arm, disarm or control home automation devices.  Wearable devices such as fitbit’s and smart watches use BLE to communicate and could be integrated and learned into the GC3 to provide a host of services.  Door locks, access control and Personal Emergency Reporting or PERS applications are also a natural fit since many of these devices communicate using Bluetooth LE.

CIMG8720On the hardware side 2Gig has relocated the cellular radio port from a multi-pin connector on the motherboard inside the panel to a radio slot located on the outside of the panel.  Replacing a cellular module on a GoControl 1 panel required a technician of open up the panel and remove or install a circuit board and antenna directly to the motherboard.  With the new radio slot on the exterior side of the New GC3 Panel swapping out a cellular radio module is almost as simple as inserting an SD Memory Card into your camera.  2Gig made this some simple that even a customer could do it.

Speaking of memory … the new GC3 panel has a USB Port on the top of the panel which will be used as a service port or to add new features or hardware in the future.  Some of the potential features of the USB port include using a USB camera to snap pictures of who arms or disarms the panel, downloading pictures to the panel to use as a home screen or slide show picture frame and uploading pictures or data from the panel to an external source for archiving purposes.

IMG_5435While 2Gig hardware engineers have been working day and night on the new GC3 panel, 2Gig’s software programmers have been working endlessly to bring a whole new look to the GC3 Panel.  I like to compare the changes in the operating system of the GC1 and GC3 panels to the upgrades Apple did to iOS7 from previous iOS interfaces.

The new 2Gig user interface on the GC3 panel is much more straight forward and easier to navigate.  Gone are the hidden menus and multiple button presses to navigate menus especially with automation devices and services.  The new GC3 interface is all about user content and control.  The Automation features are now displayed right on the home screen for easy activation along with Security controls.  One button press brings launches a display of Icons the look similar to app buttons.  Each icon has a function and most controls can now be accomplished in one or two button presses.  

IMG_5436According to 2Gig representatives at the show the new GC3 panel should be available this fall at a price which should be slightly more expensive than the Original 4 inch touch screen GoControl Panel (GC1).

In the wake of the news at ISC West 2014 that the new Interlogix Advisor One Panel will not have Alarm.com integration at launch,  I asked around the 2Gig booth to see if the GC3 panel will have Alarm.com integration when it becomes available but nobody could give me a firm answer. 

Alarm.com integration will be crucial to the success of both the Interlogix Advisor and 2Gig GC3 panels … who ever secures ADC integration first will definitely have an advantage over the other.

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ISC West 2014 New Products Recap

My ISC West 2014 Press Pass

I just got back from ISC West 2014, the Security Industry’s Premier Trade Show and Conference held in Las Vegas from April 2-4.  This years exhibit was one of the best shows I’ve attended in many years.  The isles were filled with energy and excitement and a new attendance record was set at over 26,000 visitors.

Like the Consumer Electronics show only a couple months before, ISC West 2014 was all about mobile access and integration. 

The impact of the smart phone and tablet has influenced everything we do in our daily lives and the impact of mobile technologies was clearly evident in every product offering from the more than 1000 exhibitors. 

Alarm systems, CCTV, Access Control and Home Automation have all become integrated with mobile devices and manufacturers and service providers have begun to make their products smarter, more intuitive and and easier to use.  In addition to more intelligence built into devices, security manufacturers have realized the benefits of cloud computing and are transitioning many of they products to take advantage of our increasingly connected world but incorporating their products and services with cloud integration.

Here is a summary of some of the highlights of the ISC West 2014 show.  More detailed blog posts will follow providing more detailed information on specific products and services.

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Advisor 1 and Advisor Pro/Concord Keypads

Interlogix:  Last year Interlogix (GE) introduced their Advisor All in One panel with 7 inch touchscreen.  With another year under their belt the Advisor Panel has been refined but is currently still in Beta Testing with an official release date to be announced later this year.

Interlogix also showed their new Advisor Pro Panel often referred to as the Concord 5.  Like Advisor One, the Advisor Pro panel is still in beta testing with no official release date.

The Interlogix Advisor One and Advisor Pro both have 7” Touch screen panels.  Interlogix displayed a new Euro Styled Alpha Numeric Keypad which looks stunning and will work with both the new Advisor Pro as well as the older Concord Series Panels.

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New 2GIG GC3 Panel

2GIG:  As you may recall 2GIG was purchased by Linear last year just prior to ISC and the 2GIG GoControl 2 Panel was given to Vivint as part the sale.  With less than a year in development 2GIG was able to reinvent their premium Touch Screen Panel and showed a prototype Panel called the C3 at ISC West this year.  One the surface the 2GIG C3 looks similar to the previous C2 panel and should be a contender in the market when it gets released later this year.  In addition to the C3 Panel 2GIG also showed off their new WIFI broadband module which will allow GoControl 1 panels to connect through wired broadband rather than GSM Cellular technology.  Other products shown at the Linear/2GIG Booth included new Z wave light switches and the Latest Version of Go Control Software which adds an energy meter to the Go Control Panel.

New Flir MPX DVR/NVR – D1, 960H, 720p & 1080P

Flir:  A lot can happen in a year.  Last year Digimerge was purchased by thermal camera manufacturer FLIR and their offerings at ISC West 2013 where a mixed bag of Flir and Digimerge Products.

Many industry pun-dents wondered what Flir was doing buying  Digimerge but a year later the influence and synergy of these two companies is clearly evident.  Flir’s booth at ISC West this year was filled with innovative products including new DVRs, NVRs, IP, Analog and Thermal Image Cameras and a creative Cloud CCTV offering.

Last year FLIR introduced a Plug n Play 4 and 8 Channel NVR with built in 4 port POE switch.

This year FLIR has refined their NVR and included a 16 Channel Plug N Play NVR complete with 16 port POE Switch.  If you’re not ready for IP yet, FLIR’s innovative analog MXP DVR allows you to connect traditional D1 and 960H analog cameras to it via Coax or Cat5 as well as new 720 and 1080P analog cameras.

The MXP DVR is truly the Swiss Army knife of CCTV recorders.  We’ll discuss more about Flir’s new products on future posts.

Alarm.com New SVR Recorder

Alarm.com:  Alarm.com is better know as a service provider but they also showed off some impressive new hardware including a new 4 Channel SVR (Streaming Video Recorder – think NVR here), a New compact outdoor Bullet Camera, a New Universal Liftmaster Garage Door Opener and two new alarm devices, a Pet Sensor and a Bed or Chair sensor.  Along with the shinny new hardware alarm.com showcased various marketing programs and software enhancements for their dealers as well as the soon to be released Alarm.com App for it’s customers.  Alarm.com continues to innovate and refine their product offerings to maintain their leadership status in the connected home space.

Emergensee App:  Emergensee is a Personal Security App designed for both personal and corporate applications.  The app is incredibly powerful and is available in both free and paid versions.  The Emergensee app is a great example of the type of security services which are available using smart phones and cloud computing.  Watch for a complete review of the Emergensse App on future blog posts.

Polk CS100 In Floor Sub

Polk Audio In floor Sub:  While technically the Polk audio CSW 100 infloor sub is not a new product, this was the first time I was able to see it displayed at a trade show and actually got to touch and feel it hands on.  In floor subs are becoming increasingly popular in new home construction and the Polk CSW 100 delivers an impressive package at an affordable price.

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Proficient Thin Bezel Speakers

Proficient:  Proficient showed off their new Thin Bezel Architectural Speakers.  The complete line of Proficient in wall and in ceiling speakers have been redesigned to incorporate their new Thin Bezel grilles.  What is unique about the redesigned Proficient speakers is the ability to still use existing Proficient push on grills if required with the new Thin Bezel speakers.  Proficient’s ingenious design has placed strong magnets behind the plastic speaker bezel which hold the new Thin Bezel grill in place.

Proficient’s new speaker frame still contains the push in speaker grill groove on the inside of the Bezel which will allow the older style push in grill to still be used with the new speaker frame.  This is a great idea because it will allow integrators to replace an existing Proficient speaker with a new Thin Bezel speaker and still maintain the look of the older Bezel Framed speaker.  Bravo Proficient.  

Kwikset’s New Grade 2 Touch Screen Deadbolt

Kwikset/Schlage:  Both Kwikset and Schlage showed off new higher security, Grade 2 Deadbolt locks with touchscreen keypads and Z-Wave integration.

Notable Mentions:  There were a host of other products at ISC West which we will discuss in future posts including several DIY Security Camera Solutions from Brinno, Netgear and DropCam plus others ….   stay tuned!

 

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ISC West 2014 Preview

Security contractors, systems integrators and technology enthusiasts will be travelling to Las Vegas in a couple weeks to attend the Security Industry’s premier trade show ISC West 2014 held at the Sands Convention Center from April 2nd – 4th, 2014.

I’m looking forward to attending the  ISC West this year to network with my colleagues, take in some seminars and see the latest products and technology the industry has to offer.   I am particularly interested to see the New GE Advisor Alarm Panel as well as what new offerings 2GIG has to show this year after their anti-climatic showing last year following the sale of 2GIG to Linear and the loss of the New Go2 Panel to Vivint.

Warren Hill demonstrates the New Advisor Alarm Panel at ISC West 2013

GE Interlogix:

At last years ISC West 2013 show the GE booth was a buzz as Interlogix was showing off their new Advisor Alarm and Home Automation Panel.  Advisor was not quite ready for release last year but should be in full production by the end of this years show.  In addition to the Advisor panel, Interlogix was also talking about adding the Advisor Platform to the Concord 4 hardwired panel, calling it the Concord 5.  Look for detailed information on booth these panels when I get back from the Show.

2GIG:

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of last years ISC West show was the lack luster showing by industry innovator 2GIG.  2 GIG was taken over by Linear just months before the show and their new Go2 panel was given to Vivint as part of the sale. Without the GO2 panel the 2GIG booth had no new products to showcase and the whole vibe around the booth was dead, a sharp transition from previous shows.  So the big question this year is Will 2GIG rebound and have some new and innovative products to show?  I haven’t heard any news yet, but hopes are they’re going to make a big announcement at the show this year.

GE Jasco New Z-Wave Toggle Switches from CES 2014

GE Jasco:  

I actually saw some new GE Jasco Z-wave  Light Switches and Modules just 2 months ago at CES 2014.     One of the new products introduced by Jasco at CES was a line was Z-wave automated Toggle Switches (as opposed to Decora style switches).   GE did not have a release date for the new Toggle Smart Switches but we should know more after ISC West.

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Why PONO is doomed to Fail

PONO Music Player – Photo Kickstarter

If you’ve watched a news broadcast this week chances are you’ve seen or heard about Canadian Rocker Neil Young’s plans to introduce a new high quality music player called PONO.

PONO reached it’s initial goal of $800,000 in less than 24 hours and now thanks to media exposure the PONO Project on KickStarter has raised more than $4.2 millon dollars to date with 29 days to go.

So what is PONO and why does anybody care?  PONO is the latest gadget to come out of the Hi Fidelity Music Revolution which has risen as a backlash against the highly compressed MP3 digital music downloads consumers have been buying from online music stores for the past 10+ years.

Pono is a Hawaiian word and which means outrageous and frankly I find it ironic that an aging rocker like Neil Young is the pitchman and promoter for a hi fidelity music player  … I mean really, have you ever listened to a Neil Young album?

Inside PONO Music Player – Pono Kickstarter Page

Pono promises to bring back life and impact to our digital music which according to Young has been squeezed out of recordings during encoding to make the file sizes smaller and easier to download.  In the Pono promotional video Young compares MP3 files to listening to music 1,000 feet under water and Compact Disc recordings to listening at 200 ft underwater.  Pono’s music files will be sampled at 192kHz and 24 bit which Neil contends is like listening to music above sea level.

Most MP3 files are sampled at 192 kbps or 256 kbps.  iTunes and some other online music stores now sample at 320 kbps but that still about a third of the quality of CD lossless quality recordings which are sampled at 1411 kbps (44.1 kHz/16bit) FLAC Files (Free Lossless Audio Codec).

High resolution recordings have a sampling rate of 2304 kbps (48 kHz/24 bit FLAC  and Higher resolution recordings sample at 4608 kkbps (96  khz/24 bit)

Ultra High resolution recordings are sampled at 9216 kbps (192 kHz/24 bit) FLAC.

Limited Edition Signature Series PONO Players

According to Pono’s Kickstarer page “PonoMusic is not a new audio file format or standard, PonoMusic is an end-to-end ecosystem for music lovers to get access to and enjoy their favorite music exactly as the artist created it, at the recording resolution they chose in the studio. We offer PonoMusic customers the highest resolution digital music available.PonoMusic is more than just a high-resolution music store and player; it is a grassroots movement to keep the heart of music beating. PonoMusic aims to preserve the feeling, spirit, and emotion that the artists put in their original studio recordings.”

The Pono music player looks like a Toblerone chocolate bar and includes 128GB of internal memory plus a microSD card slot for additional storage.  The PonoMusic store will offer tracks for download in FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec).  FLAC files are sampled at higher bit rates and therefore contain more digital information and therefore can better capture the subtle nuances in music recordings.

While technically speaking FLAC files should sound better than lower sampled MP3 files it is questionable if the listener will hear the difference through a pair of common earbuds or on a car audio system with vehicle and road noise.

The premise of high quality audio is a good one, but lets face it the odds of PONO succeeding is remote.

1.) First there’s the question of the separate music player.  Does the world really need another digital music player?  Especially one that looks like a Chocolate Bar.  Sales of iPods have been declining for years since the introduction of the Smart Phone and most consumers what to carry only one device in their pocket and that device is their SmartPhone.  The PONO Music Player is just that … a music only player with an odd shape and nothing more.

2.)  Then there’s the question of music selection.  The Amazon Music store and iTunes have Millions of songs in their catalogs ready for download today …. how many will the PONO Music Store have at launch?

3.)  Digital Rights Management – DRM.  When iTunes first launched the Recording Companies required it had to incorporate some form of digital security in the music files to prevent unauthorized copying and file sharing (DRM).  Consumers hated DRM,   it made listening to legitimately purchased music on different devices they difficult and frustrating.  The solution was DRM free music at a higher cost.  DRM FREE  music was easier and more convenient for the consumer to listen to on all his or her devices.

The one thing no one is talking about with PONO is DRM.  Some people say because PONO is the only device which you can download and play FLAC Files that DRM won’t be an issue but lets get serious here for a minute.  If record companies were concerned about copying and illegal file sharing of 196, 256 or 320 kbps files what kind of security do you think they’ll have on uncompressed Studio Master FLAC files?  Ease of use and portability are the keys to any digital music ecosystem surviving.  Consumers want to listen to their music in their cars, phones, portable players, laptops, stereos, at home, the office, cottage and on vacation.  If the music isn’t able to be listened to in all those places then it will never gain mass appeal.

4.)  Streaming is the New Music Trend:  Streaming Music is the new trend in digital music, especially those under the age of 30.  Consumers would rather stream their music via some sort of on-line service rather than downloading, storing, cataloging, making playlists and managing files between devices.  Why would you want to tie up valuable storage space on your smart phone or carry a separate device like a Pono when you can just subscribe to a service and stream all the music you want.   Even if PONO can overcome the separate device, music selection and DRM concerns, Streaming vs Storing music on a single device will be a tough one to overcome and certainly not indicative of the current market trend.

Apple Amazon Google - Logos

5.)  Apple, Amazon & Google?  The last nail in the coffin for PONO will be the market dominance of Apple, Amazon and Google.  Apple, Amazon and Google are certainly watching PONO and will not surrender their domination in the music marketplace without a fight.

Apple has many options at it’s disposal including developing their own hi fidelity music player perhaps an iPod Pro or  iPod Hi-Fi.  Apple may also be able to incorporate a higher fidelity music player into it’s existing idevices … lets call it iTunes Pro or iTunes Hi-FI.  Another option for iTunes and Amazon would be to start selling FLAC music files.  Apple also has it’s own higher fidelity music sampling format called ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec).  Currently Apple iPhone and iPods are capable of playing ALAC files however Apple is not selling ALAC music in the iTunes store at this time probably due to copyright regulations by the record companies.  The odds are if PONO gains ground, Apple will just go to the recording industry and get permission to sell ALAC music files on iTunes – if that were to happen,  Apple would be able to offer higher quality music files, playable on a single, slimmer device such as an iPod, iPhone or iPad.

Tech Tip:  While ALAC music is not available on iTunes yet,  Apple users who wish to convert and import tracks from their own CD collection into iTunes can do it right now  by using ALAC in the import menu options on iTunes.  These ALAC files will play on all idevices.

The PONO Player and PONOMUSIC Project are currently enjoying the media spotlight right now but a lot of things will happen between now and October when the first PONO Players are supposed to start shipping.  The timing of PONO is perfect coinciding with the growing trend towards higher fidelity digital music and even a resurgence in vinyl record sales.   The real question with PONO or any other music player is convenience and lifestyle.  The way we listen to music has changed, we’re plugged in all the time and music listening is often more a background distraction as opposed to an active, involved, conscious foreground listening effort.  Connectivity, convenience and portability is perhaps the most important feature with choice of music player.  In this department the Smart Phone wins hands down.  It’s one device, we carry it with us wherever we go, it’s easy to download music onto it or better yet stream music on it and lastly we already have an eco system of music docks, wireless bluetooth, Sonos and airplay docks which all play nice with the smart phone but may not integrate well with PONO or may degrade the quality of sound from a high fidelity music player so why go through the effort.  Pono is like 4K Television.  4K TV is awesome but for most consumers 1080p is good enough and far me convenient, easier to use, with far more content selection and much less expensive than 4K TV.

Like most KickStarter projects,  PONO’s a great story and certainly a novel concept but will it succeed?   Personally I believe the trend to streaming music services will continue and most consumers are not going to give up the simplicity and convenience of their smart phone for the benefit of higher fidelity music on a separate device?

If PONO does gain traction and the market look for Apple and Amazon to up their game and leave PONO in the dust.

The majority of crowd source funded projects fail and I’m betting that despite PONO’s current media popularity and phenomenal success at reaching it’s funding goal the PONO Music Player is sadly is doomed to fail.

We should Thank Neil Young and PONO for bringing awareness to the general public about the poor quality of MP3 downloaded music and for elevating the conversation about better music fidelity.  Better music quality will happen, however it will not be on a separate player but rather within the eco system of smart phones and tablets and most likely with some form of streaming.

If you want to know more about the PonoMusic Product and Kickstarter Fund Raising Campaign check out the link at:  Pono KickStarter Campaign

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How to Float a Flat Screen TV in Front of a Mirror

Glenora Before:after logoMounting a Flat Screen TV on a wall is fairly straightforward but how do you do it when there is a Crown Moulding and wall mounted Mirror in the way ….?   Simple call the guys at Ion Security and Integration.

Challenging TV installs are what we do say’s Doyle Serink with Ion Security.  We rarely get calls for the easy installs …. there’s always something in the way or some structural problem, that’s where we excel.  With more than 20 years experience and 3000 TV installs there’s not much we haven’t been asked to do.

The goal of this installation was to mount the 55” HDTV in front of the mirror and as close to the wall as possible without removing the Crown Moulding or Mirror.  Secondly the weight of the TV could not put pressure on the mirror for fear of cracking it.  Lastly the exterior wall of the building was concrete block with metal stud and drywall interior construction  …. no wooden studs here!

Glenora 10During his site visit Doyle took pictures and measurements of the existing wall and surrounding structure.  He located the metal studs and was able to confirm the the two metal studs would be within the boundaries of the TV mount but still you cannot hang a flat screen TV on metal studs along.

Back at the shop with his measurements in hand, Doyle began to design and fabricate a laminated wooden TV backing support which would bolt and glue to the wall above the Mirror and then overhand the Crown Moulding allowing the TV to mount and float in front of the mirror.  The wooded structure would be built and painted in house and then take to the location for final assembly.

Glenora 4Once the paint had dried it was off to the location for installation.  The drywall was cut open and wooden backing was placing inside the wall.  Care and attention was paid so that the vapor barrier would remain intact and special drywall anchors were used where the wooden backing was not accessible.  Construction glue was used between the layers of the TV backing to provide additional strength.

Glenora 1

The prefabricated mount support backing fit like a glove and straddled the crown moulding and floated in front of the mirror.  Once the backing was in place, a standard wall mounted TV bracket affixed to the laminated wooden support structure and the 55” LED HDTV was then lifted and mounted in place.

Glenora 8The weight of the TV was held by the support structure and the TV floated in front of the mirror with no weight being placed on the mirror itself.

The final touch to the installation was to mount a Shaw HD Cablebox behind the TV and tidy up all the cabling.

If you have a challenging TV installation give the guys at Ion Security & Integration a call (780) 489-5522 or email info@ionsecuritysystems.com.   When it comes to mounting TVs there isn’t much they can’t do.

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New Wireless Multiroom Audio Systems Introduced at CES 2014

With almost 10 years of innovation and annual sales in excess 0f 250 million Sonos sits firmly entrenched at the top of the Wireless Multiroom Audio market.  

While Sonos may be on top,  Samsung, Panasonic, LG and newcomers BlueSound, Voco and Pure Audio are the latest competitors to enter the fray.   Bose, Apple, Mirage, NuVo, Pioneer, iHome and Russound also have multiroom audio products. .  

Wireless multiroom audio has been touted as the next big thing in consumer electronics and 2014 looks like it will be a minefield as some of the big and little guys try to throw Sonos off it’s throne.

Sonos:  Let’s start with the leader.  Sonos didn’t officially exhibit at CES this year however they did introduce a number of new and innovative products during 2013, including Consumer Reports number one soundbar … the Sonos Playbar.  2013 also saw the introduction of the Sonos Sub and most recently the Sonos Play 1 speaker system. Like Apple, Sonos has developed a loyal community of followers and users who view Sonos not just as a product but a social statement as well.

Samsung:  Streaming Music is just one part of the “Samsung Smart Home” Platform which according to the Japanese electronics giant will allow users to manage and control all appliances and devices in their connected home.

The Samsung Shape Wireless Audio Multiroom System consists of the entry level M5 speaker (rival Sonos Play3), the larger more powerful M7 speaker (Competitor Sonos Play 5), the stylish HW-H750 Soundbar with sub (Sonos Playbar and Sub), wireless Shape Hub (Sonos Bridge), Link Mate (Sonos Connect) and various other Samsung products including Home Theatre in a Box (HTIB), bluray players and televisions that display the Multiroom Link icon.  Samsung Multiroom Link speakers and devices connect via WiFi, NFC or Bluetooth and can be controlled by a Free iOS or Android App.  Music services supported at launch include Amazon Cloud Player, Pandora, Rhapsody and Tune In Radio.

Every one of Samsung’s Multiroom Link products mirrors the Sonos product line.  It took Sonos nearly a decade to develop their family of products yet Samsung brought their complete line to market in less than a year.

Samsung is famous for identifying profitable market segments then reverse engineering and copying products.  So is Samsung’s Multiroom Link products as good as Sonos, hell no, not yet anyway but just like the Samsung Galaxy phone overtook Apple’s iPhone, don’t underestimate the power and resources of Samsung Group.  Out of all the new multiroom streaming audio products this one is the most interesting.

Panasonic:  Panasonic’s entry into the multiroom audio is called ALL PLAY a smart media platform developed by Qualcomm which enables music to be streamed to multiple rooms and multiple sources.  Initially Panasonic will be launching three ALL PLAY products, the SC-ALL8 and SC-ALL3 wireless powered speaker systems (similar to Sonos Play 3 and 5) as well as the SH-ALL1C Network Audio connector which will turn existing stereos into streaming ALL PLAY devices.  Panasonic will have it’s own ALL PLAY control app for iOS and Android and will be able to stream music subscription services, internet radio and more to connected ALL PLAY devices.  ALL PLAY will be WiFi based and will be able to stream and play music stored on iOS, Android and network devices.

LG:  While not quite as ambitious as Samsung, LG introduced two Wireless Multiroom Audio Speakers at CES.  Looking once again like Sonos Play 3 and Play 5 speakers, LG’s offerings will work off WiFi and establish their own mesh network, streaming music directly from Apple and Android devices.  In order to sync multiple speakers a Bridge Box is connected to the home’s router which will sync all speakers to play the same music or allow each speaker to play independently.  The LG NP8740 will have 70 watts of power while the smaller LG NP8540 will have 40.  No additional information or details about streaming services such as Rhapsody or Tune In Radio was available.

BlueSound:  Newcomer BlueSound has taken a little bit of a different approach to multiroom steaming audio by catering to the high-res audio market.  BlueSound players are designed to stream high-res music files up to 24-bit/192KHz providing better more accurate sound.  BlueSound players will also stream Cloud music services and internet radio.  The BlueSound App is available on both iOS and Android.

Voco:   The Voco family of products includes two Audio Streamers, the Voco Zone and Zone+ plus the V-Spot powered media player.  Voco Zone players turn your exiting stereo into a streaming music player with iOS and Android control.  The Zone+ player allows for voice control.

The V-Spot is an all in one speaker/amplifier streaming music player.  Voco components stream from Android and iOS devices, as well as online music and internet radio services and iPod, MP3 or USB connected hard drives.  The Voco V-Spot can also act as a WiFi hotspot.  At this time Voco is only available in the United States.

Pure Audio:  Pure audio’s Jongo family of speakers and music streamers was designed and engineered in the UK and has a very Euro look and feel to them.  The Jongo line includes the Jongo A2 Adapter which converts your existing stereo into a streaming music player.  The Jongo T2 is a 20Watt wireless speaker, the J3 a 20W Portable speaker with 10 hour battery life and the T4 a 50W wireless speaker and T6 a 100W wireless speaker.  Jongo speakers and components come in a myriad of colors for classic white and black to funky red, yellow, orange, purple, blue and green.  Music streaming is controlled by Jongo’s Android or iOS app.

As you can see by the number of products and manufacturers the wireless multiroom audio is quickly becoming the defacto way we are going to be listening to our music now and in the future.

If you are interested in multiroom audio for your home or office give Doyle at Ion Security a call 780-489-5522 or email info@ionsecuritysystems.com.

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CES 2014 – Top Ten List

2014 is going to be a big year for tech as evidenced by the new products and innovations introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas last week.

I just got back from CES 2014 and after walking the two million square feet of show floor  here’s my top ten list of what’s new, what’s next and what I never saw coming.

1.) 4K Ultra HD Curved TVs:  They’re big, they’re beautiful and they’re curved. The primary reason for attending CES 2014 was to check out the new 4K Ultra HD TVs and they are amazing.  I expected to see crystal clear lifelike resolution but what I didn’t anticipate was seeing Curved TVs and flexible TVs which go from FLAT to CURVED at the touch of a button. 

It’s too early to say if Curved TVs are a gimmick but 4K UHD is here to stay and unlike 3D TV, Ultra HD will become the new display resolution standard in the coming years.

2.) Connected Home:              The connected home will become a reality in 2014 driven by wireless technologies such as Wi-fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave and ZigBee.  The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow integrating more devices in the home including  light bulbs and switches, thermostats and HVAC controls, garage doors and locks, fridge, stove, washer, dryer and all other appliances.  Energy conservation and management continues to increase in importance to home owners as a way to control consumption and decrease costs.

3.)  Headphones:  Headphones of every kind and at price point are everywhere.  Smart phones are now the number one way we listen to music and media, CE manufactures are making products to personalize the sound from your smart phone.  BEATS headphones by Dr. Dre seems to be the market leader in this category but hundreds of others innovate to capture a piece of this lucrative accessory market.

4.) Portable Speakers:  While headphones are all about personal listing,  portable speakers and increasingly weather resistant rugged speakers have become another emerging trend.  Remember the days of the Ghetto Blaster.  Portable battery powered speakers are today’s BOOM BOX and most offer wireless bluetooth connectivity, rechargeable batteries and even cell phone USB charging ports.

5.) SoundBars:  The Soundbar category will continue to be strong and grow in 2014.  Consumers continue to demand larger, flatter, thinner TVs yet somehow expect the sound quality of the built in speakers to match the picture quality of the display.   For 2014 LG has come up with an ingenious new TV design which integrates the TV speakers into the stand essentially making the stand a mini sound bar.  New super thin and small sound bars were also displayed at LG and Samsung’s booth.

6.)  Whole Home – Lifestyle Music Systems:  Sonos is the market leader in the Streaming Media whole house audio category however LG, Samsung, Panasonic have all introduced products at CES this year to challenge Sonos in this space.  In September 2013 Russound also introduced their X-Stream product for custom integrators and NuVo, Mirage and Bose also have streaming whole home audio systems.  Apple TV can also be used as an audio streaming device through airplay along with receivers from Denon, Marantz and Pioneer which come with Airplay built in. Sonos will continue to be the market leader in this space for the considerable future but it will be interesting to watch if any of the BIG 4 Japanese manufacturers can capture some market share from Sonos.  Based on the Apple iPhone vs Samsung Galaxy battle, I’ll give Samsung the best shot at it.

7.)  Wearable Tech:  Wristbands, Smart Watches, and every form of wearable smart sensor is being developed to monitor our activity level, heart rate, temperature, calories burn and consumed and GPS location.  Wearable tech is a rapidly emerging market and will become increasingly popular in 2014.

8.)  Health Tech:  Along with wearable tech is another growing trend called Health Tech.  You name the health condition and you can bet someone has a smart sensor, app or wearable device to help you monitor it.  Smart scales, glucose monitors, EKG, heart rate and temperature monitors even sensors to track asthma and breathing disorders as our population ages the demand for this products will grow.

9.)  Mommy Tech:  We’ve all heard the term helicopter parent we’ll for 2014 technology has taken the monitoring of our children to a whole new level.  Traditionally mommy tech referred to baby intercoms and perhaps video cameras but at CES I saw several GPS and Bluetooth trackers that can be used to track and monitor the location of your child or family pet.  There are electronic toothbrushes which pair to cell phones informing you when and how long your child brushed their teeth and even if they brush too hard or soft.  Another interesting device, a smart sensor which fits inside your baby’s sleeper or one-zee and monitors heart rate and temperature sending alerts to your smart phone if something is wrong.

10.)  3-D Printing:  3-D Printing received a lot of hype and occupied a lot of show floor space at CES this year.  Is 3-D printing cool? … Absolutely, will it become mainstream?  Not for the foreseeable future.  3-D printing will become more affordable in 2014 as cheaper printers and scanners enter the market and the cost of consumables lessens.  The real market for 3-D printing is small engineering and design companies who currently have to outsource their modeling needs.  For 3-D printing to become a truly consumer product like a color ink jet printer/scanner, 3-D printing will have to be color and cheaper, simpler and less complex than it is today.

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BlackHawk Golf Club AV Reno

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When BlackHawk Golf Club approached us to do an AV upgrade to their Club house as part of their 10 year anniversary renovation it was clear that a conventional wired solution was not going to work and some out of the box thinking would be required.

SONOS_overviewYou usually don’t hear the word Sonos and commercial audio system in the same sentence.  Sonos is a popular streaming music system normally used for residential whole house applications but with a little outside the box thinking integrator Doyle Serink of Ion Security has successfully installed Sonos Music Systems in various commercial establishments from restaurants, offices, warehouses and now a golf course.

What I like most about Sonos says Doyle, is the simple, straightforward interface for our customers.  Often commercial AV systems can be complicated and difficult to use but with Sonos the customer just gets it and almost immediately knows how to operate the system with very little training.  Sonos systems are also extremely flexible allowing us to install music in places where a wired system would be impossible or very costly to install.

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Two different integration companies had previously installed the audio and video components at Blackhawk over the years.  The AV company that did the initial install provided a basic 70V audio system with paging and years later during an expansion reno a second AV company added some HDTVs to the lounge and mens locker room.  The existing system was a complete nightmare with many zones in the audio system not working properly and nobody on the staff really understanding how to work the system.

The main goals of the AV renovation was to get all zones of music working again and improve the outdoor microphone paging.  The audio system in the banquet room also needed to be improved but that would be a separate project.

The audio system for the Club House would be getting a complete facelift and five new Flat Screen HDTVs would also be added to the lounge.

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The TV and video side of the project was pretty straight forward however the audio system quickly became a challenge.  The main wiring for the AV system was centralized in the lounge however the Clubhouse was renovated and expanded a couple of times and there was no way to run wiring between some of the new and original portions of the building.  The ceilings  were drywall, vaulted in some areas and the roof lines between different sections of the building didn’t line up.  Going underground wasn’t an option either because the basement was a parking garage for the golf carts and only extended underneath a portion of the building and not the entire structure. There was no way we were going to get wiring to some parts of  the building.

In addition to the wiring challenges Doyle discovered that the existing audio system consisted of a mixture of 70 volt and 8 ohm speakers in various zones.  Normally large commercial sound systems are all 70 volt however at BlackHawk it appears the two previous AV companies really mixed things up.

Doyle and the Ion team went to work redesigning the AV system from the ground up.  In preparation for the new back bar millwork the existing AV equipment was removed and the current system was stripped down to the bare wiring.

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With the bare wiring exposed Doyle set out to design a new AV system which would take advantage of the existing Hardwired zones and then creatively use SONOS components to bring music wirelessly to the zones which couldn’t be hard wired.

12 Independent zones of audio were needed including the restaurant, lounge, banquet room, locker rooms, hallway, washroom, pro shop, patio deck, kitchen, outside tee box and driving range.  The restaurant speakers were 8 ohms allowing a Sonos Amp to be connected directly to them without modification however the remaining speaker zones were all 70 volt speakers.  Sonos components are normally not designed for commercial 70 volt installations so Doyle used 70 Volt output transformers to convert the Sonos Amps from 8 ohm to 70 Volt output and added Sonos Connects to the 70 Volt amplifiers in the hard wired zones.

Audio sources included two microphones, 1 from the proshop and 1 in the banquet room, two satellite audio feeds, a laptop and ipod feed for a total of six audio sources.  While some sources could be hardwired to the AV system others were located in different rooms or areas of the clubhouse and needed to be connected and streamed wirelessly.  Sonos Connect units were used to enable some source components to be  connected wirelessly back to the main AV system and other zones.

CIMG5337With the AV system fully installed the next step was to show the staff how to operate new system.  The old system was complicated and difficult to operate requiring staff to flip several source switches and adjust numerous volume controls for each zone of music.  The old system also limited all zones to only two sources of music.

The new Sonos hybrid system was controlled entirely by two dedicated Sonos handheld controllers.  The new system allowed users to select music or audio sources for each zone directly on the handheld controller and assign or group zones together to play the same music on all zones if desired.  The staff and ownership was delighted with the ease of use and touch screen control of the Sonos system …. no more flipping switches.

This was the first time we used a Sonos Amp for paging purposes with a microphone says Ion Integrator Doyle Serink.  I wasn’t sure if the Sonos amplifier had enough headroom to handle the dynamic range of a live microphone but surprisingly it did.  It was a little tricky to balance the Sonos Amp and microphone gain but once it was set the sound quality was excellent and there was no audible amplifier clipping.

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While Sonos is primarily used in home audio applications there are many commercial projects where Sonos can be an ideal fit,  Sonos wireless architecture allows you to affordably install sound in rooms which otherwise may be cost prohibitive and with a little creative out of the box thinking Sonos can be a creative solution to many audio obstacles.

If you would like to know more about Sonos audio systems for your home or business or have a Sonos system which is not working properly and require assistance give Doyle at Ion Security a call 780-489-5522

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Stony Plain Boston Pizza Renovation – Are you ready for some Hockey!

Canadian’s are passionate about Hockey.  We design and decorate our kids rooms to look like locker rooms, we build backyard hockey rinks in the winter and even some homeowners build indoor ball hockey rinks in their basements.

When Stony Plain Boston Pizza decided to renovate their sports bar they too wanted the bar to resemble a hockey rink arena complete with a hanging score clock.

Doyle from Ion Security and Integration was asked to design TV cluster which would be hung from the center of the Sports Bar and resemble the an NHL Arena Score Clock.

Designing a TV cluster to look like a score clock represented some unique challenges for Ion Team.  First there was the issue of weight.  The roof joists were made of wood and the structure needed to be light enough for the roof joists to safely support the load.  The next problem was the reflections for the South Facing windows.  The flat panels chosen will need to minimize the reflections from the windows as much as possible.  The third challenge was to maximize the size of the TVs and make them as big as possible yet provide adequate clearance height.  Lastly was the High Definition programming source.

Doyle spent hours designing the score clock frame before the final draft design was ready. With the final conceptual design ready the next step was to make a wooden scale mockup to test the design and assembly.  The wooden mockup provided a better understanding of the construction requirements and revealed some potential assembly problems which were worked out prior to fabrication.  With a final “Tested” design ready for fabrication the next step was to decide on what size and brand of TVs would be used for the Score Clock.

The choices for TV sizes ranged from 47 inches all the way to 70.  The goal was to go as big as possible yet leave enough room for ample clearance.  After several calculations 55 inches was determined to be the ideal size to fit the design criteria however which Brand and Model of 55 inch TV was still undecided.  

Doyle considered LG, Sony, Samsung and Toshiba 55” LED TVs.  LED TVs were selected to minimize the weight and thickness of the TV.  The next criteria for the TV was refresh rate.  Since it was a sports bar the LED TV had to have a native refresh rate of at least 240hz.  The last consideration for the TVs was cost.  The TV selected needed to fit within budget for the project.  With all the specifications and pricing factored in two TVs met the criteria … Samsung and Toshiba.  Both TVs were 55 inch, 1080P, LED TVs with 240Hz native refresh rates.

Doyle purchased one Samsung and Toshiba LED TV and tested them with various programming material side by side.  Comparing the TVs head on with the same programming material revealed some interesting results.  The Samsung 55 inch LED had slightly better contrast and color saturation but on the important tests the Toshiba surprisingly won hands down.

The bezel on the Toshiba was noticeably thinner and the weight of the Toshiba TV was also 20% lighter than the Samsung.  The LED Screen on the Toshiba exhibited less reflection than the Samsung.  The Samsung’s screen was almost glossy where as the Toshiba’s had a matte finish.  Because of the windows and neon lights minimizing reflections was important so two thumbs up for the Toshiba.  The last criteria was refresh rate.  Once again the Toshiba won this category showing no artifacting, motion blur or soap opera effect.  The Samsung had noticeable artifacating and a very pronounced soap opera effect making it disturbing to watch some programming.  After the side by side tests the Toshiba 55 inch LED TVs were selected to be the winner and chosen for the score clock TV cluster.

Once the TVs were picked out Doyle needed to calculate the total weight of the score clock and more importantly the bearing weight on each leg of the score clock.  The Toshiba TVs were much lighter than first thought and some modifications to the metal framing minimized the total weight of the structure  leaving a calculated bearing weight of only 77 pounds per leg.

With the score clock design and layout finalized and the TVs selected it was time to build the structure frame and bring it onsite for installation

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The score clock structure was hung from the ceiling, levelled and then screwed in place.  Once the structure was mounted and secure, the four TVs were installed along with the electronics on the inside of the score clock cluster.  Shaw HDTV Direct To Unit cable boxes were choose for programming and remote IR repeaters were installed below the TVs to allow control of the hidden cable boxes.  After the TVs were installed and the wiring was complete, side panels and a bottom cover panel were installed to provide a Finished look to the score clock TV cluster.

The finished score clock was a Jaw Dropper and looks Awesome.  Both the staff and customers couldn’t believe the effect the score clock had on creating a real Hockey Arena feel to Stony Plain BPs Sport Bar.

“WOW who needs to go to Rexall Place, I’d rather come here and watch the game”  … commented Larry Miller

The Stony Plain Boston Pizza renovation took two weeks to complete including the lounge and restaurant.  The general contractor for the project was Apex Contracting from Sherwood Park and the AV Integrator was Ion Security and Integration from Edmonton.

If you are interested in HDTVs, innovative AV designs, Security, Video Surveillance or Automation for your home or business give Doyle at Ion Security a call 780-489-5522 …. you’ll be glad you did.

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I Didn’t Think It Would Happen To Me

Last night one of our clients experienced a break in.

The location was a hair salon and the break in occurred just after midnight

The burglars smashed the front window of the salon tripping the alarm and then proceeded directly to the cash register and office.

Within seconds of the alarm going off Bianca, the store owner, was notified by email and text message on her smart phone about the alarm and then shortly thereafter Bianca received a phone call from Ion Central Monitoring Station.  The central station confirmed to Bianca that the front motion, rear motion, office door, and other sensors were indicating activity in the building and that there was a high likelihood that the alarm was real, Bianca replied to the operator yes I know I can see the same information on my phone …. send the police.

The central station reported the alarm to the police and informed Bianca that a key holder is required to meet the police onsite.  Bianca said her son would be coming down.  A couple of minutes later the Ion Central Monitoring Station Operator called Bianca again to inform her that the police were on site and verified that a break in had occurred.  Bianca’s son hadn’t arrived yet, but Bianca said she would also come down to the salon.

The police stayed at the scene investigating and writing up their report.  Bianca and her son both arrived and began to survey the damage.  Overall the property damage was contained to one of the front windows which had been smashed.  No money was kept on site however a small handful of expensive hair care product was taken from the display shelves at the front of the store. Based on the alarm data it’s estimated that the thieves were in the salon for less than two minutes and didn’t hang around knowing that the alarm was going off and the police would be their soon.

The next morning I personally dropped by the hair salon to make sure everyone was OK. Being a victim of a break and enter always leaves you with a feeling of being violated regardless of what was stolen. By the time I arrived at the hair salon the window had been boarded up and the break in was the main topic of conversation among the clients getting their hair cut.   I chatted with Bianca between her appointments recalling the first time we met two years ago to do a security evaluation and walk through of her then brand new salon.  At the time Bianca was just opening her very first salon, money was tight and she wasn’t to enthusiastic about spending money for a security system.  Just give me the most basic system you can She told me, I don’t really want an alarm system but they won’t give me insurance unless I get one.  Today after the break in Bianca’s perspective regarding security systems has changed completely.  Thank god for the alarm system, we would have never known there was a break in last night until we showed up for work this morning … who knows how long the thieves would have stayed in the salon or how much more damage they might have done.

 Burglar Alarms are like car or home owner insurance,  you don’t really want the added expense of paying for them and hope you never need them but when something bad happens, you’re sure glad you did.  

Since the break in,  Bianca has now added Security Cameras to her Ion Smart Alarm System.  I’m glad the alarm system worked and scared off the burglars Bianca told me … but now I want cameras so I can see exactly what is going on if another alarm occurs and have video evidence so the police can catch the guy.

In Bianca’s case the Ion Security System worked exactly as designed.  It notified her quickly, dispatched the police and minimized the damage and losses.

Unfortunately every week we get a phone call from someone who has been burglarized and didn’t have an alarm system.  The damage and losses are usually much greater and each time the story is always the same … I didn’t think it would happen to me.

Protect your business or home with an Ion Smart Alarm Panel.  Call 780-489-5522 or email info@ionsecuritysystems.com for your Free, No Obligation Security Evaluation.

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