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Making your Smart Home Smarter with the Amazon Echo

Making your Smart Home Smarter with the Amazon Echo

During this past holiday season, the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot became almost sold out everywhere. In this post, we wanted to put some information together for new users of the Amazon Echo, and also inform users of what smart home systems and brands work with the device.

 

Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo comes in at 9.25 inches tall and a diameter of 3.25 inches and weighs approximately 1.7 lbs. This also includes a 6′ ft power cable and quick start guide. It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and hears you from across the room with seven microphones for far-field hands-free voice control, even in noisy environments or while playing music. With a built-in 2.5″ woofer and 2″ tweeter, the Echo provides 360 degrees of sound. It is largest of the (3) voice assistants that are a part of the Amazon family. Like the Echo Dot, the Amazon Echo comes in two colors- black and white.

The Echo Dot is much smaller than the Echo, but still, has a built-in speaker and all the capabilities of the larger Echo. Amazon developed these smaller versions of the Echo, to be distributed throughout a home and work as a network, using ESP or (Echo Spatial Perception) to respond with device closest to you.

What are the best ways to use your Amazon Echo?

We decided to put a list together of our favorite uses for the Amazon Echo- this is what we came up with:

• Setting Alarms and Timers – simply tell Alexa to set a timer or an alarm 

• Playing music from Spotify and Pandora- there is also TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Audible, Prime Music, and Amazon Music – you can also play music through iTunes on your Echo via a Bluetooth connection from your phone or computer.

• Get the weather for anywhere

• Flash briefing- Alexa will tell you news from your local area, and usually provides content via NPR news. You can add things and manipulate what is in your Flash Briefing by teaching your Echo new skills through the Alexa app on your phone. Simply go to Skills in the main menu.

• Get the time- it may be simple, but it can be good to know sometimes. 

• Solve conversions and math problems quickly

• Learning other skills via IFTTT (we will come back to this shortly)

• Check and add things to your calendar (this can be done through IFTTT)

• Make shopping lists and to-do lists – simply say “Alexa, add bananas to my shopping list.” or “Alexa, add schedule appointment with Next on my to-do list.”

• Our favorite use of the Amazon Echo is connecting Smart Devices and systems of course. From here we will go in to more detail about that:

Amazon Echo 2016
Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo Dot Functions

Using Control4, Crestron, or Lutron with Amazon Echo and Echo Dot.

Yes, with the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, you can use all three of the big players in home automation. What is so great about having these systems work with your Echo? We know that is a silly question. If you have Lutron lighting or shading- you can tell Alexa to turn on lights in certain rooms, and open or close shades without having to push any buttons.

With Control4, you can say turn on TV, turn on your pool pump, control HVAC, display security feed on your living room TV, turn off all the lights in the house, or even set up scenes, for example, a party mode… The list could go on forever. With Crestron, the same rules and possibilities can apply. If you are ready to take the next step towards making your home smarter, we recommend you talk with an expert. The DIY devices are out there and can be a good start for integrating and making your home smarter- But if you’re looking to have a smart home much like Mark Zuckerburg’s “Jarvis”- Next Electronic Systems is confident in helping you make it happen (seriously, we’d love to install and integrate a T-Shirt cannon) 

IFTTT is short for “If This Then That”  and is a platform that allows third-party developers to easily integrate services and automate tasks between various apps. 

Using IFTTT you can control many of these premium smart-home brands. If you do not have an account with IFTTT yet, but already own the Amazon Echo, we recommend you sign up and explore more of the possibilities. There are other great features with IFTTT available that do not involve the Amazon Echo, but we think they are worth checking out. 

Next Electronic Systems is an Audio-Visual Integrator that specializes in home automation in the Austin, Texas area. If you have the desire to revamp the technology throughout you home, give Next a call – 512-263-9700

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Commercial Lighting & Shading Services Austin

Lutron Logo Next Electronic Systems Austin Texas

Commercial Audio Video Services in Austin, Texas

Commercial lighting and shading services – Next Electronic Systems ( Austin, Texas ) is a professional integration company who specializes in installing and programming for both services.

According to findings by Lutron, 39% of most office building’s annual electricity accounts for lighting alone. With lighting solutions from Lutron, like dimmers, companies can save tons each year.

Lutron is known for their ultra quiet shades and advanced lighting control systems. Next Electronic Systems is a certified dealer of Lutron Next’s technicians are certified for installation and programming of Lutron products.

Motorized shades can add time and energy savings to a dwelling, especially one that has many windows. For example- the growing number of high-rise condominiums in downtown Austin, Texas. Shading and lighting control not only saves money but can yield better productivity and comfort for those in the workplace.

Lutron Commercial Lighting Next Electronic Systems
For Lutron Vive wireless in Austin, Texas- call Next Electronic Systems
The first employee to enter the building for the day, can hit one button and specified lights turn on and shades open. There is more functionality to the lighting controls with Lutron. Dimmable lights allow one to control the amount of light being emitted and save energy. Lutron can also control HVAC settings, and music as well.

Watch the following video to learn about new solutions from Lutron.

For the quietest shades, Next considers Lutron shades to be the best over other roller shade brands. Lutron has an endless amount of fabrics, colors and option as well. (To view samples of materials, fabrics, designs, colors call 512-263-9700) Learn more about Motorized Shading

Watch another video about Lutron lighting solutions:

Next is an AV integrator and dealer for brands such as Lutron, Control4, and Crestron. Services include pre-wiring for new construction, audio, video, installing and mounting of projectors, screens, and televisions, and more. To see a full list of services go to http://www.nextaustin.com/services

Give Next a call today to help your business thrive from the benefits of automation. Call 512-263-9700 or go to http://www.nextaustin.com/contact

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Whole Home Control in Austin Texas with Control4

The Control4 Experience

 

At Next Electronic Systems, we believe the solution for time consumption is Control4. 

We all have lists of tasks to check off every morning before heading to work or leaving the house. Traffic for Austin residents can be hard enough to deal with in the morning. Turning off lights and appliances, opening or closing shades, and making sure all the doors are locked can take up precious time.

 

Home automation technology has been around for a while, but never as affordable as it is today. Control4’s app for Apple and Android gives the consumer the ability to control all of their integrated devices anywhere in the world.

This week we wanted to show more people the possibilities of what a Control4 system can do. Control4 has won multiple awards this year from Prosource, CEPro, ISE, and CES; including Best of Show for their EA Series Controllers. CEPro commended them for their warranty policies.

As a long time AV, integrator, we believe Control4 is one of the best automation systems for residential and commercial use.

Designing a Smarthome

Having everything work together is a great thing, and that is exactly what Control4 does. Control4 stands behind an open platform and their EA line was designed to work with everything. In fact, it currently supports 9,500 devices from hundreds of different brands. They have one remote that is easy to familiarize with. The GUI (graphic user interface) is a static design. It sacrifices customization for ease. The great thing about this is that anyone who has ever used a Control4 system can easily use the app and do things they want the system to do without getting lost along the way. If a home or hotel you travel to on the other side of the world has a Control4 system, it will look and be controlled the same as your own. 

The main screen of the GUI typically displays 6-7 icons: Watch, Listen, Lighting, Comfort, Security, Apps, and more.

With Control4 everything can be distributed from one location, eliminating clutter from where your TVs and entertainment areas are. A central rack in a closet, cabinet or designated room can be designed to house your control system, audio, video, and other components.

No more showing wires, extra remotes, or multiple apps for your devices. Next Electronic Systems can program everything to work through your Control4 system, and be accessed and controlled by your Control4 remote, smartphone, tablet, or an in-wall touch panel. 

Entertainment

Watching TV is simple with Control4. Easy access to your streaming services or cable/dish can be done with just a click of your Control4 remote. Whether its AppleTV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Netflix, Hulu; it can all be controlled by the system.  

Host great parties and gatherings indoors or outdoors. Multi-Room audio is easy to control with the system. You can access and play all of your streaming music services, including Pandora, Rhapsody, and TIDAL. 

Have a home theater or television that raises or lowers on a lift? You can control it with Control4. Next Electronic Systems also installs home theaters and lifts. 

Smart Lighting

A word that goes hand-in-hand with Control4 would be efficiency. When you select “Lighting” on the Control4 GUI, you can then adjust each room that has been integrated with the lighting in the home. Dim a specific room to a certain brightness, or do them all at once with a master control. It can be simply done by dragging your finger on the screen. Having the ability to control the lights in the home is a great way to save energy. You can always go into the app to check and see if any lights were left on. With Control4 you can also turn everything off at once.

Going on vacation? Next Electronic Systems can program your system to have a “Vacation Mode” that will simulate the regular activity that would be going on if someone was home. Smart lighting is truly great if you are looking to accomplish a certain ambiance and look. Save yourself a trip to the light switch and control it all on your phone from anywhere.

Motorized shades and blinds can be controlled with the system too.

Photos courtesy of Control4

Comfort

A Control4 system can be integrated with HVAC, allowing you to adjust the A/C and heat in your home. This can be scheduled for certain times of the day, or be adjusted manually at any time. 

Outdoor control falls into this category as well. You can control your pool, hot tub or spa. Easily adjust the heat, turn on the jets or your pool pump. 

Sprinkler systems for your lawn can also be controlled. 

 

Safety and Security

By selecting “Away” you can shut down everything you want and arm your alarm system. Get alerts on your phone of any activity in the home while you are gone. Receive alerts even for water leaks or anything else that you don’t want to happen while you are away.

The ability to lock your car by the click of a button has been a possibility for a while now. Why not your own home? When you use your away button you can shut the garage and lock all the doors in the house.

Access security cameras and even your intercom system to speak with someone at the front door. 

 

 

Schedule Control4 System Design and Installation with Next

4K video and gigabit speed internet will soon be the norm. For the best performance, you will want a secure and optimized network. This is what we do at Next Electronic Systems. Our goal is to make our clients lives easier -not the opposite. For a better visual representation, we encourage you to check out a video below of what a Control4 system can do. 

If you are local to the Austin area and interested in having your own Control4 system installed and programmed give us a call (512-263-9700) to schedule a walk through with our sales team. You can start off small with a one-room system, and easily upgrade to whole home control down the road. 

Let us help you design a smarter home. 

All photos courtesy of Control4

 

 

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Origin Acoustics – The Director Collection

Next Electronic Systems Austin Tx Origin Acoustics dealer

The Director Collection by Origin Acoustics

Origin Acoustics is currently sharing ownership of their new warehouse and training facility with Screen Innovations in Austin, Texas. While the company is somewhat new (2014) – the people behind it bring a lot of experience to the table.

The inventors and leaders behind Origin, were all previously inventors, leaders, and CEOs of Speakercraft. Edward Haase and Ken Humphreys were the first to invent the in-wall loudspeaker, in 1976. Jeremy Burkhardt, who was with Speakercraft for 20 years- also comprises of this new team.

At Next Electronic Systems there are some major key factors that go into how we choose the brands that we do. Of course, number one boils down to the quality of the product. This also includes the quality of the company, the warranty, durability, and user friendliness. How unique the products are… In this post, we wanted to showcase the Director Collection by Origin Acoustics – and three reasons why we think they are a superb choice for architectural, in-ceiling loudspeakers…

Origin Acoutstics d108 Director Collection Next Electronic Systems

Origin claims that every piece that goes into their Director series speakers has a significant purpose for making that particular speaker produce the best quality sound that is possible.

Materials used in these particular series of speakers includes graphite, glass fiber, and Kevlar. The glass fiber and Kevlar are pre-stressed and mounted to a paper backing to ensure the material will not lose its shape by stretching later while the cone is in motion. The grille magnetically attaches to the speaker for ease of installation and is also much more aesthetically pleasing than a typical speaker grille. They are designed to blend in and be unnoticeable.

While in motion, frequencies between 700-1,400 Hz typically run up the cone of a woofer and are reflected back and forth from the center of the driver. This creates unwanted harmonic distortion. The X-Wave surround found in Origin woofers absorbs these frequencies reducing distortion and maintaining driver stability. This design also maximizes cone area by reducing the width of the surround.

But all of this isn’t included in our top 3 reasons of why we think this series is so great…

Zip-Clip™ Mounting System

It is important when installing a loudspeaker in the ceiling that it be stable and secure, restricting the vibration of the assembly and limiting the transfer of energy into the wall. The revolutionary Zip-Clip™ Mounting System (Patents Pending) spreads the weight of the speaker over a larger area than typical mounting systems accomplishing this result with minimal effort. Spring-loaded clips also create more uniform pressure against the drywall eliminating any warping or distortion of the speaker baffle.

Installation can be done in no time at all. To further back this up – see the demonstration in the video below.

Phenomenal Dispersion

According to Origin, on their website, this collection has wider and better dispersion than any other speaker currently on the market. Instead of being positioned at a fixed angle, the speaker has the ability to pivot in any direction. This ability gives more flexibility in placement and focusing the direction of the sound emitted.

Certified Weatherproof

The Director Collection has a weatherproof IPX6 rating and is ideal for outdoor living areas and patios. This rating ensures that the speakers are safe from corrosion and harsh weather conditions, like sea water and heavy rainfall.

Next Electronic Systems Origin Acoustics Director Collection Weatherproof Austin Texas

Watch the following video (below) to learn more about this collection:

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