Top 3 Ways DIY Security Might Put Your Home at Risk

A home security professional says DIY security systems may actually be putting your family at risk.

The stunning growth of “smart home” security systems at big box retailers has made it easier than ever for anyone to install cameras, alarms, and the like. Many electronics manufacturers now offer security products with Do It Yourself (DIY) installations, Smartphone interfaces, and, most notably, low prices.

Recent data confirms the growing popularity of this new family of DIY systems, and an increasing number of consumers are now willing to invest in a connected home. Fifteen million Americans will own connected home systems by 2019 according to some estimates.

These DIY security systems are affordable and easy to find at your local stores, but are they actually secure and the right product to protect your family? For some people, DIY solutions are not the best choice. Here are three reasons why DIY security may put homeowners and their families at risk, plus some advice on how people can better protect themselves:

 

  1. Inexperienced Manufacturers

As evidenced by Google’s 2014 decision to issue a safety recall of 440,000 of its Nest smoke alarms, it has become a question whether the quality of the new security technologies matches the quality of long-established professional security providers. Much of this concern stems from manufacturers lack of security industry experience.

Simply stated, the vast majority of DIY smart home products are sold by consumer electronics companies with little or no track record in the security space. This inexperience should raise a red flag for consumers, as inadequate technology could result in inadequate protection from home invasions, fires and carbon monoxide leaks.

In order to properly protect one’s home, self and family, individuals should work with a professional security provider that manufactures superior-class equipment and technology.

 

  1. One Size Fits All Installations

Although simple, step-by-step installation instructions are offered up by some as a competitive advantage for DIY security systems, one size fits all installations can pose major risks to homeowners. Every home has a unique set of potential entry points and “high-risk” areas which ultimately require the knowledge and expertise that trained security professionals provide.

 

  1. Poor Data Protection

Just as Google’s recalled fire alarms offered scant protection from real world threats like fires, many other DIY security systems offer little to no defense against cyber threats. With dozens of devices connected to a single Smartphone app, hackers have numerous opportunities to glean personal data from homeowners. For instance, after testing 16 popular DIY security brands, research firm Synack was able to hack into 15 different systems in just under 20 minutes. Thus, many DIY security devices may not only be ineffective at keeping intruders out, but they may be inviting hackers in.

So what is the solution? Homeowners need to research the various security options beyond DIY solutions that fit their wants, needs and budget. Protecting one’s home and family is a serious and important obligation, and understanding the features and details will help people make informed decisions for a more secure home. Contact us at Convergence Technologies for a Free Consultation on your next security system.  We take your safety and security concerns seriously and have been providing our services in the Carolina’s and beyond for over 10 years.

 

[Via Richard Soloway]

 

Smart Locks and Keyless Locks Are Opening Doors to the Smart Home

Six new keyless entry smart locks for your home’s security.

With home security as the most powerful driver in the adoption of smart home systems, it’s no wonder that the worldSmart Key 1 of smart locks is growing.

First off, of course, is the question—what is a smart lock? A smart lock isn’t just a keyless door lock. In fact they all (well, most) accept keys (though you might eventually stop using your keys). Some smart locks include numeric keypads so you can unlock your door by punching in an access code. All smart locks operate with an app on Apple or Android smart phones or both. They communicate wirelessly with your phone, via Bluetooth or Wifi and/or with your smart home system via one of the common wireless mesh network standards like Z-Wave.

A smart phone replaces your traditional key, but the phone isn’t actually the key, it simply supplies the virtual key to the lock. Most smart locks allow you to create and assign multiple virtual keys, and often you can assign them temporarily. The benefit of having multiple virtual keys is that you can easily track who is locking and unlocking the door as the app will show, for instance, “Kim unlocked the door at 8pm” or something like that. If you have a guest arriving, you can assign that person a virtual key or remotely open the door yourself. Some locks allow virtual keys to expire at a set time in case you want to limit a guest’s access to an hour or a weekend.

If you throw someone out of the house, you can change all the virtual keys, without changing the locks (though the physical keys will still work).

A smart lock that can bSmart Key 2e integrated with a whole home security system or smart home system is additionally convenient because  you can program rules or activities that include the lock. For instance, a “goodnight” scene that shuts off all the house lights and  arms the security system can also make sure the front door is secure.

We offer a wide variety of smart lock and keyless locks to help make your home more secure and safe.  Be sure to contact us  info@convergence-technologies.com to set up a free consultation on upgrading your home security system and features.  With over  10 years experience, let Convergence Technologies take your home to the next level of home security and surveillance.

 

 

 

[Via Grant Clauser]

Top Tips for Speakers

Top Tips for

In-wall or In-ceiling Speakers

One of the biggest trends in home loudspeakers over the past few years is in-wall and in-ceiling speakers. People want great sound, and they want it all over the home, but they don’t want to look at big speakers. Still, many people have misconceptions about architectural speakers.

Both in-wall and in-ceiling speakers can sound excellent. Just like with standard floor or bookshelf speakers, not all architectural speakers are made alike. Driver materials, basket construction, crossovers and tweeter designs all will make a difference in the performance of your built-in speakers, unfortunately, those aren’t always features that you can compare side by side and know how good one model will sound compared to another. That’s one reason it’s important to buy from a trusted brand and a trusted dealer or integrator. If possible audition your speakers in the dealer’s showroom before committing.

Here are a few tips to use when selecting your in-wall or in-ceiling speakers:

  1. With stand-alone speakers, the speaker cabinet plays a large role in the speaker’s performance. With an in-wall speaker, your wall is sort of like the cabinet. Some in-wall speakers come with back-boxes to reduce the wall’s (or ceiling’s) impact on the sound. Most manufacturers recommend filling the area behind the speaker with insulation to reduce resonance in the wall.
  2. Movable, adjustable or swiveling tweeters are useful for directing the sound where you want it.
  3. Some in-wall speakers include bass and treble tone control right on the speakers so you can make adjustments to the sound after they’re installed.
  4. A few new in-wall speakers are designed for zero-tool installation (after cutting the hole of course). This makes putting them in and securing them to the drywall easier.
  5. Some models can be completely flush-mounted with the wall. Once you paint the grill to match the wall, they almost disappear.
  6. You may find that in-wall speakers lack the oomph of floorstanding speakers. For added bass be sure to install an in-wall subwoofer as well.

Make sure you, or your installer, use speaker cable safety rated for in-wall use. To not do so is to invite trouble.

For more information on Smart Home HVAC controls, Home Automation, Security, Surveillance, and more, be sure to contact the professionals at Convergence Technologies for help. We’ve been doing Home Automation projects in the Carolina’s and beyond for over 10 years. Contact us at info@convergence-technologies.com to set up a FREE CONSULTATION and get you started on your dream home or business today.

[writer credit to Electronic House staff]

Soundbar or Sound Base? Which Speaker Style is for You?

What features make the most difference?

So you’ve decided that a surround sound receiver and 5.1 or 7.1 speakers spread around your media room is not how you want to experience home theater. Maybe you rent your home or apartment and can’t install wires. Maybe you just don’t like the look of multiple speakers or don’t have room for a large receiver—whatever the reason, soundbars and soundbases are excellent alternatives to full multi-speaker systems.

A couple of years ago a soundbar was almost the only option for people who didn’t want multiple speakers in their media room. Since then the soundbase category has risen sharply, so buyers are faced with the decision—which is better? Here are some tips to help you understand the difference between soundbars and soundbases so you can find the audio solution that’s best for you.

How are they different?

Soundbars are long narrow speakers that usually are hung on the wall under the television. The number of separate speakers inside a soundbar cabinet can vary, but most have at least three. Often soundbars come with separate subwoofers (usually wireless) for extra bass.

Sound bases, or TV speakers, on the other hand, are much thicker and meant to rest on a table or cabinet underneath the television. They come in different sizes and are usually rated by how heavy a TV they can support. Often in addition to the main speaker drivers in the front, a soundbase will have addition base drivers underneath for extra bass. This means that a soundbase usually doesn’t require the addition of a subwoofer.

Benefits of Soundbars:

Soundbar 1

The main benefit of a soundbar is the sound. Soundbar speakers emerged as an answer to the lousy sound quality of the speakers built into TVs. As TVs got thinner, their speakers got worse.  Soundbars are versatile because they can be hung on a wall with your flat panel TV or placed on a stand in front of the TV. Sometimes on a table the TV’s base can get in the way of soundbar placement, or large soundbars can block the TV’s remote IR sensors. Also, most soundbars are tuned for wall hanging, which means they can sound a little different on a stand than on the wall.

The current trend in soundbars is to make them smaller and slimmer. Many new models are only a few inches thicker than the flat panel TVs they’re meant to be matched with. The result of the slimming down is that the drivers also are smaller and unable to produce much if any bass. That’s why nearly all soundbars now come with wireless subwoofers. Sometimes those subwoofers can be placed anywhere that’s convenient in the room, but if the built-in crossover is set very high, then the sound from the sub becomes directional—you can tell where it’s coming from. If voices or other sounds are coming from the sub when they shouldn’t be, the solution is to place the sub up front as close to the soundbar itself as possible.

Because soundbars are wider than soundbases, they produce a wider sound field. This can make them a little better for stereo music listening. They also do a better job when in a virtual surround mode (though no virtual surround mode is as good as what surround speakers can produce).

Benefits of Sound Bases:

Soundbase 1

Many of the things that make soundbars a good solution for poor TV speakers can also be said for TV pedestal speakers or sound bases, but there are some key differences.

First, if you have no intention to hang your TV on a wall, and you don’t mind the soundbase raising the TV height a couple of inches, than a base is probably a better option. Because soundbases have more room in the cabinet, they tend to have larger drivers, better built-in amplification and the ability to include bass drivers. If you don’t want to use a separate subwoofer but want decent bass, then consider a soundbase over a soundbar.

Like the trend mentioned with soundbars, some manufacturers are making their soundbases very thin as well. This seems to go against the main benefit of a soundbase, so always listen to the product before you buy.

Some features to look for:

All soundbars and soundbases will include an optical digital audio input which is meant to be connected to your TV’s ARC (audio return channel). Some will include HDMI and stereo analog inputs. HDMI is a nice option, so look for it.

Better soundbar systems will include built-in support for Dolby and DTS audio processing. Some even feature Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio processing.

If you want to use only one remote, look for a speaker that either has an IR pass through feature or can learn the IR commands from your TV’s remote. If you’re using a speaker with HDMI-CEC than the TV remote may automatically control the speaker. If all else fails, a programmable universal remote can replace both the TV and speaker remote (as well as your DVR and Blu-ray player remotes). Some speakers may even come with their own apps that offer more advanced control.

Wireless connectivity for smart phones and tablets is a popular and useful feature. Most products come with Bluetooth, though a few also include Apple AirPlay or DLNA to allow you to play music from your phone, tablet or computer over the speakers.

Many soundbars and soundbases omit a front display panel because some users think the light is distracting. On the other hand, having a display which tells you what mode or input the speaker is on and what the volume level is, can be very useful.

Soundbars and soundbases aren’t perfect replacements for proper surround sound systems. They lack the robust audio processing of an AV receiver and the detailed placement of separate speakers. However, if a multi-speaker system isn’t an option, these speakers will significantly improve the audio experience of your TV watching.

[From: Grant Clauser from Electronic House]

The Internet of Things Demands Customized Integration

Commercial and residential construction companies would benefit from customized integration solutions ahead of The Internet of Things. Right now millions of dollars are being spent on construction projects that will need retrofitting for the next technological boom. Some of the booming elements are already here, and they are relying in infrastructure that many people are adopting. In fact, web connectivity amidst appliances, home networks; heating solutions, alarm systems, and more are starting to be the norm. In order to capitalize on these things, customization should be highlighted.

Enter Convergence Technologies

Companies that are at the helm of automation, and streamlining the process of connecting devices to the Internet are thriving. One such company is Convergence Technologies, which helps connect home automation to all new levels. Creating entertainment, home automation, security systems, and more that are intrinsically connected to the internet is no easy task, but they are taking existing solutions and making it happen.

For realtors and construction companies that are looking to build safer, more reliable home infrastructures, wiring should not be an afterthought. It’s for that reason that using this company to help with security, connectivity and automation is so crucial. Instead of working after the fact, integration can start upon construction and create streamlined solutions for homebuyers and business owners alike.

The Future is Here

The Internet of Things used to be something that people talked about in terms of a distant future. That’s no longer the case, as it is here and it’s starting to permeate the daily lives of millions. From refrigerators that connect to Internet resources to home security systems that automatically lock doors, turn on lights, and deter criminals, all new connectivity levels are here to stay. Without investing early in the construction cycle, implementation can be a bit harder to manage, and far more costly. Instead of working backwards, one can integrate the right elements today, and see major benefits down the line. One cycle through convergence-technologies.com, and the offerings that you can take advantage of, will exemplify this notion of customized connectivity.

Contact us at Convergence Technologies today to get set up for a Free Consultation on taking your home or business to the forefront of the next technological boom.  You don’t want to be left behind, and by staying ahead you also end up saving thousands of dollars for your home or business.  With over 10 years experience in home entertainment, security, and automation technology, we can take care of all your smart home and corporate automation needs.

WHAT IS THE MISFORTUNE COOKIE VULNERABILITY?

Misfortune Cookie is a critical vulnerability that allows an intruder to remotely take over a residential gateway device and use it to attack the devices connected to it.

Researchers from Check Point’s Malware and Vulnerability Research Group recently uncovered this critical vulnerability present on millions of residential gateway (SOHO router) devices from different models and makers. It has been assigned the CVE-2014-9222 identifier. This severe vulnerability allows an attacker to remotely take over the device with administrative privileges.

HOW MANY DEVICES ARE AFFECTED?
To date, researchers have distinctly detected at least 12 million readily exploitable devices connected to the Internet present in 189 countries across the globe, making this one of the most widespread vulnerabilities revealed in recent years.

HOW DOES IT AFFECT ME?
If your gateway device is vulnerable, then any device connected to it – including
computers, phones, tablets, printers, security cameras, refrigerators, toasters or any other networked device in your home or office network – may have increased risk of compromise. An attacker exploiting the Misfortune Cookie vulnerability can easily monitor your Internet connection, steal your credentials and personal or business data, attempt to infect your machines with malware, and over-crisp your toast.

Contact us today by email or give us a call at (919) 568-8095 for more information on our wireless network packages that ARE NOT affected by this vulnerability. We recognize that you may use a variety of brands of networking equipment, and that it is possible that you may be at risk. Once you contact us we will send you the guide on the suspected vulnerable models to see if you are already affected, and what you can do about it.

Motorized Blinds and Shades

Motorized Blinds and Shades: Window Treatment Ideas for Every Room
[Electronic House Staff]

Motorized blinds and window shades can contribute to energy savings and be part of a total smart home system.

Lutron-Serena-shades-9Motorized window shades and automatic blinds are some of the hottest products for the savvy smart home buyer who wants to maximize their energy savings and have a smarter home. The ability to control your shades with a smart phone, or have them automatically open or close based on timers or pre-programmed conditions is not only a cool home feature, but it saves time and energy buy using or defending against the sun’s rays.

Motorized blinds and shades can be part of a complete custom home automation system, or they can be added one room at a time, as your budget or needs require. One of the nice things about automatic shades in a home automation system is that each room can be programmed to run its own scenes in its own way, depending on how the room is used. Here are a few great examples on how automated window treatments can enhance different rooms.

Bedroom
Some people have a lot of trouble waking up in the morning, especially when the bedroom blinds are keeping the room dark. Motorized blinds can be programmed to automatically open when your alarm goes off, or, if you don’t need to wake at a specific time, they can be synced with a smart home system that triggers the blind to open at sunrise (based on an astronomical clock). Conversely, if you need the blinds closed when you’re getting dressed, you can program them to automatically give you privacy when you exit the shower. A professional integrator can come up with several ways to achieve this.Shades 1

Living room
You can use the sun to warm your living room in the morning, and insulate it in the evening, by setting your shades to automatically open when the sun is shining on one side of the house, and close when the sun has moved away. If you’re worried about furniture, rugs or art fading from sun exposure, automated shades can keep those damaging rays away without you having to be home to close anything.

Dining room
The dining room is a great place to use motorized window shades. Few things ruin a pleasant evening meal than the setting sun blinding you while you’re trying to eat with your family. Set your dining room shades to close at dinner time. They can open automatically an hour later if you like, or just stay closed for the night.

Media room
If you have a dedicated home theater or media room, you don’t want any sun washing out the picture on your projection screen or flat panel TV. Motorized shades can be programmed to close at the same time you press the play button to watch your favorite movie. If you’re not ready for that kind of integration yet, simple app or remote-controlled shades can make it easier for you to create the right atmosphere for movie time without costing a lot.

High-hallways, foyers and special windows
Many modern (and classic too) homes feature windows in high, out of the way places. These are nice design features, especially if they capture the morning sun. But they can also be impossible to manage with manual shades or blinds. In the absence of a ladder, motorized shades are not only the best, but are also the only way you can control the light from those high and out-of-the-way windows.

shades 2If you’re ready to start hanging some motorized shades, blinds or curtains around your house, be sure to contact your local smart home specialist here at Convergence Technologies.  With over 10 years of experience in the Southeast and beyond, we can take care of all your smart home needs.  We cover everything from low-voltage electrical work for businesses and residences, as well as home security, custom audio/video, home theater design/installation, and much more.  Start of 2015 by adding the proper automation controls that add comfort, security, and convenience to any home or business.  Contact us today for a free consultation.

Automation As We Know It

Automation, as We Know it, is Changing  [by Heather L. Sidorowicz.]

Smart Home…Automated Home…Tech Home… Up until recently these terms have been held for the rich and famous…the upper echelon. Combining audio, video, lights, HVAC, and shades had been difficult, and that equated to expensive. Having a truly custom system always has been a challenging feat because technology is not a perfect science. Today, we are on the precipice of change.

As seen at CEDIA EXPO

Walking the floor at CEDIA EXPO this year we saw that the major manufacturers released new updates, with completely new looks to their products. Control4 released OS 2.6, URC released two new apps for Total Control, and of course, there was the super release of Creston Pyng. These major releases are not only bringing down prices, but offering more design simplicity to the masses. It was not hardware that was king, but software that was creating ubiquity throughout the subsystems that dominated the show floor. It was software that you would download onto your already purchased smart devices instead of a push to buy new touchscreens that dominated the messages from control companies at the show.

Manufacturers know the future is on our smart devices, and they are jockeying for the best position. This was seen by the purchase of Extra Vegetables by Control4 and the disappearance of those modules from URC’s devices and then their reappearance for 30 days.

As Alluded to by Apple

Apple’s event on Thursday did not mention HomeKit, but the company did talk all about its ecosystem in the home. Just this morning a call came through on my mobile phone, my laptop, and my iPad—it rang through my house and was easy to pick up from anywhere. I see this build out of their ecosystem as putting together a foundation for what HomeKit can, and will be. Have you seen AppleTV lately? This small $99 part that bridges your Apple devices to your TV went from a few apps to an abundance of apps, making cord cutting more accessible. The more Apple masters this, the more we look to Apple TV as our “menu” when watching TV and the more open Apple will be to adding on other devices to the home.

Tim Cook ended Thursday’s event talking about their ecosystem between their hardware and software. He told the world he wanted a “magical experience for customer(s),” and I am betting most of the world is looking for a magical experience with technology. Apple certainly has the money in the bank to do it.

“And we are just getting started…” he declared as he ended his presentation.

 

As the Need Demands It 
Think about it, why isn’t automation in more homes? My outdoor lights should come on at dark and turn off at midnight. I should not have four switches to turn on different lights in my kitchen; I should have one switch with four settings. We are habitual creatures, so how hard can it be in today’s world to run an algorithm to crack our code? What if we wore a device that told the house where we were? (Could it be the iWatch?) Think of the possibilities.

Now before you comment below on how there are devices, components, and software on today’s market that can make these things happen, think about the masses and the price. Certainly Crestron Pyng may be the answer, but until they can marry with audio and video control, it is not a fully integrated system.

 

What Does This Mean to Us?
Will integrators cease to exist in this new world? Did plumbers disappear when Home Depot opened allowing people to remodel their bathrooms themselves? No. According to CEDIA Benchmarking Survey, “Systems Integration/AV Installation companies ended 2013 with a 15 percent increase in gross revenue and expect 2014 to end with a 20 percent increase over 2013.” Our industry is shifting from hardware sales to service/labor sales as, “38% indicate a moderate increase in service/labor sales (up from 29 percent in 2013) and 23 perfect indicate a moderate decline in hardware sales…” We just need to remember to sell solutions, not products—products you can get anywhere. The right solution is priceless.  Automation, as we know it is changing; now is the time to learn, understand, reposition, and grow.

For more information on Smart Home HVAC controls, Home Automation, Security, Surveillance, and more, be sure to contact the professionals at Convergence Technologies for help. We’ve been doing Home Automation projects in the Carolina’s and beyond for over 10 years. Contact us at info@convergence-technologies.com to set up a FREE CONSULTATION and get you started on your dream home or business today.