Horrify Your Home at Halloween

Halloween has always been one of my favourite holidays. I love horror movies, the dressing up, the sweets and tasty treats as the leaves turn, and then it’s just a week to Guy Fawkes night and all the fun that fireworks and bonfires bring. What could be better?

But it just occurred to me how much more fun you can have with a wireless home hub haunting your home.

Let’s face it, when you think about it, a home hub is a little bit like being haunted by a really helpful ghost. You shout out the name and a disembodied voice calls back, answering your questions and doing things, moving things about, turning lights on and off, even making the temperature drop, if you tell it to turn on the AC!

Scooby Doo-ify Your Home And Garden

Let’s take a walk through the gates of your GeoFence and look at what can be done to make your home automatically spooky. Many brands of security cameras and wireless access systems allow you to have a conversation with callers at your door, and motion detectors will turn security lights on as soon as anyone approaches. If you have ‘If This Then That’ (IfTTT) enabled devices you can create a light and soundscape using switches to turn on any number of Halloween tricks. They don’t need to be smart themselves, just activated by a smart plug. Smart speakers can be set to come to life, screaming, moaning, or playing spooky sounds as your visitors walk up the garden path.

Once your Trick or Treaters have made it past the first line of defence, they are free to press on your doorbell. Greet them with compliments or curses regarding their costumes. If they’re guests to your Halloween party, unlock the door remotely, with a chilling creak (pre-recorded if you don’t happen to have a squeaky door on hand) and invite them in…

Once they’re over the threshold they can experience your home of eerie chills while you let them stew. Turn lights on and off, play music or sound effects, even create different playlists to play in different rooms, creating different moods for each area. Your interior security can identify not only movement, but whether that movement is a person or a pet. Use IfTTT to set off different events such as animating skeletons and giggling witches if anybody dare move.

You can set the lights to come on and off automatically as people pass through the house, and light activated switches can turn anything on and off, such as spooky smelling air fresheners, (I don’t know, mouldy pumpkin?) and electronic spooky Halloween shower curtains. (no, I’m not making that up!)

Basically, if you can plug it in, you can use technology to make it come on and stop again remotely, seemingly as if by magic. But if you’re getting into the party spirit, a smart home hub can be incredibly helpful with that too.

Doing your research. I didn’t know about electronic spooky shower curtains until I googled Halloween gadgets, and you can do that kind of research from your armchair with a smart tv. You can not only look up the recipes for seasonal food and drink, but look up uncommon treats too, and when you’ve found them, order them to be delivered to your door, all the while getting on with other more fun activities such as carving Jack-o-Lanterns or whipping up a wicked witches outfit.

These are just a few ideas we came up with to make Halloween a little bit spookier this year using wireless smart home technology. If you can think of any others, let us know on Twitter or via our Facebook page. We can’t wait to hear your ideas!

WiFi Security. Keeping Your Data, Privacy And Property Safe

CCTV From Anywhere In The World

We keep hearing about how cutting public spending on police and the reduction of police numbers is having an effect on crime throughout the UK. The news is full of stories of crime, antisocial behaviour and neighbour-disputes spilling over into harassment and worse. And while we don’t want to be harbingers of doom, or profit from fear or anxiety, it’s always wise to protect your home, no matter what.

While a CCTV security camera doesn’t directly lead to a reduction or discount on your home and contents insurance, home security cameras are becoming increasingly popular among home owners as a deterrent to opportunist criminals. According to cardoe martin, witness expert, if you and your neighbours successfully avert crime in your postcode area it’s considered safer, and consequentially has lower premiums.

Wireless CCTV cameras, intercoms, access controls and doorbells are all available in many high-street electronics retailers and offer a good deal of reassurance. Because they’re wireless, they’re incredibly easy to install and can send images and alerts to your TV, laptop, or phone, meaning you can see who’s on your property when you’re busy, away from home, or simply not in the mood to open the door to people. Wire used to be one of the greatest barriers to entry when investing in access control and CCTV for the home. If the wire was damaged, accidentally or deliberately, or there was an interruption in the power supply, the camera was useless and they were fixed immediately by United PLumbing Heating Air & Electric. Wireless cameras run on batteries or solar cells, and can be triggered by motion detectors (which can also trigger lighting). The cameras will also send you a text or email when the batteries are running low or there’s a problem with the cell drawing power from the sun. Many security cameras also come fitted with speakers and mics too, meaning that you can converse directly with anyone you see outside your house.

A smart access system allows you to talk to visitors, or intruders and trespassers, remotely without having to come to the door. Brilliant if you’re out but you’ve been made aware of a stranger on your property, or you’re not able to take a delivery. If you’re elderly, have mobility issues, or you find that the delivery guy ALWAYS wanders off before you can get to the door, then a wireless intercom will be life changing! If you can ask people what they want before you answer the door you can let them know it will take you time to get to the door, you can ignore them, or ask them to come back another time. You could be in the bath, at work, or on holiday abroad, they’d have no way of knowing. Read more

This Weeks’ Ads, The Latest WiFi Gadgets Explained

Our new, and hopefully regular update of the latest ads, with explainers and insights. Every week a new ad appears on TV, via social and on web pages, making the latest tech look life-changing. You didn’t know how you lived without it and now you know it exists, you’ve got to have it. At least according to the advertising. We take a look at what’s being offered, judge how useful it really is and the kind of use the regular householder will get out of it. #MythsBusted #ThatsActuallyBrilliant

Hive View indoor camera

Hive have released a new indoor home surveillance system called View. It’s designed for use inside the home, with stylish, good looking cameras which also have mics and speakers so you can use them to communicate with the home. Kids acting up? Tell them off via the security system. Dog chasing the cat? Yell at it over wifi! The cameras come with livestreaming so you can see what’s happening as it happens in your house, and person detection, so pets won’t set it off, but people in your house will. As well as livestreaming straight to your tablet or phone, you can record and keep footage for review later. The cameras are small, sleek, and come in a range of colours and finishes which should fit in with any home.

Pros: The cameras are small, and can be discreetly positioned in any room in the home. You set the time that they are operative, and you can also set them to ignore movement from pets, etc and only start recording, streaming or taking shots of people in the house at specific times of the day.

Cons: Your kids might feel a little intruded upon if they know that you’re watching them at all times. They don’t actually act as a deterrent. If someone has already broken into your home and is stealing your stuff, then gathering evidence is great, but wouldn’t you rather have exterior cameras which put burglars off of breaking into your house in the first place?

Ring Smart Doorbell

Ring produce a wireless intercom which lets you see who is calling, or lurking around your home and property. You can speak to people who call at the door, so if you’re busy, not in the mood, or even away from home altogether you can let callers know you’re on your way, that you can’t come to the door, or even that they’re being watched and should go away. The system has additional cameras available which can be installed anywhere on your property, and these have mics and speakers too, so if someone is in your garden, peeping in the windows or trying the back door you can tell them to leave or that you’ve already called the police.

Pros: the cameras can be installed anywhere, and there is an attractive bell press for the main entrance and the range can be expanded from a simple two way intercom and cam for the front door to an infrared night vision and motion detector enabled, multi-camera security system.

Cons: The hardware comes with a two year warranty, but with any wireless security camera, they’re only effective so long as the batteries are fully charged. A camera will act as a deterrent, but when the batteries start to die the signal will become less reliable. This will mean not being able to see or talk to people, and footage may not be captured in the event of a break in. Also, the intercom feature is all fine so long as you can get to your phone or tablet. If you don’t have reception, you’re busy at work, driving or out of service for whatever reason, you don’t get to enjoy many of the features.

Google Chromecast

Watching something ace online on your phone or tablet? Flip it straight over to your flatscreen TV to enjoy it on your home entertainment system for super sound and picture. All you need do is insert the dongle in the back of your TV, install it into your home hub, synch it up with all of your families’ laptops and phones and you can instantly switch from device to device. When you flip over, you basically ‘tune in’ your TV to the media you were watching on the phone, so you free up that device for other things such as calls, browsing other sites, or tweeting.

Pros: It’s not just video you can cast, many music and other entertainment channels and Chromecast enabled websites can be viewed via your home entertainment system, computer or phone. They don’t need any additional subscriptions and you can apply all the usual parental settings when you add them to your options.

Cons: Using it can be incredibly annoying for other people if they were in the middle of watching something when you flip to the show you were watching. And if you’re RFID enabled the channel will follow you if you’re walking through the house listening to music, which is fine, unless someone’s doing something and doesn’t want to listen to what you’re playing.

Look out for next week’s Ads Explained for more products explained. If you have any questions or an interesting point of view, get in touch. We love to hear from our readers and look forward to hearing from you.

Decoding The Jargon; What To Look For When Buying Your First Home Cinema

Home Cinema InstallationOnce you’ve decided that you’re going to install a home cinema or audio visual system, one of the hardest things to find is information on the best products for your situation. Because of the myriad variables involved, there is clearly no ‘one sizer fits all’ solution, you need to put together your own package yourself. But where do you start if you’ve never done this kind of thing before?

Naturally, your first port of call is going to be to ask the experts, but searching online brings up an awful lot of jargon and system specifications that will mean nothing to you if you’ve not already incredibly savvy with the home AV market. And because your home is unique, and your taste in music, favourite TV shows and movies is something that’s personal to you, the system you end up with will look very different to anybody else’s. If you like to relax to classical music, like wildlife documentaries and watching costume dramas your system’s spec will be entirely different to an entertainment system which has been set up for someone who likes pop, and watches loud Hollywood action blockbusters. So you’ll have to weigh up which HDTV, soundbar, amp, speaker brand, speaker surround format.. And you’re confused already aren’t you? So why don’t we break down some of the tech talk so you know what these terms all mean when you’re trying to decide what to invest your money in. First of all, let’s start by looking at the most common acronyms that you’re likely to hear about when shopping for a home theatre.

Clearing Up The Digital Tech-Speak

• 3.1, 5.1 and 7.1 Surround Sound indicates the setup of the speakers you are using with your TV. 3.1 means that you are running three speakers, plus a subwoofer, while 5.1 would mean that you’re running a 5 speaker surround sound setup, with one subwoofer. It follows that 7.1 consists of 7 speakers and a subwoofer. A subwoofer is a bass speaker which handles the low end sounds, going below the audible range, so a powerful subwoofer will make snarling engines, explosions and the growling of monsters reverberate through the body, as well as being heard.

• ATST 3.0 stands for “Advanced Television Systems Committee standard version 3” and is a method of broadcasting TV to an antenna (also known as ‘over the air’ or OTA) which allows for 4k and superior sound. 4k is the latest high definition standard which means that the signal is designed to give high definition to a screen up to 4,000 pixels wide. You will be able to plug an ATST device into your tv which will wirelessly connect to your WiFi router

• DTH or DTHTV simply stands for ‘direct to home’ or ‘direct to home television’ and is the signal your satellite dish picks up.

• DTH splitters are devices which enable you to split the cable leading from your satellite dish to more than one decoder or box, making it possible to watch more than one channel from one dish. If you live in a communal building or apartment block, these devices make it possible for multiple homes to each receive satellite TV without having to have a separate dish fitted for each residence.

• FTA stands for ‘free to air’ and means the basic package of free TV channels you will get with any system.

• HDMI stands for ‘high definition multimedia interface’ and is an interface by which video and audio can be sent to a variety of different compatible devices, such as hifis, digital projectors, TV and computer monitors.

• LNB is a ‘low noise block downconverter’ and is the device that sits in the parabola of your satellite dish, picking up the signals and sending them into your home. The reason why you would consider which LNB is best depends on the TV you want to watch. If you just want a standard TV package there are plenty on the market, but if you want to watch Sky+ or Sky+HD or if you want the ability to run more than one tuner, which will make it possible to watch one channel while recording another, then you will need to carefully consider which LNB best suits your needs.

• LNB Skew isn’t a product or service, it is literally the skew of your satellite receiver. If the dish or LNB are angled even slightly wrong, the picture quality will suffer. Professional service and maintenance will mean that your dish will always be aligned correctly. With the work carried out by qualified personnel, such as those employed by Briant Communications, quality and safety are guaranteed

• PVR or DVR stands for either Personal or Digital Video Recorder. It’s a device which, as the name suggests, allows you to record digital TV. You can record direct to the PVR’s internal hard drive, a USB device such as a memory stick or an SD memory card such as found in digital dSLRs or video cameras, making to possible to remove the recorded programmes and watch them elsewhere.

• SCART is an acronym of Syndicat des Constructeurs d’Appareils Radiorécepteurs et Téléviseurs or ‘syndicat of radio and television equipment manufacturers’ and refers to the cable which connects DVD, DVR, video, computers and games to a TV. A SCART lead will have a 21 point plug on at least one end, the other could have one of many different connectors which will be appropriate to the device you wish to connect.

• Smart TV is a home AV system which is connected to the internet. If you want to watch BBC iPlayer, Youtube videos, listen to internet radio or Spotify and Netflix, you can do it all via your Hi-Def widescreen large Smart TV. Some Smart TVs can even be used as Smart hubs, making it possible to control all of your Smart devices from your TV.

• VSAT or ‘very small aperture terminal’ is satellite technology which delivers not only TV, but data as well. Used by business and domestic consumers, it allows you to watch TV at home, and also connects you to the internet. Because the equipment required is compact, reliable, simple to use, and lightweight, it’s VSAT technology which users such as explorers and search and rescue teams take out into the field to connect with home.