REMOTELY POSSIBLE

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Nov 24, 2014 0 comments
If only my smart home could cook turkey without drying it out...
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 27, 2014 1 comments
On Friday of last week (Oct 24 or “Devolve Friday” as it’s now known), visitors to the Revolv website were treated with the following headline: ”We want to share some exciting news with you. Revolv is now a Nest company.” Wow! Considering that Nest — the maker of the hugely popular Nest Learning Thermostat and the less-popular Nest Protect smoke/CO alarm — has one of the biggest corporate sugar daddies in the world (i.e., Google), that’s incredibly exciting news. As I stated in a recent review of the Revolv Hub Home Automation Controller: “The Revolv Hub is a powerhouse that looks to be relatively future-proof from a hardware standpoint. A great choice for a newbie.” With the crazy amount of money Google/Nest could throw at it, Revolv could evolve into the epitome of a smart home system hub.

Moving down the Revolv home page, however, readers soon discovered that the exciting news is actually...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 07, 2014 0 comments
CEDiA 2014 is over and done, but its effects will linger on in the form of first impressions, developing trends, and new technologies. By the numbers, it was a great convention with more than 480 exhibitors and well over 18,000 attendees who made the trek to Denver from 82 countries around the world. But those are the dry statistics. What’s much more exciting was the stuff we saw and heard, as well as the trends we noticed and how they’re going to affect the industry. (By the way, CEDIA didn’t officially change the organization’s name. I did, but I’ll get to that later.)

Dolby Atmos was still too new to have been everywhere on the Expo floor. In those booths where it was being demonstrated, though, it was...

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Sep 09, 2014 Published: Sep 08, 2014 0 comments
2014 CEDIA Expo Coverage Begins Wednesday

In the grand scheme of all things electronic, it’s not as big a deal as the annual CES in Las Vegas. In many respects, though, CEDIA Expo 2014 is an even more important event for people interested in customizing home technologies to make them seamless, integral parts of their customers’ lives. Oh, hell, what am I saying? “Customizing home technologies…” The guys—and most of them are guys, although that’s changing—who go to the CEDIA Expo every year are fascinated by gear that can be hidden, be controlled at a distance, is motorized or otherwise moveable, and can be tweaked and tinkered with. Sure, we talk about "lifestyles", but the reality is we go to CEDIA to geek out on the gear.

It’s a completely safe bet that when the show floor at CEDIA Expo 2014 officially opens at 9:00 AM on Thursday, September 11, the place will be packed‐and a number of us from Sound & Vision will be fighting our way through the throngs of installers, designers, specifiers, representatives, and booth demonstrators...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 08, 2014 2 comments
Not long ago, I had an extended conversation with Mark Walters, the Chairman of the Z-Wave Alliance. Our discussion ranged pretty much across the board as far as the smart home topic was concerned, including how quickly the landscape is changing (not quite daily, although it seems that way) and the various companies – both large and small – that are trying to stake their technological claims in this relatively new territory. Clearly, the consensus is that there’s lots of money to be made in the smart home automation business. The problem, however, for both manufacturers and retailers is choosing a space that’s full of milk and honey rather than settling in what will eventually become a electronic ghost town complete with rolling tumbleweeds of discarded protocols and standards. Consumers, by the way, are basically collateral-damage-in-waiting during this high-tech land grab. (But that’s part of the risk you take as an early adopter, I suppose.)
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jul 23, 2014 0 comments
Locks have been around ever since people starting accumulating stuff that they didn’t want other people to get their hands on. Over the millennia, various types of locks have been used to safeguard all kinds of things: stones (a.k.a. jewels), money, jars of Nutella, castle dungeons, the secret formula for the Krabby Patty, automobiles, and houses, just to name a few. Supposedly, there are 4,000-year-old clay tablets (probably locked away in a museum somewhere) from the Babylonian Empire that show an early form of keys on them. In ancient Greece, keys were large enough that they were carried on a person’s shoulder. (Although Leonidas might have said, “This is Sparta!”; he most certainly never said, “Where did I put my keys?”) Wealthy Romans didn’t have to worry about losing their keys, either, because they often wore their keys on their fingers as, well, key rings.

Today, of course, we have lots of ways of locking up things without resorting to the old-fashioned lock-and-key routine. When it comes to smart home technology, motorized, electronic door locks aren’t exactly the newest home automation device...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 30, 2014 1 comments
The future of home automation, the so-called “smart home”, is so bright, you’re going to have to wear shades—you’re BS shades, that is. If you believe the seriously over-heated hype, the new smart home hubs and home automation systems will save you money, keep you safe, make your life more convenient, improve your love life, grow hair where you want it (and keep it from growing where you don’t), and promote peace and harmony (the noun, not the remote control company) around the world. The enthusiasm is genuinely infectious, and I have to remind myself every now and then that the promised techno-utopia and the eventual techno-reality are often quite disparate. But dreams of a better smart home future give us something to strive for, and that Jetsons-like journey begins with small steps. Buying one of the new smart home hubs and installing a couple of sensors and devices, however, may be a bigger step than you’re ready for. What happens if you’re interested in home automation, but all you’re comfortable with now is sticking your big toe over the starting line...
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 20, 2014 19 comments
My recent review of GoldenEar Technology’s newest speaker, the Triton One, generated a surprising number of entries in the Comments section at the end of the review. Some were short and to the point, such as the one from the reader who declared he or she “will not be renewing my subscription” because the piece was “a waste of a review.” (Okay, if you’ve got a beef with something I wrote, so be it. But don’t tar and feather Rob, Tom, Mark, and the rest of the S&V crew for a piece with my byline. Surely you ought to be able to find a subscription’s worth of value in the stuff they write.) But other comments were more substantive and warranted a more in-depth response than posting a brief reply...
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 20, 2014 2 comments
When you're as interested in AV and home entertainment as the writers and readers of S&V are, it's easy to fall into the trap of taking things—especially yourself—a little too seriously. Of course, chasing perfection is a laudable endeavor, but it's not always so when that pursuit comes at the expense of the basic fun and enjoyment the gear and technology are supposed to bring into our lives. I know that this might sound like heresy, but sometimes a low-tech solution can work just as well a more "advanced" one…
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 07, 2014 2 comments
For three short days in April, I had one pair each of new flagship speakers from two of the hottest companies in the audio business today: Definitive Technology and GoldenEar Technology. Both models are so new that, in the case of Def Tech, the Mythos ST-L SuperTower is on very tight allocation to dealers. The new Triton One Tower speakers aren’t even listed yet on GoldenEar Technology’s website. (As of right now, anyway.) Both models are $5,000/pair, which means that, if you’re interested in high-performance audio and can afford to indulge your passion for music (and home theater), chances are only one pair of these two speakers will find its way into your home. So the inevitable question is going to be: Which one is the better speaker?
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Apr 07, 2014 0 comments
I spent a tense 30 minutes the other night huddled on the floor in the hallway outside my father’s hospital room. The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for the area, and the hospital had gone into “Weather Plan 2” mode. Everyone in the building—even the patients who couldn’t get out of bed—had to gather in the hallways. My father was one of those temporarily bed-ridden patients, and I’m sure that the mind-twisting aftereffects of anesthesia coupled with post-op morphine made the hurried, bumpy rush from his room to a hall full of two dozen other patients seem even more surreal than it was for me. It became even more surreal after all the patients were returned to their rooms following an “all clear” announcement when, within minutes, the whole process was repeated (albeit with significantly more grumbling from the patients and staff.)

As I was busily texting and tweeting about the collective predicament we were in (it’s actually not true that I caused a small riot when I ran through the hallway yelling “Morphine for all!”), the flickering of the hallway lights during the height of the storm started me thinking about how incredibly dependent we are on technology - technology that most of us take totally for granted until it doesn’t work anymore...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 25, 2014 0 comments
Even the best smart homes today aren’t much more than a cool collection of dumb gadgets managed by a controller with a good memory. Few, if any, of them aren’t intelligent enough yet to figure out when to do tasks on their own. Programming what actions should happen when and under what varying conditions or triggers is a large part of why home automation has been confined to the posh multi-thousand square foot homes of the rich and powerful or the often not-so-posh and much smaller homes of the electronic tinkerers and makers. (Of course, the cost of controllers, sensors, devices, and installation doesn’t help put home automation in the “mass market” category yet, either.)

Despite its relatively high price ($250 - or $3.2 billion, if you’re Google), the Nest thermostat is very popular (I saw one on the wall in a local Subway restaurant a couple of days ago) because - in addition to its Applish-elegance design - it “programs itself so you don’t have to.” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it turns out that there are a lot of people out there who absolutely hate programming a thermostat; and hate it enough, apparently, that they’re willing to spend four-to-five times more $ on a “learning thermostat” than they would on an average 5-2 day programmable thermostat. So any smart home automation company looking to break into the big time needs to take note of this fact. Does anyone really believe that these same folks want to spend the time and effort to program an entire home of automated gadgets? “It programs itself so you don’t have to” needs to be the smart home mantra.

Recently a couple of smart home systems caught my attention because of their learning capabilities...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 18, 2014 0 comments
I’m on a quest to find the best of the affordable smart home automation systems that are available (or will be shortly). The first couple of review samples have come in, and one of the primary aspects these two systems have in common is the impressive amount of engineering and design effort put into making installation and set up as easy as possible. That’s vitally important because for home automation to really get its foot in the door (so to speak) and appeal to more than just gadget-freaks like me, the system controllers need to be smart enough that the end user doesn’t have to commit an overwhelming amount of brainpower to the process of setting them up and getting them running. If the initial installation of a smart home automation controller is anything close to the pain involved in creating a bunch of macros in a programmable universal remote control, there’s going to be a lot of product returns from unhappy customers.

The first system to arrive was...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 05, 2014 0 comments
The so-called smart home is built on a foundation of three pillars. As with the architecture of a real home, each pillar must be equally as strong, or you run the risk of the entire structure collapsing. Fortunately, the virtual-world failure of a smart home system is nowhere near as likely to result in physical injury as is the falling ceiling and walls of a real-world building. Obviously, though, having a smart home that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do is a waste of money. Having a system that only works some of the time is even worse because there’s a period of intense frustration before the homeowner finally gives up and quits using the system entirely.

The three pillars of the smart home are...

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 29, 2014 0 comments
A lot of the sizzling hype at CES2014 was about home automation or, if you prefer using the gussied-up term, the “Smart Home”. Not everyone’s definition of a Smart Home (or home automation) is the same, though, and - as far as I know - there’s no standardized IQ test to determine how smart your Smart Home is.

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