Automated Living by URC is the publication that brings you the latest ideas and trends in control solutions. Get to know URC, enjoy fun giveaways, and enjoy features and stories about people and homes that have leveraged automation to make every day better.
By Cat A. Toomey
Director of Marketing, URC
Editor, Automated Living by URC
Greetings! Fall has arrived in full festive color as I sit at my desk looking out on the stunning gold and crimson leaves, some still on the trees but many more on the ground. My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is fast approaching, which got me thinking. In our home, this is the time of year when we have even greater emphasis on our family.
If you’ve been thinking of expanding your home entertainment system or adding automation, now is a good time. “Why?” you ask. ‘Tis the season when most folks tend to celebrate and entertain more, stay in from the cold, spend greater time gathering with family and watch major sporting events. Some of you may be traveling over the holidays, in which case having enhanced security at home and peace of mind matters.
Any or all of these things can easily be enriched by a smart home system that affords extra comfort and convenience. Read on for a tip or two on home entertainment, new kinds of security and how they can work together perfectly under one jolly roof.
Join us as one of our all-time favorite Electronic House elves, Lisa Montgomery, shares the latest ideas for giving gadgets with our Top Technology Gift Guide. And spend quality time with Mitchell Klein from URC, who explains the fundamentals of multi-room audio so you can break out Christmas tunes like never before. In another feature, our good friends at LILIN spread more cheer as they reveal breakthrough surveillance solutions, license plate recognition technologies and how you can get the family safety you deserve in one easy-to-use system.
Light up the tree and the entire house with brilliant new URC lighting and other just-arrived or announced products. And we’ll put a bow on it all with a Magnificent Makeover where a no-tech, 5,000 square foot Manhattan apartment undergoes a massive transformation to reveal the latest in design esthetics and home automation experiences.
So cozy up and enjoy the read. Warmest wishes for the holidays and a very happy New Year from all of us at URC.
And if you happen to be a URC dealer reading this, welcome! Even though this publication is written for your customers, not you, we welcome you and would appreciate your input. If you’d like information about using all or parts of this e-Pub in your customer newsletter, please contact me for details.
By Lisa Montgomery
Every family has at least one member who’s crazy about new technology. This year, treat the tech enthusiasts on your holiday shopping list to something both useful and fun. We’ve compiled five fabulous finds, comprised of truly unique products that’ll appeal to the high-tech tastes of everyone on your gift-giving agenda, whether they’re into music, video, home control, lighting, or all of the above.
1. The World’s Most Entertaining Light Bulb.
It’s a fact: Soon you won’t be able to buy incandescent light bulbs. Celebrate the transition from traditional incandescent to LED bulbs in a colorful way by buying a bulb that’s as entertaining as it is practical. The StrimLIGHT from AwoX is a $90 bulb that screws into an ordinary light socket, but there’s nothing ordinary about the way it performs. On command from the included handheld remote, the light can change color—blue, green pink, orange—whatever suits the occasion. And while the StrimLIGHT sets the mood with festive hue, its built-in 13-watt speaker can play music streamed to it from a smartphone, tablet or computer. In seconds the house is ready for a party. (The colored Wi-Fi/music bulb will be available in January; if you can’t wait that long, there’s a non-colored version for $129.)
2. A Motion Sensor with Sex Appeal.
Parents, pet owners or anyone who’s interested in keeping tabs on what’s happening at home while they’re away will appreciate a monitoring device that’s easy to set up, simple to use, not to mention an eye-catching addition to the home. The Fibaro Motion Sensor combines several useful functions in a tiny, multi-color device that resembles a cat’s eye. It can monitor the room temperature, changing color to indicate if the room might be too cold or warm. At the same time, it can sense motion and keep track of how much time someone spends in a particular room—great for monitoring kids’ TV and computer time. Finally, by adding Fibaro’s Home Center 2 automation hub, the sensor can push notifications to your smartphone. You’ll know when someone has arrived at your house, which room they are in, and when they left.
3. A Crock-Pot on Steroids.
Overindulging on tasty vittles during the holidays doesn’t mean you need to be a slave to the stove. With the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo from Belkin ($129.99), you can control the cooking temperature and time from your smartphone—whether you’re at work, picking up last-minute gifts at the mall or attending your kids’ Christmas pageant. If you get held up in traffic or in a long line at the post office, there’s no need to worry that your casserole will overcook. Just pull up the free WeMo app to tweak the crockpot settings. When the dish is ready, the crockpot sends a notification instantly to your phone.
4. Ottoman Rocks Out!
Home entertainment buffs rejoice. You can add great audio to any room of your house without any worries about where to put the speakers. The Sound Lounge from ION Audio ($129.99) conceals stereo speakers and a subwoofer within a plush ottoman that’s equally pleasing for your tired feet as it is to your music-loving ears. Also integrated into the stylish furnishing is a Bluetooth receiver, so you can stream your favorite songs directly to the Sound Lounge from your smartphone, tablet or any media device. Another bonus: The ottoman is portable, so you can enjoy it in any room of the house, or let your kids take it with them to their dorm room.
5. Artistry in Motion.
Bang & Olusfen’s 85-inch BeoVision Avant is more than just a TV screen; boasting an industrial style and smart features, it’s a work of art. Attached to a motorized stand, the screen can swivel on command from an included BeoRemote, and includes preset positions. As the TV twists, it finds your favorite channel and favorite sound setting. In seconds, the choreography is complete, treating discerning eyes to an Ultra High-Definition picture. Integrated into the BeoVision Avant 85” are three speakers; additional speakers can be added to provide a 7.1 surround-sound experience, without having run a single wire, thanks to the TV’s Immaculate Wireless Sound technology. Priced at $22,700 for the TV and $2,295 for the motorized stand, the Avant 85 is likely a gift you want to give to the entire family, eh?
BONUS POINTS! Your Mug on a Piece of Toast.
Here is some extra credit fun. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words… we’re not sure what seeing your mug on piece of toast is worth exactly, but for around $75, you’ll leave a lasting impression every time the recipient of the Selfie Toaster pulls a perfectly toasted slice out of this wacky yet functional appliance. You simply send a digital photo of yourself to Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation and the engineers there will custom-design a toaster and ship it to your (or your loved-one’s) house. Ah, what a perfect gift for that annoying aunt or uncle who’s always nagging, “We haven’t seen your face around here for a long time!”
Ok let’s face it. We tend to love this season, but things do come to a bit of a head this time of year for everyone in Who-ville. Decorating, entertaining, cooking, shopping, traveling, Cindy Lou off of school and sometimes underfoot or up late, and friends and family that sometimes stay too long (we won’t go deep into the family part). Yep, things can get chaotic. How can you better manage the madness and keep the Grinch at bay?
Here’s a short list of ways to enjoy an easier, more convenient home and spend more time on the seasonal celebrations!
Top 5 ways a smart home can take hectic out of the holidays:
Combine lights and music by having one “Entertain” button on remotes and keypads. One press sets the mood just right and turns on holiday tunes throughout the house as folks arrive.
Put a smart home mobile app on the kids phones and reduce the constant yelling of, “Where’s the remote?” or “Dad, can you start the movie?”
Deliver the big game to every TV in the house using the latest in video distribution and control. No one misses a play, even as they’re pilfering leftovers from the fridge.
Hands in the holiday ham as the doorbell rings? Reach for your smartphone to see who’s there and let them in without leaving the kitchen.
If you add one smart LILIN camera to your Total Control system, you can configure it to turn off all the lights and pull the shades down when it reads the license plate number of your snooty cousin’s Humvee creeping up the driveway!
And so as it goes in Who-ville they say, the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. Put a little URC in your holidays and enjoy the beauty of a better life – and everyone’s better side!
Matrix Sound & Vision, Manhattan, NY
In this featured home, Total Control truly sits top of the town. Recently we had a fabulous time in uptown NY seeing firsthand how a no-tech, 5,000 square foot Manhattan apartment underwent a massive transformation to reveal the latest in design esthetics and home automation.
These homeowners had lived with URC remote control of their entertainment in a prior residence. After moving into their luxurious, newly-renovated apartment, they were ready for a technology overhaul stripped to the barebones, a URC Dealer handled the design and installation of a full-featured control system. The goals were lofty; the controls needed to blend in with the detailed architecture and complement the apartment’s stunning 19th-story, 180 degree view of Central Park. And, despite extensive electronic enhancements, the owners requested the technology raise no visual conflict with the apartment cosmetics, nor add complications to their easy going lifestyle.
Today, the only technology the owners see are their tried and trusted URC handheld remotes and touchscreens plus sleek Lutron lighting keypads. Yet their daily lives have been transformed.
By Joe Cook
Vice President North America
Merit LILIN USA Corp
What could be more important than the safety and security of your family, home, property or business? Especially at this time of year when things are more hectic and you may be traveling. With the latest in automated camera and surveillance solutions, you can have the safety and security you deserve in one easy-to-use system.
LILIN state-of-the-art surveillance products are compatible with URC’s Total Control line of automation products. Installed together, the newest network-based cameras can give you a bird’s-eye view over your entire property using mobile apps, remotes, and touchscreens. Imagine working in your kitchen or home office and still being able to see and hear your children playing in the yard. Or, see who’s knocking on your door without leaving the living room sofa. When these products are married, you can monitor and adjust things at home even while out shopping.
LILIN and URC recently worked together to deliver this capability and a whole lot more. By using LILIN’s advanced technology products together with URC’s Total Control whole-house automation system, you can experience these things in your home or business with one user-friendly solution.
Among these awesome technologies is LILIN’s 4K camera, ideal for the high-end property owner. Being hailed as a major breakthrough in IP video surveillance, this 12.0 megapixel CMOS camera delivers 3840 x 2160 pixel pictures at 30 frames per second, or four times the resolution of HDTV 1080p, with razor-sharp detail and brilliant saturated colors, even in low-light conditions. Used with our 4K-equipped Navigator server and URC’s Total Control, this excellent quality picture will allow you to see crystal clear, high quality images of your home or office and surrounding property on your 4K television, or even while away using our LILIN viewer application.
Also available is LILIN’s License Plate Recognition software, capable of reading license plates from moving vehicles and storing recorded numbers in a database for future lookup. Used in combination with Total Control, a property owner is able to create an access list of approved license plates to allow entry at a gate or garage door. If the license plate isn’t recognized or on a denied access list, the driver would need to request entry to the property by using a call box or other method. Talk about a modern home!
Finally for those requiring a more discreet surveillance option, LILIN now offers its covert camera model, also capable of full integration with URC. This camera option allows for full HD 1080p recording at 30 frames per second. Perfect for entry or exit areas, or for use as a camera to check on the babysitter or watch the kids while you are away from home, this unique option provides the video quality of a much larger camera while taking up a lot less space.
Whether for security purposes, to keep an eye on your family or to just show your home off to your friends while away, LILIN and URC can give you total control.
LILIN is a global manufacturer of IP video cameras, recording devices and software. We also adhere to a time-tested philosophy of Creativity, Progress, & Excellence. LILIN’s spectrum of cameras and servers provides network surveillance solutions for almost any application. Established in Taipei, Taiwan more than three decades ago, the company now has 12 branches worldwide.
With Mitchell Klein
Director of Business Development
Please give us a concise explanation of what installation companies mean when they say “Multi-Room Audio.”
Multi-room audio is what I like to refer to as “follow me music.” While it’s a treat to sit in your favorite chair and listen to the music of your choice, the reality is we all have very busy lives and our listening is rarely confined to a single room or single task. Follow me music provides music when and where you happen to be – even as you move about your home. Music in the kitchen while preparing and entertaining; on the patio; by the pool; in the Master Bath; wherever you happen to be. With so many speaker options it’s easy to fit good sounding music wherever you want.
Better yet, a well-designed multi-room music system enables different music to be played in different rooms, simultaneously. So mom can be relaxing in the den to Cold Play while dad’s searing steaks to The Who out on the deck and junior is jamming to Jay-Z with friends in the playroom.
Why do we want it? What are the “cool factors” that make it desirable?
Music sets the mood and provides the perfect background for your life, whether playing, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, or relaxing. What makes it so cool is the convenience – and ease of operation. Having simple access to turn the music on no matter where you happen to be, control what you want to listen to, and how loud it should be, is a major key to the enjoying music anywhere.
It’s also about personalization—setting up your system so that with a single button press you get YOUR music, wherever you are. And you can easily and effortlessly have that music go with you as you move to another space in (or outside) your home.
When installed by a professional there are many cool and convenient capabilities available beyond easy access and control. For example, music can be tied to lighting and shades to set a mood with the press of a button or touch on your smartphone. Relaxing after a hard day at the office? Press the “chill” button on your system control and the lights dim, shades close, fireplace warms up all while your favorite Pandora playlist ramps up.
Does having it installed mean my house (especially the walls) will be torn apart for weeks, and does it cost a small fortune?
There are many ways to install a multi-room music system. Wired solutions tend to offer the best sound quality, while wireless products provide solutions for getting music to where you have no wiring or access for new wiring. A hybrid approach – wired and wireless – offers the best option as you can maximize the quality of sound and ease of operation with minimal or no damage to your home. A competent integrator can usually run wires in an existing home with no repair work necessary upon completion.
The cost of a good system can vary greatly as will the quality of sound, ease-of-use and cleanliness of the installation. Of course the bigger your budget the better the overall experience – and likelihood you actually USE the system. But the beauty is, regardless of budget, there’s a nice range of options for anyone to satisfy their musical interests.
Which URC product(s) compete in this arena?
As a control company URC provides choice, including handheld remotes, in-wall keypads and touchscreens, and apps for smartphones and tablets. URC controls virtually any multi-room brand, wired or wireless, making ease of use a priority for all.
URC also makes a great sounding, easy to install multi-room system of our own, and when coupled with our SNP-2 streaming network player and control system it is a true end-to-end system you’ll quickly fall in love with and use every day.
What does “Multi-Room Audio” have to do with “Whole-House Automation” and can I have one without the other?
Whole-house automation is all about providing a single point of control for easy access to your sub systems, such as lighting, security and heating/cooling. Multi-room audio is one of these sub systems too, and can easily become part of a whole-house automation system. As a matter of fact, if you start with a URC multi-room system you can easily add cameras, lighting and so much more, expanding the equipment you already own to include control and whole-house automation. These additions may be added as your budget and family needs grow.
“We had already been using URC remotes in our previous home to operate our entertainment systems, so we felt comfortable sticking with the same reliable brand of controls.”
– Total Control Homeowners, NY
A sleigh full of new URC big boy toys has arrived. There’s so much to choose from, you’re sure to find something to please family members on the list, or maybe it’s that special treat just for you to ring in one heck of a Happy New Year. The gift of URC improves lifestyle which lasts for years beyond the season. This year, give home entertainment, convenience and peace of mind to yourself and the family.
We can’t auto-serve hot cocoa yet, but we CAN heat things up!
Compatibility with Nest® thermostat
We haven’t found the automated hot cocoa maker just yet, but we can now control your intelligent Nest Thermostats. That’s right, URC and Nest® have teamed up to bring you some hot new solutions.
With cold weather coming, your URC home system can control these popular smart thermostats from Total Control remotes, keypads and smart devices. Without taking your eye off the turkey, heat up the entire house. Monitor and adjust temperature in the dining room with just a button press as guests arrive. While heading home from the grocery store, use your smartphone to make the home front toasty by the time you arrive. This compatibility also enables your system to make automatic adjustments. For example, if the temp inside drops below 68 degrees, Total Control can close the shades and kick up the thermostat without ANY button presses! Check with your URC pro and on how to marry URC with Nest and keep everyone comfy for holiday gatherings. Nestle in. Hot cocoa not included.
URC Mobile™ for Android™
What’s a brilliant gift idea the entire family can enjoy? The new URC Mobile™ App for Android™. Just released, this app transforms Android devices into a friendly controllers for the TV and entire house. No more family fights over who’s got the remote, or need to go to the wall to adjust the thermostat.
Today most everyone has their own smartphone in hand during waking hours. When you give them the URC app and a controller, they’ll love the fast access and smart home control – from anywhere. As Susie is diligently doing homework, she can use her cell phone to turn down the TV volume. From anywhere, you can see if the kids are digging into gifts under the tree in the living room. And, unlimited devices can be added so you won’t slight anyone on the list. Remember to tell Santa for those with Apple products, URC mobile works for those too!
String the Lights and Set the Scene.
Vivido™ by URC
This year, light things up beyond the tree! Vivido is our new collection of smart lighting products that offers new ways to set the ambiance in any room or area when married with Total Control. Family on their way over? As you rush to get dressed, grab your mobile phone and quickly turn on a pathway of lights to the front door. Then set a lighting “scene” for entertaining by pressing the icon called “Party.” Phew, it’s all under control.
Vivido has solutions to fit in perfectly with both old and new homes, making them more elegant and convenient. You can also adjust any lights at home while you’re away on the slopes making the house look secure and occupied. With URC you’re in control of a bright, energy-saving smart house. Viva Vivido!
Please note: this product will be available in early 2015.
Seasonal Songs – On Command.
SNP-2 Streaming Network Player
Get in the spirit by enjoying seasonal tunes in any room of the house from one cool system. Our newest Streaming Network Player is wrapped and ready to go. The SNP-2 is a magic box that puts virtually every music format in your control. The SNP-2 merges your music into one simple graphical menu. This shows up on URC remotes and other control devices such as your smartphone. Then view album art and info and select your favorite tunes from anywhere to be played anywhere in the house.
Access streaming services such as SiriusXM® and Pandora®, Rhapsody®, vTuner and thousands of other internet radio stations – plus your own collection that may be stored on a PC. Windows Media, iTunes® files and Playlists are also supported. With multiple SNP-2s, each family member listens to what they want. Teens get their tunes in the basement, while Dad blasts Dire Straits in the Den. And merry Mom just wants some holiday quiet! Well, that’s ok too – it’s one press to power off the entire house.
Prime Time Football, Never Miss Another Moment.
MRX-20 Advanced On-screen Network Controller
Are you riled up and ready to gather ‘round for the Thanksgiving games? We are at URC! And the newly shipping MRX-20 Controller gives everyone a new view into home automation. Control entertainment and the entire house – right from the big screen. This breakthrough product brings your family a gorgeous TV interface for easy control of your home system typically without interrupting what’s being watched. Imagine this play… your team’s about to score and the doorbell rings with guests. Stay in your chair, pull up a clear TV menu to see who’s at the door. If it’s kosher, unlock it. All without missing a down!
Now navigate easy TV menus for controlling house-wide music, lights, security, and more. The MRX-20’s neat gyroscopic remotes let you move your hand naturally while a cursor follows on-screen. Use remote control buttons to select what you wish. The Super Bowl is just around the corner. Now’s the time to call your installer and get on the list to upgrade your entertainment system AND control experience.
We are older than some of the integrators who are installing our professional control products in homes across the nation. Not many custom whole-house automation companies can make that statement.
Our company turned 25 this year, and we took a few minutes to reflect on who we are and how we got here. Our control devices are used by more than 100 million customers. We see our products everywhere: at the dentist’s office, in our children’s classrooms, on our friends’ coffee tables. High quality manufacturing, performance and after-sales service are very big responsibilities, and we take them very seriously.
Our recipe for success is basic. We became number one by putting you first. Our vision statement summarizes our ambitions very simply. We strive to be the dominant supplier of reliable control and automation solutions providing best-in-class service and support to our customers.
To you millions who are already enjoying products designed and manufactured by URC we say, “Thank you.”
To you millions more who will be embracing our family of products in the future we say, “Welcome aboard!”
To ourselves, on our 25th Anniversary, we say very earnestly, “Time sure flies when you’re doing something you love.”
Email the editor of Automated Living by URC: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out our website for the latest control solutions and additional ideas: www.universalremote.com.
Thank you to the many contributors for their amazing work efforts, research and writing including:
Vice President North America
Merit LILIN USA Corp
Director of Business Development
Director of Marketing
Director of Corporate Communications
Graphic and Web Designer
Runs With Scissors Graphics