Automated Living by URC
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.
From the Editor
Cat Toomey, Director of Marketing, URC
Magic happens from every angle in life and so it is with home automation. In this second issue of Automated Living, we take a look at how you can easily add a little magic and spice to your life by way of just a few automation tricks.

We begin with our featured story, which takes us to the warm West Coast to see some first-hand, entertainment magic in the backyard of a customer’s home where breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean remain intact yet are somehow married to an amazing A/V experience with one touch controls. And, given that several of you may be weary from recent snow storms, we thought we’d get you thinking about spring and summer planning for your outdoor entertainment system. This Laguna Beach installation always gets the WOW from friends and is not an illusion. It is as functional as it is gorgeous – now that’s the magic of automation.

Next we venture to a whole new world where a genius product that’s less than 3 inches wide and weighs .08 of a pound can deliver huge, fascinating benefits. Industry veteran and our guest writer, Lisa Montgomery of Electronic House, reveals how smart sensors can set the stage for seriously clever automation. Did you know a control system can be aware of what’s happening around the house and make smart changes for you? Uh-huh. Daylight changes outside and lights wondrously pop on while the thermostat kicks in. Read up to find out how something so small in size can so greatly improve your life.

Also, in our previous issue, we surveyed our readers on their top interests and we share a few results. This will also be fodder for future issues. I hope this issue brings a touch of abracadabra to your day. It’s today’s intelligent home and it’s for real. As always, I look forward to interacting with you, hearing about your world of control and how you came to visit us at URC. Send me a note anytime at

Cat A. Toomey
Universal Remote Control, Director of Marketing
Editor, Automated Living by URC

Featured Install
Laguna Beach backyard boasts breathtaking views with amazing A/V entertainment via one touch automation.
Magical Backyard Bonanza
Simply Sight & Sound
(Laguna Beach, CA home)

When self-proclaimed football fan and industry proven A/V professional installer, Jeff Cooper, first got the call to help makeover a Laguna Beach homeowner’s backyard, he knew he would have to deliver an al fresco A/V experience that was both practical and magical. Amidst Laguna’s affluent seaside resort city with its limited highway access, surrounding coastal hills, scenic beaches and coves, sits the home that now boasts an outdoor A/V system that’s always sure to get a WOW from every visitor it entertains.

Jeff is the president of Simply Sight & Sound, Inc. located in Huntington Beach, CA. Having done custom installation work since 1998, Jeff was the ideal interviewee for this issue. We were especially excited to speak with him about this awesome outdoor install that recently won a CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles® Designer Silver Award. It’s the perfect reminder for our ‘snow storm weary’ readers in the Midwest and East Coast regions that spring and summer are only a few months away.

We caught up with Jeff the week before Super Bowl XLVIII weekend to hear more about this unique project – right before he planned on flying to New York for the Big Game – and his thoughts on how consumers can work in conjunction with their installers to get exactly the system they need to fit their lifestyle, all via one touch automation and URC’s Total Control®.

What are the most important things you would like our audience to know about your organization or business?
We’re more of a personalized solutions provider. We’re not a ‘hard sell’ type of company but rather we strive to determine exactly what the client needs and then specify/design a solution based on their needs.  We don’t believe in forcing technology on our clients that they don’t want or require.

Can you tell me a little bit about the client's home/backyard? Where exactly is their home located? Was it a newly remodeled home, or were the clients just doing a backyard remodel?
The home is located in Laguna, CA and this installation morphed into a major part of their backyard remodel. We were first contacted in 2011 by the homeowner and we did our initial meeting with him back then.  Believe it or not, this project started off with just a request for a small TV in the backyard and a couple of speakers in a planter. Through working with the homeowner for over a year and half, the project evolved to a solution that included a TV lift with weatherproof enclosure, a TV with attached speakers as well as a couple more yard speakers for all-over background music − all controlled via URC’s Total Control system.

What exactly were the homeowners looking for when they called you for help? What features and functions were on your client's "wish list" when they began planning to have a new control and/or A/V system installed?
The first request from all of our customers and one thing that is definitely heard often is the need for “easy, one touch automation.” Once we decided on adding a TV lift, one of the main questions that came up during discussions with the client about the best solution was, “If Direct TV is in the house, how can I control it? How would we get the quality sound I’m looking for out here and how would it all be controlled?” We immediately thought of URC’s Total Control which we knew could express everything easily through one touch automation whether through an iPhone®, iPad® or a TRC remote. My client would have full control of what they needed to control, all from sources hidden from view within the home.
"We immediately thought of URC's Total Control which we knew could express everything easily through one-touch automation whether through an iPhone, iPad or a TRC remote."
Any "special circumstances" or conditions that had to be considered? (Structural anomalies, deadline pressure, handicap access, security, etc.)
Lucky for us, the general contractor we worked with was great. They took care of moving some of the pool equipment and piping to help with our TV mounting location idea. Plus they helped with getting multiple audio sources for the backyard. We actually zoned the backyard out into three audio zones: one for the TV because they have speakers on the side of the TV and the remaining zones for two other sets of speakers he can turn on individually elsewhere in the yard.

Did your client have any prior experience with a previously installed control or A/V system either inside or outside of their home? How were the experiences on a scale from Excellent to Neutral to Awful?
This was kind of a takeover job in one instance. The client had an existing system in their backyard that was put in three to four years prior to us meeting with him. It was just a basic two-zone receiver with an amplifier. It was highly cumbersome for him to get the different sources distributed throughout the house so he interviewed a couple A/V contractors and no one wanted to tackle upgrading the outdoor system. We got the job because frankly other contractors were not returning phone calls and/or were not up for the challenge of the job.

Why did you decide on the Total Control system as the solution for them and for you for this install?
When talking to the client we learned they had received a quote, for a competing control system, from the first A/V company who had installed a small A/V room inside the house. We both decided on Total Control in large because of the price and value. We kept in contact with the client for about a year and a half after we first presented and it became clear that that for less money we could get him the same type of control that was quoted to him previously. We were pleased with our choice because we knew that at a better price point and with Total Control’s robust capabilities we could provide the improved sound he was looking for, particularly because of URC’s DMS-AV amplifier, control of each zone via his iPhone and iPad, and so much more for an overall top-notch entertainment solution.

It's our understanding that this install took only 91 hours to conduct client interviews and complete, with programming only taking 10 hours. Is that accurate, i.e. was that 10 hours of solely writing code or did those 10 hours include testing as well?
Yes that is accurate. It took about 10 hours of setup because it was actually one of the first Total Control systems we did so it probably would have taken us a much shorter time if it was not our first such installation. So the 10 hours included primarily initial setup and programming because Total Control is running both inside and outside including music. What’s great is because we’ve had more experience with the system, we now know we can get our clients up and running in even less time.

I'm guessing there are many, but what would you say is the biggest "cool factor" of the install?
The cool or wow factor is that “at the push of the button” you see the TV rise from what appears to be a hot tub/Jacuzzi. Because the optical illusion of where the TV is housed belies the reality that it is actually several feet back behind the hot tub, it appears to rise magically from within the Jacuzzi.

What have the homeowners expressed as the biggest benefit of having their new system?
The ease of use. He loves being able to hit one button to have the entire system go into a predetermined party mode: the TV comes up and automatically kicks on audio to all the zones that got allocated to party mode. He also loves having the all off button which shuts everything down with just one button press. The other thing worth mentioning is that once the lift was installed and we had all the equipment temporarily working (before we got Total Control fully installed), he thought he would have to use a separate remote for the lift. When I told him that we could tie in the one touch automation to raise the lift with the remote and he realized that everything would be turnkey one key automation, he said, “Really, you could do that?” So needless to say, he was really excited.
"He loves being able to hit one button to have the entire system go into a predetermined party mode: the TV comes up and automatically kicks on audio to all the zones that got allocated to party mode."
What would you suggest to someone considering adding a home control system?
I’d suggest they think about how they intend to use the system and what matters most to them. They should also take into consideration you can remotely control so much off premises. There is the ability to control lights, audio, practically everything remotely and now you can even tie in video surveillance. It’s just great for getting more peace of mind especially if you travel. This client for example travels a lot; it’s definitely something we bring up when discussing a control system with clients. With security top of mind for many clients, we share the ability to incorporate cameras to easily keep an eye on things, especially with the remote app. You can easily make sure your home is secure and/or check to see if you remembered to shut the garage door.

Any parting thoughts you'd like to share?
The main thing would be advice to other dealers about the importance of having patience when working with a client on a project, i.e. not rushing it. As I mentioned before, I believe our first meeting with this particular client was in February/March of 2011 and we went back and forth regarding where the TV would go. The project actually got put on the back burner until we could find a way to do it right. Within that timeframe, Total Control came out and we worked on getting a handle on the preliminary products. Once we found a lift manufacturer, we remained patient and mindful of the client’s needs. By truly listening to the client and working with him as a team, we really ended up with a great installation. It’s awesome because now he especially enjoys the WOW factor I mentioned. We uploaded a video of the install on our website. Everyone that’s seen it has yelled, “WOW” when they see the TV coming up from behind that wall.

Photo Gallery
Photos courtesy of Jeff Cooper
Hot Topics and Trends
Lisa Montgomery, Electronic House
Sensors Set the Stage for Seriously Clever Automation
By Lisa Montgomery, Editor of Electronic House

Are you still using sensors to trigger an alarm system when motion, smoke or some other potentially bad condition is detected? By all means, keep doing this, but there’s so much more standard security-style sensors can do. Installed and programmed appropriately, they can launch some truly genius automation routines—that go way beyond home protection.

Sensors can signal an automation system to turn on and off lights, activate video projectors, open and close motorized shades and prepare the house for a party based on motion, ambient light and other elements.  They can be used to illuminate pathways across the yard or down the hall when they see someone pass by, and to warm up specified A/V components whenever someone opens the door to the home entertainment room. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, and the good news is, manufacturers of home automation systems are fostering smart sensor applications by developing products of their own.

URC, for one, has developed a variety of smart sensors to enable new control features from its Total Control automation system. Unlike “ordinary” sensors that detect motion, smoke or the sound of breaking glass, these new sensors are designed to perceive and react to the presence of light, audio, video, current, and voltage. An idea offered by URC’s Hank Eisengrein: Connect a light sensor to a URC smart little component to raise and lower a set of motorized window shades to certain positions based on the available light in the room: instant energy savings and comfort without lifting a finger!

In addition to promoting creative, innovative automation routines, expect sensors to evolve into valuable tools for analyzing and diagnosing problems within your home. Built-in intelligence will enable them to collect important data concerning house fires, for example.  And those facial recognition systems you thought could only be used in commercial environments—these too, are making inroads as viable sensor-based technology for home use.

It’s a great time to harness the potential of sensors by using them in novel ways that extend beyond home protection. The technology is in place, the products are well-established. All you need to do is think about what you want and how you live. Through clever design and programming, sensors stand to separate a smart home from one that’s utterly genius!
Get to Know URC
Jon Sienkiewicz, URC Corporate Communications
It's Q & A with Jon Sienkiewicz
URC Corporate Communications

Why do I need a professional installer to program my URC custom remote or control system?
URC remotes and control systems are very easy to use, and friendly to every member of the family. At least that’s true when they are designed and programmed by a competent, authorized installer. We estimate that the average URC integrator receives at least 30 hours of training—each and every year—in order to be able to make your system behave exactly the way you want it to, and to stay on top of the ever-changing technology. Plus, professional installers actively program systems every day—that is their job. They have the training, the experience and the skill to make your control system perform the way it should—the way you want it to.

Frankly speaking, most folks are at least partially unaware of the true potential of a home automation system. A pro can make your system do cool things like lower the blinds and turn the lights up 20 minutes before sundown every day—automatically—or distribute music around your house so that everyone in the family can listen to something different. We often hear from surprised and delighted consumers who say things like, “All I expected was music in the bedroom as well as the den—but I don’t know I could also have it outside and in the nursery—or that it can all be different music!”

Sorry for the longwinded answer, but we think it’s helpful for people know that hiring an integrator they can trust means that having a system that’s capable of doing things that meet your specific needs with the ability to expand in the future or add on other capabilities. Just like an architect, or a room designer, or someone who installs a custom sprinkler system that takes into account your needs, the landscape you have, where the sun hits your yard and when, and how you may want to add expansion down the road.
Once I have talked about my needs and the remote or system has been specified, can I install the products myself?
That first meeting with your installer—some call it a Needs Assessment Interview—is very important, but it’s really just the beginning. Once you’ve explored what the possibilities are—and again, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised!—the professional integrator goes to work creating the specifications. Things he or she considers are the size of the house, where to run cables, placement of parts that extend control, integration codes to accommodate products you already have —the list goes on and on, and includes that one big major sticky point—the home wireless network, the ole’ Wi-Fi LAN with its Static IP Addresses, Subnets, WAPs, DHCP, DNS Logs and the rest of the alphabet soup. Most homes have whatever sort of router the phone company installed, and while that’s A-Ok for connecting the family PC to the internet, it’s most likely woefully inadequate when it comes to supporting a whole-house home automation system. Even if you are technically savvy, if you don’t have a trained pro, you can really get into trouble here and spend far more money in the long run.
What about the software? I’d like to be able to make changes myself, can I do that?
URC does not provide software to end users, and there are some good reasons why we don’t. Our mission to do everything we possibly can to assure that the user—you, the home or business owner—has the best possible experience with your URC system. That’s not likely to happen if you go tinkering with it yourself. One of my colleagues said it best. “If the doctor plants a pacemaker in my chest, I’ll be damned if I’m going to try to adjust it myself!”

Seriously, control systems rely on a number of “moving parts” working harmoniously. Making one incorrect change can throw everything out of kilter if you don’t know what you’re doing. Using an authorized, URC trained custom installer means that you benefit from his long experience and can count on getting information when new technologies come available and how they can be added. We have the installers back, and can provide him with technical assistance if needed. We can’t “coach” a homeowner who’s trying to diddle with his system because there is simply too much in play.
It seems like home automation cost is a lot, is that true?
Great question! No, it doesn’t. Anyone can easily begin with a system for less than around $1000. And the beauty is that they can continue to build upon that system—by adding to it, not replacing it. We like to say, “Start with it. Stay with it.” It’s true. Give up that daily $6 Latte from Starstruck and you’ll have more than enough saved to enjoy home automation.

Video Spotlight
URC CC Mobile App
Check out URC's CC Control Mobile App! Easily control all your audio and video equipment plus lighting right from your iPad or iPhone.

Latest News
Our Fall Winner Announced!
Just one reason why we say, "With URC, it pays to complete surveys!"

In our last quarterly issue we asked you to rate several home automation questions − thanks to each of you who responded. We performed a random drawing and the winner is…

Morgan O'Neil of Massachusetts!
Congrats to Morgan who has received a URC home entertainment basket (retail value: $300).

We greatly appreciated the many entries, and we look forward to giving you more opportunities to share your interests and ideas plus enter to win other prizes in the near future. Our survey results showed that the majority of you are most interested in ‘In home control of home theater & entertainment, ‘In home control of music and multi-room music’ AND ‘Security, surveillance and off-premises control of lighting.’ With this valuable info, we’ll continue to gear our content to YOUR top interests in coming issues so stay tuned! Thanks for subscribing to Automated Living by URC and most of all, thank you for being a part of our URC community.

What's the Latest?
Now Available! More Choice - Control Hundreds of Products
TRF-ZW1 Total Control Z-Wave® Extender

We swap stories about security and personal protection often here at URC HQ so we’re pretty sure it’s top of mind for many of you too. Want to get a text alert that lets you know the minute your kids get home from school? Or, have you ever left the house only to wonder if you turned off the lights? How about the smart home savvy couch potato trick of ‘magically’ seeing who’s at the door when it rings? You can do all this and more by joining others who are already enjoying these conveniences in the new smart home. As one exec. here at URC quips, “It’s not just about your alarm system anymore, we’re committed to adding security features that rock!”

Now connect your Total Control system and our new TRF-ZW1 piece to virtually any Z-Wave-enabled component for “smart” monitoring and control of devices.  Z-Wave ( is a wireless, low-bandwidth technology created for home automation of loads of products such as lighting, door locks and sensors, thermostats, alarm systems and more. There are literally hundreds of them out there that are Z-Wave-enabled and made broadly available even at places such as Home Depot and Lowes. Now your professional installer can connect these with Total Control for some very functional, cool features. Monitor and control these products using Total Control remotes, keypads, touchscreens and even your own smart phone. Gone are the days of arriving at work full of worry that you left the door unlocked! One press on your iPad, and you’re off to the meeting.

It's the New Magic Wand!
Total Control's TRC-1080 wand-style Wi-Fi Color LCD Remote

URC kicked off 2014 with the availability of the anticipated new remote for its Total Control line of remotes. The TRC-1080 fits right in between the TRC-780 and the TRC-1280 in features and price. This highly-sophisticated remote gives you fast access to every TV, Blu-ray or DVR function and cable interactive service available to you! Its quick connect Wi-Fi feature means no waiting to take control. Just one button press gives you immediate access to your A/V equipment. Plus, its button placement/layout complimented by the sophisticated, piano black finish and charging cradle, gives this standout remote high-end appeal in any environment.

Want to adjust lighting scenes, temperature levels, browse playlists, select a favorite movie or even view security cameras in and around your home? It’s all doable. With just a wave of your ‘wand’ you can easily enjoy total control of just about anything. Already the winner of two major industry awards and the finalist for another, it’s easy to understand why URC is known for remote controls.  Are you ready for a little more magic? Your wand is waiting. (No rabbits were harmed or disappeared during the writing of this article.)

Hear What They're Saying
"My boss visited our home and asked about the A/V system. I didn't say a thing, just pulled out my iPhone and turned the flatscreen on and fired up the Blu-ray in less than 2 seconds," says Jim. "He was blown away. The kids, my wife and I all have our controls in our pocket thanks to URC. No one had to learn a thing - it just works."

— Jim, homeowner and URC customer, Indianapolis, IN
Contact Us
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We Couldn't Do It Without You!
Thank you to the many contributors for their amazing work efforts, research and writing including:

Jeff Cooper
Simply Sight & Sound, Inc.
Lisa Montgomery
Electronic House
Shelley White
Graphic Designer
Runs With Scissors Graphics
Cat Toomey
Director of Marketing
Jon Sienkiewicz
Corporate Communications
Nick Cofino
Graphic and Web Designer
Toya Jean-Gilles
Marketing Specialist

Universal Remote Control, Inc. • Harrison, NY • (800) 901-0800 •