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Digital Signage Considerations

With the popularity of digital signage increasing exponentially on a yearly basis, there is a good chance that you will be working with it in the near future, if you aren't doing so already.

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HTE is proud to be trained by and an active member of the Digital Signage Federation.  For this reason, we are sharing our suggested tips with regards to building and designing locations that will feature some sort of signage.

For additional information, we also teach a Digital Signage CEU course accredited by AIA, AIBD, IDCEC, NAHB, and NARI.

Suggested Digital Signage Considerations

Note: Digital Signage can be displays, video walls, projectors, or a combination of mediums.

Physical

  • Hardware

    • Display (Note: Most don’t have TV tuners built in)
    • Projector and “screen” surface (Multiple options for each)
    • Does it need to be interactive?
    • Is the media player/computer built into the unit or do you need to store additional equipment at that location?
  • Size and Weight

    • Ensure intended structure can support display(s) and mount(s).
      • The Samsung 110- Inch ($150 K) LED is over 250 pounds WITHOUT mount
      • Individuals and Stores/Museums were buying Panasonic’s 152 Plasma ($500 K) that weighed over 1,200 pounds WITHOUT mount and used a 200-240V AC power supply.  This is cheaper and lighter option, making it much more popular than you’d think.
  • Cabinetry/Decoration

    • LEDs are thin and easy to place in decorative boxes and other design structures.
    • Ensure there is proper ventilation.
    • Ventilation is even more important when working with projectors.
  • Mounts and Lifts

    • Ensure specialty mounts/lifts meet regulation (or exemption is on record).
    • Ensure motorized mounts and lifts have the proper power.
  • Projectors

    • Large venue DLP projectors have different power requirements.
    • Clients need  easy access to change the filter and bulbs in ALL (even laser) projectors
    • Projectors won’t last in extremely dusty or smoky areas without modifications.
      • Warehouses, “party” locations (smoke machine), directly above fire features
    • Only Laser projectors (expensive) are warrantied for vertical digital signage

Remember, digital signage doesn't have to be a display. Images of opaque and clear interactive films for projectors.

Location

  • Does the location make sense? Does it go with the flow of the room?
  • Is the obstructed by anything?
  • Don’t put displays straight on in direct sunlight
    • If you no other choice, design a hood of some sort
    • Tilt it downward with a mount
  • Do you need to coordinate the display location with speakers, cameras, or other equipment?
  • If possible use the psychology of shopping to your advantage
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Network

  • ALWAYS wire when possible!
  • If the client is unsure about using digital signage or adding additional displays, wire but don’t terminate the connection.
  • Solid, secure Wi-Fi is needed for wireless distribution to avoid choppiness
  • 4G distribution is available if needed (rare)

Content Creation and Distribution

  • Clients can purchase both as a service either bundled or individually.  Here are some the Digital Signage Federation: Content Creation, Distribution, and Analytics
  • Vertically mounted displays and projections need vertical content (think of when you rotate your phone).
  • The software plays the largest part in in signage options (tickers, RSS feeds, YouTube, trending, break out boxed, logic).

Windows 10 Has Arrived

Windows 10 Actually Does What Windows 8 Was Supposed To, But Should You Upgrade?

At midnight, the Windows 10 upgrade was released in 190 countries, and as of this morning, millions of people are already using it.   If you weren’t one of the pre-registered users who made the switch last night, you might be wondering if you should upgrade.

At HTE, we love technology and are always excited when new features are introduced, but we also remain cautiously optimistic.  New software, whether it is an operating system, or a home automation upgrade, is never perfect.  We like to err on the side of caution, allow others to be the guinea pigs until all the kinks are worked out, and then, if we feel the update adds value, we recommend it to our clients.

With that said, we want to demystify the hype and inform you about the awaited operating system that took three years to come to fruition.

The most important thing to know about Windows 10 is that it works, but…

While this may seem like a ridiculous point to make, those of us who have suffered through Windows 8 or even worse Vista, know that this isn’t a given.  Releasing glitch updates isn’t confined to Microsoft, we’ve all been un-pleasantly surprised by iOS or Android “updates” that crashed more often than a test dummy.

So yes, Windows 10 runs the way you would expect it to.  (Note: Early beta versions were unstable, so when reading other reviews check the published date.) It’s actually faster than any of their past operating systems.  It also the most secure of all the Windows.

With this said, three days ago Microsoft released KB3074681, which was classified as a security update, (remember unlike previous versions all updates are pushed) and crashing the systems of millions of Beta users. What could they do about it?  Nothing!  Only Microsoft Gods can undo their sins by pushing a new download. Users cannot uninstall a previous updates. 

Proving that our fears are legitimate: at any time an update could cause an internal OS issue or decide not to play well with other software and/or hardware and there is nothing you can do about it.

Cost

When Microsoft announced that Windows 7 users and Windows 8 users could update to Windows 10 for the first year for free (enterprise versions excluded) and that would be supported for its lifetime (at least 10 years), many believed the new operating system was evolving into a software as a service (SaaS) model such as Office 365.  Microsoft then released upgrade prices, explaining that if qualified users did not upgrade within the first year, the upgrade would cost $199 for Window 8 users to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.  It will cost Windows 7 users $119 to upgrade to Windows 10 Home, but once that is run an additional $99 upgrade to Windows 10 Pro is required, costing a total of $218. 

"The Last Windows"

Much like after the iPad 2 Apple stopped numbering the tablets, the same is being done with the Windows name.  Microsoft wants Windows 10 to be referred to simply as “Windows”. Although not being billed as a SaaS, Windows will operate like one.  There will be continuous forced updates containing both fixes and new features.

Quick Review

Pros

  • It runs faster and is more secure than previous Windows versions.
  • It works well with both traditional computers and touch screen computers and devices.
  • Combines simplicity of Windows 7 with functionality of Windows 8 (minus the design flaws).
  • There are many useful new features such as a window snap, action planner, and Cortana
  • If you upgrade within the year, it is free.

Cons

  • At any time a forced update could create complete chaos and there is nothing you can do to correct it.
  • While it is a significantly easier transition than going to Windows 8, for users familiar with Windows 7, some learning is required.

The Basics

Windows 10 meets its overall objectives, it works well on both traditional computers as well as touch screen computers and devices allowing Microsoft to redeem itself from the failure know as Windows 8.

The OS is clean, intuitive, and while there are some new features to explore, it is much easier to learn that Windows 8.  Don’t worry the start button that we all know, love, and have come to depend on since Windows 95 is back!  The tiled menu from Windows 8 hasn’t disappeared, it is just takes up less real-estate, residing next to the traditional info that appears when clicking the start button.

Additionally, Continuum, allows the operating system to adjust to your device to make it as user friendly as possible.  So for example if you remove the keyboard from the Surface Pro, it will switch to a more touch screen oriented display. While Microsoft software works well with its hardware (Surface Pro), it’s not perfect with other brands of convertible laptops.

The Big New Highlights

Task View & Virtual Desktops

Task View is reminiscent of a feature Apple has had for years.  Simply click an icon to see all the windows you have open. Virtual Desktops allow you to have a completely separate desktop, a good way to segregate information.

Window Snap

4 Pane Window Snap allows you easily keep up to 4 different windows open on a single monitor.  This is especially useful for tablets where a second monitor is impractical.

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Action Center

Action Center fills a need we’ve become dependent on with our mobile devices, and is nice to have on a desktop, or laptop as well. The icon located in the lower right corner allows for quick access to settings, notifications power saver mode, blue tooth, airplane mode, notes, and more.

Hello's Bio Recognition

Facial recognition is a small, but exciting feature for all of you who hate passwords. Windows 10 also embrace iris and finger print scans.

Cortana

Cortana, Microsoft’s version of Siri/Google now has been added, which will be a new feature for desktop users.  While the voice recognition requires training, there is an option to type questions and requests.

Edge

We’re all about integration at HTE so we’re happy to see how well Cortana integrates with Edge, Microsoft’s new browser.  (R.I.P. Internet Explorer)  Edge is much faster that IE and holds its own compared to Mozilla and Chrome.

Screen Shot

Another goodie, which may or may not come in useful is the ability to annotate screen shots.  While this has endless applications for work, I probably use it the most when sharing memes that are only funny because they’re true.  

Other Apps

There are additional apps that come in handy and perform better than expected, such as the apps for mail, photos, and maps.  In some cases Microsoft “out Appled Apple” when creating the new OS and pre-installed apps. Everything is clean and intuitive as possible.

Conclusion

If you are running Windows 10 upgrade now! 

If you are still on 7, it makes sense to make the jump sometime this year so you won’t have to pay for a new OS that you will be forced to use in 2-3 years anyway. (Unless you plan on switching to Mac or have the know-how to properly navigate Linux.)  Yes, at any time Microsoft could push an update that simultaneously crashes the systems of billions of clients creating a real life action flick plot, but at least you won’t be alone.

At HTE, we’re going to wait until all the bugs are fixes and we know things are running smoothly before we switch all of our computers over.

Your Clients Love SONOS, Now You Can Make It Look Great

HTE (home technology experts) has been in the integration business for over a decade, so we can tell you from experience, clients love SONOS.  While this system is applauded for its functionality, it is not the most attractive solution.  Luckily there are new options that allow for a SONOS with a bit more style.

 

What is SONOS and How is it Used?

SONOS is a brand of audio distribution equipment that allows for music to be distributed both wirelessly and through speaker wire. On the most basic level, SONOS products are used in conjunction with each other to allow audio from a single source to play in multiple locations, controlled by the SONOS app.

 

SONOS & High End Residential Solutions

Think of SONOS products as a 4K television, they’re marketed to the masses and you can easily run down to Best Buy, pick up a speaker, and use it the way it’s recommended.  It’s not the products itself, but how it is integrated and used as part of a complete solution that makes SONOS a staple in high end integration.   

While SONOS is a system that can work independently, parts of it can be used with other Hi-Fi equipment to create state of the art audiophile listening rooms.  SONOS products can be used to do everything from making bespoke speakers the focal point of the room to supplying music to invisible speakers, keeping the surfaces unblemished. SONOS also integrates into home automation systems such as Savant and Control 4.

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How We Usually Use SONOS

At HTE, we typically use the SONOS BRIDGE and the CONNECT/CONNECT:AMP to distribute music through wired speakers throughout the home and property.

High end home owners typically fall into two categories:

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ZONEPLAYER Exceptions

There is no question that a properly installed wired solution always blends into a design better than using a SONOS ZONEPLAYER. However, situations arise where the ideal solution either cannot be implemented or is impractical to implement. In those cases, we used ZONEPLAYERS as our “Plan B”.

 

Adding Style to ZONEPLAYERS

For situations where using a ZONEPLAYER makes the most sense, don’t give up on trying to make it stylish.

Leon's Edge Media

Inspired by the integrated media furnishings of the 60s, the Edge Media Frame is designed and crafted to encase any TV as well as the SONOS PLAYBAR.  Concealing both these media room essentials gives the electronics a unified and stylish appearance. The Edge conceals the mounting and wiring in one simple design to complement any environment.

The Edge Media Frame can be crafted out of solid hardwoods, including Cherry, Oak, Maple and Walnut. The frame magnetically attaches to the mounting panel for easy access to the back.

Leon’s Tone Case

Leon’s all new ToneCase line brings their renowned sense of customization and style to any Sonos speaker, including PLAY:1 PLAY:3, PLAY:5 and PLAYBAR. Each product is designed to complement and conceal the speakers within the design of any space, whether adding a custom-width grill covering to match the PLAYBAR to a TV, or enhancing the PLAY:5 with solid hardwood cabinets. Now you can personalize your design as easily as you can customize your playlists.

Built specifically for the SONOS PLAY:1, PLAY:3, and PLAY:5, the Tonecase hardwood cabinets are handcrafted from solid White Oak, Black Walnut or custom painted to match any color.

Without Screen

With Screen

Use Color

For clients who prefer a modern look with bright colors, make it pop!  Use colored speakers and stands to give the ZonePlayers character and make them a focal piece.

 

Design to Disguise Outdoors

The art of hiding exterior technology

At HTE we work with renowned architects and designers to seamlessly integrate technology, while disguising the electronics. Many of our clients keep their interior décor blemish free with mirror televisions, media lifts, and invisible speakers, but what can be done to camouflage exterior technology

Communication

The backbone of outdoor tech is your network.  Just like wireless access points, phone, and cell boosters are distributed throughout your home to provide a strong, continuous signal, the same must be done in your yard.  We use a combination of weatherproof access points and strategic placement of traditional boosters to ensure full coverage.

These small devices are hidden in cabinets, in nooks and crannies, and other out of sight locations. 

 

Audio

Distributed audio has become a staple in all high end homes. Having a tune play both inside and out has never been easier, but not everybody wants to see their speakers. For music lovers, Sonos outdoor audiophile speakers, camouflage into your design disguised as landscape lighting. 

For those who appreciate background music but aren't quite as particular about the sound, speakers hidden in planters, or made to look like rocks may be the solution.  Requests for underwater speakers for athletes who like to swim to their workout playlist are also on the rise.

 

Video

Demand for outdoor video has increased dramatically over the last few years.  These exterior televisions and projectors used to stay in full view, but now home owners want their outdoor video equipment to be hidden when not in use, similar to their interior electronics.

Outdoor TVs and projectors are most commonly disguised with media lifts.  These lifts can go in the ground, be hidden in outdoor cabinetry and bars, or ascend up into pavilion roof tops. 

 

Cameras

To be clear the cameras with the highest resolution, best functionality (pan, tilt, zoom, motion, etc.) and integration capabilities look like cameras. With that said, if the home owner is willing to sacrifice quality and capability for an incognito option, there are a few designs that can hide in plain site. These cameras can look like rocks, lamps, and mailboxes.

 

Shades

While motorized shades have been gaining popularity, few people know about outdoor shades, which are perfect for blocking out harsh sun without sacrificing your view.

When it comes to concealing the shades, the rollers are hidden in custom made pockets, the same way they're concealed indoors. Motorized exterior shades are great additions to patios and front porches alike. 

Build In Cell Reception

There are two things the Hamptons are notorious for, power outages and poor cell phone reception.  Just like you build in precautions for power outages, by installing generators, we suggest doing the same for cell service, using boosters.

There are two types of cell boosters, there are network specific boosters which are sold by the service provider, as well as multicarrier boosters.  For houses where you know who will be living there, the homeowner may opt for their carrier’s solution.  When building spec homes, HTE suggests using a multi-carrier device. 

Both options require wire runs to solution. Thus why it makes sense to  integrate cell boosters into the design during construction. 

Carrier Solutions  

The three major carriers, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint all have their own network specific solution. All of these boosters are the size of a router and get hardwired via an Ethernet cable turning the device into a private cell tower for the home and property. As you can see in the chart below, the features vary slightly depending on the carrier.

Sprint and AT&T require an additional service be added via the carrier plan in order to use Microcells/AIRAVEs. Once the service is activated, they offer unlimited calling and data usage that doesn't count toward the traditional usage limits. Verizon doesn't require a service, but all minutes and data used via the Wireless Network Extender are calculated into the user's monthly allowance.  

With AT&T, each device must be registered in order to access the Microcell and they don't offer an open network for guests. Sprint gives the owner the option to leave it open, or restrict accesses. Restricted access is limited to 50 registered users. Verizon is open access, while it does have a restricted mode, it's not locked. By passers can't gain access to other users' devices through these open extenders, but they can join the open network, counting as one of the active users.

Non Carrier Solutions

There are a number of cell boosters that use wifi to enhance cell signal regardless of carrier. Most of these devices work with Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, US Cellular, Datajack/Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS. These solutions tend to allow for more active users at a time, but are usually a bit more expensive.

Advantages:

  • No additional service to your plan to use these (they work like Verizon's Wireless Network Extender, counting as part of the traditional plan's usage).
  • The house is wired with a more versatile solution.

What's New In Under 2: June Tech Update

Home Automation and Electronic Decor

Apple Announcements

Windows 10 

  • July 29th
  • Last version of windows

Video

Are Outdoor Products Necessary?

There is no denying outdoor electronics are more expensive. In fact an  outdoor television is twice as expensive as a standard (indoor) TV.  We are often asked about installing a standard television located under a covering of some sort (patio, hood, inside of a media lift) as a substitute for an outdoor TV.  So, can it be done? 

OUTDOOR TELEVISIONS ARE DESIGNED AND TESTED TO DO FOUR THINGS TYPICAL TELEVISIONS CANNOT:

  • Be seen in areas with higher ambient light
  • Withstand the elements
  • Operate properly in extreme temperatures
  • Comply with building codes for external use

BE SEEN IN BRIGHTER AREAS

Let’s be clear, no television is going to give you an amazing picture in direct sunlight.  In fact even manufactures of outdoor TVs suggest avoiding direct sunlight, or adding a hood, to help protect the screen (and of course to see it better).  So could you increase a standard television’s brightness, cover it, and see just as well?  Yes.

 

WITHSTAND THE ELEMENTS

Most people associate this with water, usually rain and snow.  Yes, rain and snow will ruin standard electronics, as will extreme humidity.  (This is why waterproof televisions are installed in bathrooms and kitchens).  So why can’t we just use a waterproof TV?  Because outdoor televisions are also designed to withstand wind and airborne particles, such as pollen, that can also cause damage. 

So what if you put a standard display someplace that is covered?  You will be able to see it better, it will keep out the water and drastically reduce the amount of wind and pollen the display is exposed to.  Will that work?  Maybe, it depends on how well protected it is.

 

OPERATE PROPERLY IN EXTREME TEMPERATURES

Standard televisions function properly at room temperature.  Think back to the days when flat panels first came out, remember how large and sometimes noisy the fans were?  Remember how hot they got?  There is a reason even the most stylish outdoor TVs are never as sleek as their interior counterparts, they need to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, which requires larger fans and heaters.

When electronics get too hot, they overheat which quickly destroys the internal components.  In freezing temperatures, the liquid crystals in the screen (like most liquids) expand, which can cause distortion beyond repair or cracking.  Additionally, temperature changes can cause condensation within the unit leading to water damage.  

Now think back to withstanding the elements, the solution was to protect the display.  Often times this involves some sort of enclosure.   Can you properly protect a standard display from the elements and various temperature changes to the same level as an outdoor television? No.

 

COMPLY WITH BUILDING CODES FOR EXTERNAL USE

Not only will a standard television located outside not be covered by warranty, it won’t be up to building codes. Why does this matter?  When water is introduced to electricians not only can it damage the products, but it has the potential to start a fire. We’re not trying to be over-dramatic, but the possibility that precipitation or condensation could result in flames is an issue that shouldn’t be ignored.  Can an standard television be held to the same standards, thus giving you the same sense of security? No.

 

OUR ANSWER

We understand why the question is asked, but the answer is we recommend against it.

The Importance of Exterior Lighting Design

For years interior lighting design had been getting all of the attention, but with more outdoor lighting options, that’s no longer the case.  

There are four main differences between lighting designers, such as those at Hamptons Landscape Lighting, and professionals who install lights. 

Designers Consider How Light Moves

A lighting designer doesn't just place a light.  The survey the area, take into consideration how light flows and reflects and design accordingly.  For example, a designer would never place a light directly over a reflective surface such as an outdoor counter top or grill unless the client specifically requested a reflection.  

Especially when working with water, the distribution of light and how it cascades with the pool or other aquatic design is essential. 

 

Designers Understand the Impact of Light

Light can strongly impact an area. Soft white light can be used to enhance the décor adding elegance, while colored light can be used to create a whimsical feel or specific design effect. Lighting designers understand that the role illumination plays and use that knowledge to attract and detract from areas while creating a specific mood.

 

Designers Consider How the Space is Used

Designers of all kinds (architects, landscapers, custom integrators) must adapt their vision around the homeowner and how the space will be used.  A designer would place a control in a far corner where it would be difficult or inconvenient to use.  For large areas, exterior lighting is often incorporated  into automation systems for enhanced control and convenience. 

Exterior lighting designers must understand the space to ensure it is illuminated correctly.  For example a client may want colored lighting throughout his backyard. However if that client also wanted to read out on his patio, a lighting designer would suggest he either use color changing lights with a white option or add additional white lights by the patio, so he could read comfortably. 

 

Designers Create a Cohesive Area

It is important that all sections of an area look like they belong together. This can sometimes be difficult when using different materials in spaces that have different functions.  

Just like a landscaper transitions between the pool and the patio to create a natural flow and cohesive layout, so do lighting designers.  Different illumination types and fixture styles may be present in only specific sections, but the designer uses their knowledge of light to blend the areas, creating natural transitions. 


Note: Hamptons Landscape Lighting (HHL) is a division of HTE (home technology experts). 

Eye Catching Landscape Lighting

While there is no denying traditional white light provides an elegant aura, colored lighting and fiber optics are leading the way with eye catching one of a kind designs. With the establishment of HTE’s newest division, Hamptons Landscape Lighting, we are proud to offer a wide array of specialty lighting: 

Galaxy Pool Lighting

Using multiple fiber optic strands, we create a design in the base of the pool.  Due to the installation process, this can only be done during construction or when a pool is being resurfaced.  The fiber optics can also be used with colored fiber optic or colored LED pool lighting to create beautiful effects.

Galaxy Rocks

Use Galaxy Rocks and LEDs to create stunning designs in dry river beds, fountain accents, flagstone fillers, paver aggregates, rock gardens, bar counter tops, fire places, center pieces, and floor art.  The vibrant rocks will look great during the day and even better at night!

Illuminated Waterfalls

Illuminated waterfalls create a beautiful flowing sheet effect. The extraordinary combination of light and visual effect created by the fiber optic waterfall will provide a more animated and interesting landscape feature that brings your swimming pool to life. The waterfalls add a dramatic nighttime excitement that is breathtaking. 

Lightbender Laminars

Lightbender Laminars create totally clear, uniform arcs of moving water that originate from either your pool deck or surrounding landscape. At night, these translucent streams are brilliantly colored with an LED light source. The result is a water effect that adds an elegant bit of entertainment to your poolscape.

Features

  • Water arcs reach up to six feet high and project out six feet into your pool, spa, or other water feature.
  •  Installation is made flush to your deck or other surface; no unsightly or unsafe edges, just the magic of water erupting from a hidden source.
  • Nighttime color effects include the ability to hold a steady color, or control through a range of available colors. A serial, color-changing LED lighting system is at the heart of the Lightbender Laminars. It has a variety of distinct programs— synchronized, random, or party, and can freeze on a single color.

Full Color Fiber Optic Bubbler Lighting

Imagine a backyard filled with soothing sound and brilliant color. Brilliant Wonders LED Bubblers shoot streams up to thirty inches high in vivid LED colors. The cascading flume creates a natural sound and relaxing ambiance.

We use a full color lighted bubbler that creates exciting sights and sounds for spas, sundecks, swim-outs and steps. With a maximum depth of 9" under water, the bubbler provides "lighted bubbling" for water spouts in beach entries, sunshelves, steps, etc. 

Illuminated Spills and Fire Bowls

Fiber Optic Pool Spills and Fire Pots are used to create water features in pools, ponds, and anywhere you want water to spill and light up.  The features are fabricated with unique concrete fiber optic pots with single, double and triple spouts. 

Fire Pots come in all shapes and sizes, and will fit in almost any space, large or small. Starry sparkles and dancing fire demands attention as the focal point of a backyard, or it can simply accent your outdoor design. Have fun creating your own outdoor experience with our one of a kind fiber optic fire pots.

Dock Lighting

Light is invaluable everywhere, not just on land. Use dock lighting to get the functionality of illumination in a stylish manner, instantly making the water's edge safer.