As a kid, did you ever dream of living in a futuristic, space-age city? Like the Jetsons and their neighbors, your abode would have a robot for a housekeeper and a moving sidewalk. You’d communicate by screen instead of by phone, and you’d accomplish everyday tasks at the push of a button.
Well, the reality of a technology-driven home is a lot closer than you might think. As we spend more and more time tuned in to our gadgets, it’s natural that our living spaces get hooked up to the grid. We talked with local audio-visual companies to find out more about the growing popularity of the digital home—and got some great ideas for incorporating tech into your own modern living space.
For many years, a multi-room home music system involved lots of big speakers, complicated wiring and a huge deck for CDs. Not anymore, says Alex Lelchuk of Lelch Audio Visual, an area home entertainment company. “The systems are fully controlled by your smartphone, tablet or computer,” he says, and there’s no need to store discs—or even digital music files. Lelch’s most popular system is based on an easy-to-use app on your phone or tablet: Choose the room or area of the house where you want to listen to music, and select your tunes.
You can listen to music that you’ve stored on a computer or phone, says Lelchuk, or access streaming services like Pandora and Spotify. “Make sure you find out if your Internet speed is the best it can be,” says Bjorn McGillan, owner of Eden Prairie’s The Wire Masters. Streaming music and movies requires high Internet speed, so having a solid WiFi setup makes a big difference. Contact your provider or an audio-visual technician to help you assess. Then, sit back and enjoy—from Beyoncé to the Bee Gees, the sky’s the limit.
Movies and Television
“Home theaters aren’t necessarily this designated room with a 180-inch screen and a projector,” says Alex Lelchuk. “Now they can be your living room, and that’s the cool thing.” For a quick upgrade, he recommends investing in a new sound system. “Flat-screen TVS look nice, but the sound quality is usually poor,” Lelchuk says. These days, you don’t need much real estate for big screen-quality sound. Try a modern soundbar, which keeps a low profile under your TV and contains left, right and center speakers.
To help your gadgets communicate, try a universal activities remote, says Lelchuk. With a single click, choose your activity (watching cable, watching a movie and so on), and let the remote do the work. “The TV turns on, the stereo turns on, everything switches to the right channel,” he says. And if you’re tired of navigating a long list to find sports, kids’ programs or other channels, each family member can use the remote to store his or her favorites. Now that’s a harmonious home.
A digital entertainment system is big fun—but why stop there? You can harness technology to run some of your home’s basics, too: heating and cooling, lighting, and even a security system. “Controlling everything from your smartphone or device is becoming huge,” McGillan says. “It’s a pretty sophisticated system.”
Work with an audio-visual company to get things wired, and then let the magic happen. “You can log in [to your app] and look at a security camera, arm and disarm your alarm system, and turn the temperature up and down,” Lelchuk says.
Sushil Rana recently installed a full automation system at his home and sings its praises. “The remote-controlled automation is the coolest feature,” he says. For example, when Rana’s smartphone signals that he’s 3 miles from home (or another pre-set distance), his kitchen lights turn on and his thermostat kicks in to a specified temperature. “It brings efficiency,” he says, “so you’re not wasting energy when you don’t need it.”
Whether you’re ready for a fully digital house or just a quicker way to turn on the TV, you don’t have to take our word for it—the future is now.