Implementing the newest technologies into your home is the smartest thing you could do…
The incredible rise in popularity and market penetration of DVDs and games consoles, the plunging price of the personal computer and innovations in wireless technology have all come together to create a bonanza for the home renovator keen to get connected and plug in the latest gadgets and tech toys. And it’s not just media and entertainment: there’s also an increasing range of high-tech ways to hook up security lighting and heating, while technology is even making its way into the kitchen.
One of the biggest buzzwords around right now is broadband: a high-speed connection to the internet that’s always on — no dialling up.
There are a number of ways to get broadband. If you have cable pay-TV from Telstra or Optus, they can offer you cable broadband; otherwise the simple copper phone line can be used for a service called ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line). As well as Telstra and Optus there’s a host of other service providers that offer ADSL: most companies that offer dial-up internet such as iPrimus, OzEmail, TPG, iiNet and so on.
For those living a little further away from the metropolitan areas, ADSL may not be available, but there are satellite broadband service from Telstra and others that can be explored.
Now is a great time to hook up to broadband as there’s fierce competition and plenty of deals to be had. But be careful: read the fine print and make sure you’re getting enough “download” in your plan. If you’re intending to access music and video files, you’ll probably want an “unlimited” or all-you-can-eat plan. If you’re just wanting to surf the net and check emails or try the service before upgrading, one of the lower-priced plans may suit — but talk to your service provider first.
A broadband service is the first step to a home network, so this may be time to upgrade your computer. If you’re going to be downloading music and video check that you have sound cards and graphics cards as well as speakers – or you can hook your computer to your stereo or even your television.
The next step is a wireless router and other equipment. These are available from vendors like Linksys, Netgear and D Link and sold in electronics and computer stores as well as by some service providers.
A wireless router will attach to your broadband connection and act as a hub that enables you to connect a range of devices in the home to your broadband-connected computer. From there there’s a range of possibilities, but at a basic level it will allow to you connect a number of other computers to the same broadband connection. As well you can send files to your printer without troublesome wires and to your home entertainment equipment as well.
Media and Entertainment
More exciting are the possibilities around media and entertainment.
There are a growing number of internet sites where you can download music and video. While the portable iPod music device from Apple has led the way, already a raft of imitations from its competitors like Della, HP, Toshiba and Sony are emerging, and with them a range of new sites to download music from. Most big portals like ninemsn, Bigpond and Destra are quickly building their libraries.
There are also other sites where you can download feature-length films: check the main Hollywood movie studios such as Warner Bros., Miramax, Columbia and Universal.
The Media Link developed by Linksys connects to a wireless home network and provides access to thousands of global internet radio stations and support for music-streaming services. With optional speakers, the Media Link can also extend the same music to areas of the home without a stereo like the kitchen, patio or bedrooms.
Equipped with an embedded LCD screen, this Wireless-B device sits by a home stereo system and connects by standard RCA cables or optical SPDIF cable for 100 per cent digital operation. Users can select songs, playlists and services on the built-in display. The device is operated with an easy-to-use infrared remote control or by scrolling through music lists and songs with the buttons on the device itself.
“The Linksys Wireless-B Media Link for Music is the newest addition to our Wireless Home product line,” Brian Allsopp, Regional Manager, Linksys, Australia and New Zealand told Extend.
“Linksys is focused on expanding the range of application for wireless home networking to deliver more value to our customers. Making home networking fun and easy to use for the entire family is important to us.”
Wireless networks are also easy targets for hackers or security attacks, so make sure you get advice on how to configure security protocols like WEP or WPA at the router and at your computer to help prevent intrusion.
For those into games, try the emerging range or wireless game adapters which will give any network game console wireless capability.
If you have a home wireless network with a cable or ADSL connection, the game adaptor lets your PlayStation2, Xbox or GameCube attach to the network so you can get into online games without running wires to the game room. Alternatively you can use a pair of game adaptors to form a connection between two game consoles for head-to-head gaming anywhere in the house.
For the security-conscious it’s also worth exploring the growing range of home security solutions available using sensors or video cameras. Once again many of these can now be accessed remotely over the internet and some providers are now enabling alerts to be sent to mobile phones. There are easy-to-use touch-screen panels for simplified centralised control of the home for entertainment, lighting, security, climate control and local surveillance systems which may be viewed in-house on TVs — for example, you can watch the pool from kitchen TV or via the internet. There are hundreds of security specialists in all cites to help design and install a system for your needs.
In this vein, there are also a range of lighting control systems for one-touch control of whole-house lighting and home theater lighting, one-touch control of lighting to provide mood lighting or dimming control, one-touch lighting of pathways throughout the home and remote house-light control from car. Again, these can be installed and designed so they can be accessed and controlled remotely via the internet or even a mobile phone.
Technology is now making its presence felt in the kitchen. Much has already been written about the internet fridge, the flagship product from South Korean technology powerhouse LG, but LG has a whole range it calls the Internet Family. As well as the fridge there’s a microwave, a washing machine and an air-conditioner.
Once again the internet is the key: all the products can be operated using the internet so you can interact with them from the office, a laptop computer or even an internet-enabled mobile phone.
Now appliance maker Salton has released a range of smaller appliances with neat technology interfaces. Salton, which houses the famous whitegoods brand Westinghouse, has begun releasing its range of products for the 21st century.
Many of these use a products barcode to feed information into the unit. For the Beyond microwave there’s no more guesswork: just scan the barcode on your food package and the Beyond Microwave Oven does the rest. In the same way, the Beyond Bread Maker: simply can the bread mix and pop in it in the machine. Just like the Jetsons.
For more information go to www.archicentre.com.au