IKEA ♥ Sonos

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IKEA ♥ Sonos

Ikea recently held its annual Democratic Design Days Conference  in Sweden and showcased the prototype and end product of it's first collaboration with Sonos. The Symfonisk will be released into Ikea showrooms in the second half of next year.

 Ikea's multi room music system powered by Sonos.

Ikea's multi room music system powered by Sonos.

The design itself is meant to be used within IKEA furniture (and has been designed to fit inside it's furniture range) or as a shelf itself, turning a speaker into a shelf is pretty cool, I think they are going to rethink what they will do with the power cord though as that's the only part of the design that looks out of place.

 Designing an IKEA speaker, powered by Sonos.

Designing an IKEA speaker, powered by Sonos.

The speaker works in an identical manner to the Play 1 and links into the Sonos app and multi room audio ecosystem.  Like the Play1 the speaker can be paired with another for stereo sound in your room, IKEA are imagining building in sound systems throughout your IKEA furnished home .

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Many people dream of built-in sound systems, but few can afford it. Our goal is to save space, get rid of cords, make clutter invisible and bring sound and music into the home in a more beautiful way”
— Björn Block, business leader for IKEA Home Smart
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From next year the 17 million+ people who visit the 400 IKEA stores worldwide should be able to purchase multi room audio, powered by Sonos, direct from the Superstore.  This is massive and shows that IKEA very much has it's eye on the Smart Home, they already have a range of (Philips Hue compatible/hackable) smart lights in stores now.

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Apple's World Wide Developers Conference - Smart Home Snippets

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Apple's World Wide Developers Conference - Smart Home Snippets

Apple's Developers conference was held last week and journalists were expecting an answer, or challenge, to Amazons and Googles dominance of the smart home world.  Many were left scratching their heads after what some called a 'snub' by Apple of the Smart Home - Ouch!

 The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference for 2018

The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference for 2018

Digital Trends asked if Apple were just late to the Smart Home Party or just not turning up, Bill Roberson asking why new Smart Home Tech was MIA from the conference.

Homekit did manage to make a very brief showing, mainly in the form of a new app called Shortcuts for Siri and Homekit finally dropping on Apple MacOS when Mojave hits the (digital) shelves.

Shortcuts
Shortcuts is Apples new app on iOS 12, Shortcuts will use Siri to perform actions based on custom phrases.  For example "turn on music upstairs" would turn on the music upstairs, "unlock all doors" could unlock all the doors in your house (in both examples the controlled hardware would have to be Homekit enabled.  This will work on all iOs devices, Homepod and the Apple Watch.  

Apples demonstration included very basic home automation such as "Turn on fan" and "set thermostat to 70 degrees", things that you have been able to do with Amazon's Alexa and Google's Home from literally Day One and indeed can do currently with Siri.  There was some confusion how this ties into the Siri / Apple Homekit ecosystem, you can already do these things within it, perhaps this just allows you to tailor the words/phrases used to command those routines.

 Tim Cook at Apples WWDC 2018

Tim Cook at Apples WWDC 2018

Most importantly and in my eyes the (only) jewel in the crown for Apples Smart Home ecosystem is the ability to finally use Home on MacOs - Command your home from your desktop.  This should have been there from Day One and is the one thing that in my mind elevates the Apple Smart Home platform in any way above the Google and Amazon competition.

 Home App on MacOs Mojave

Home App on MacOs Mojave

Up until now Home app has only been available on the iOs devices, so you could use your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch to set up and control your Smart Home.  It makes infinitely more sense to be able to sit down at a proper computer (with a keyboard and mouse) and set this all up, even if you decide to only use the touchscreen devices to control it all afterwards.

This is where Apple could really excel, the Amazon Alexa app is too broad and complicated and the same goes for the Google App, they both aren't particularly suited to managing a Smart Home, especially via desktop.  

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Amazons 4k FireTV Cube (with Alexa)

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Amazons 4k FireTV Cube (with Alexa)

Amazon has announced a new addition to the Fire TV family:  Their line of streaming components for Television, Movies, Video and music.  The Amazon Fire TV cube is an Alexa powered miniature set top box that can be controlled by voice, send IR commands with the integrated IR blasters and control your TV, it even has a built in speaker.

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On top of this its an Ultra HD 4k at 60fps (frames per second) device, meaning you will be able to watch ultra High Definition programming.  Talking about programming, Amazon are promising access to over 500,000 movies and TV shows available from Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, HBO, SHOWTIME, NBC, and more.

 Amazons 4K HDR Capable FireTV Cube

Amazons 4K HDR Capable FireTV Cube

Soundwise the FireTV cube features Dolby Atmos.

With Alexa on Fire TV Cube, you can control compatible TVs, sound bars, cable and satellite boxes, and A/V receivers.

 

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Beam Me Up Scotty

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Beam Me Up Scotty

Sonos have a new mini-soundbar out, it's called the Sonos Beam and it is being billed as the  smart, compact soundbar for your TV.

It Plays music, TV, movies, and can be grouped with your other Sonos music system. Featuring clear dialogue from speech enhancement technology. Easily pairs with your TV & remote and Airplay/iOS devices and features Amazons Alexa voice control.

Sonos has designed this mini-sound bar for smaller home theatres and wanted it to be smart, sound great and give users that Sonos sound they like so much.

So how does it work? You can listen to all your favourite streaming services, command your smart home with Amazons Alexa and group it together with your other Sonos speakers and amplifiers for party mode.  The new soundbar works with ARC HDMI so it's a single cable to your TV (ARC stands for Audio Return Channel).

We should see the Sonos Beam here in Thailand and SE Asia around July/August time, it's a great looking piece of kit and even though it's small it uses passive radiators to give the feeling of a much larger speaker.  It will be ideal in small-mid size media rooms, lounges and living areas.

 The Sonos Beam features an array of speakers and passive radiators.

The Sonos Beam features an array of speakers and passive radiators.

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When Smart Homes go Wrong - Stalked by the Ex

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When Smart Homes go Wrong - Stalked by the Ex

Forgive me for the title of a new semi-regular look at what can happen in a smart home when things go wrong, or in this case someone abuses their login to surreptitiously spy on their ex wife.

In a recent UK case covered by the Telegraph (at the end of the article I will give some recommendations as to how to handle your smart home if something similar happens to you.

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Jealous husband used wall-mounted iPad in his 'smart home' to spy on estranged wife, court hears 

Jealous husband used a wall-mounted iPad to spy on his estranged wife 

A jealous husband used a wall-mounted iPad that controls the heating and lights in his home to spy on his estranged wife a court has heard.

Electronics expert Ross Cairns, 35, monitored the movements and conversations of spouse Catherine by logging into a static device remotely using his mobile phone.

The wall-mounted iPad had been installed by the couple as part of a home automation system at their house allowing them to access lighting, central heating and the alarm system when not at home.

But after they split up and Cairns moved out, he used an app on his iPhone to log into an audio facility on the iPad so he could eavesdrop undetected as 33-year old accountant Mrs Cairns talked of their crumbling marriage.

On one occasion when Mrs Cairns told her mother she no longer loved her husband, the father of two suddenly turned up on the doorstep and repeated the conversation she had just had, saying: "Oh, you don't love me any more."

He also hacked into Mrs Cairns' accounts on Facebook and the dating app Bumble and sent an intimate picture and obscene messages to men she had been chatting with online.

The details of the incidents emerged as Ross Cairns was convicted of offences of stalking.

Manchester magistrates' court heard the the couple had been married for 16 years and had two daughters now aged five and three.

Mrs Cairns told the hearing: "He repeated the conversation that I had with my mum. He said 'oh, you don't love me any more'. I told him that I would ring the police. I rang his mum to come to get him."

Mrs Cairns switched off the camera facility on the iPad and brought in an IT engineer to change the password on the system so Cairns could no longer access it - but the court heard he still logged in remotely.

Whilst she was on holiday she found her Bumble account had been blocked due to "inappropriate content" and discovered an intimate photo had been posted on her profile.

Prosecutor Neil White said: "They lived in a 'smart house' with various aspects of the property connected by an iPad-like device, including the alarm, lighting and heating.

"He has been accessing the system when they were living separately and listened in on conversations. We submit that hacking into her phone to send messages, and listening in on conversations is stalking."

Cairns had denied wrongdoing, claiming he only accessed the home system to change the lights or adjust the volumes on the TV and not to view into the house. 

However, he was convicted of offences of stalking between August and November of last year and of using threatening behaviour towards his wife.

Cairns will be sentenced in June.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/10/smart-home-stalker-jealous-husband-used-wall-mounted-ipad-heating/


This was an Elan home automation system tied into a wall mounted iPad but most smart homes have similar systems.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, the owner of a smart home , and your partner is estranged, an ex or no longer welcome then these are some steps that you should take.

First - Change your password for you personal email address, that way any changes to systems or contact you have with others will be your information alone.

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Next - Get in touch with the installation company who installed the system, ask to speak to the owner or a senior manager and explain the situation and ask them to send an engineer to come and change all the passwords, permissions, login codes etc... for all the systems.  If there is anything they are not responsible for then find the company responsible and do the same (for example the Alarm/CCTV company).  If you feel wary or harbour suspicion they are still talking to or getting your ex involved, engage another company or engineer directly.

Change all the passwords and login information for any services you use, music, movies, tv, everything.  Ring up your internet service provider (ISP) and ask them to come and reset or install a new modem/router with a new password and factory fresh settings - Your ex may have opened up ports and be able to dial into your home network from wherever they are,

Finally make sure that you contact the police if you think it necessary.

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Netflix/Spotify and Chill

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Netflix/Spotify and Chill

Netflix and Spotify are slowly becoming ubiquitous in the online streaming category, even over here in Thailand.  Today on the Thaiger website (previously the Phuket Gazette) is details of exactly what they are offering, how much it is and what the benefits are of Netflix and Spotify here in Thailand.

https://thethaiger.com/lifestyle/netflix-spotify-and-chill-navigating-the-brave-new-world-of-music-and-tv

Also there are some user figures and content spend that might raise a few eyebrows.

Here is the text of the article...

 Netflix has over 125 million subscribers.

Netflix has over 125 million subscribers.

"Subscription movies and music services are booming, in particular Netflix which has over 125 million users worldwide and Spotify which has over 70 million paying users.

The subscription model is where you pay a monthly fee and are entitled access to media which is streamed via the internet, rather than buy a physical CD/DVD, an album from iTunes or pay for local satellite TV service. In these subscription models like Netflix and Spotify it’s all accessed through your wi-fi or internet instead.

Why are subscription based services on the ascendancy?

Owning physical and storage media can be expensive. Why buy a digital copy of a single movie or CD? When for the same price you can buy access to almost any movie or music for the whole month?

It’s not just driven by cost, Netflix will spend around US$8 billion on content this year – much of it unique to the Netflix service. At the same time Spotify is pioneering contextual playlists, that evolve based on current moods, activities or time.

 Spotify in Thailand costs 129 Baht a month.

Spotify in Thailand costs 129 Baht a month.

For Netflix currently in Thailand there are 3 subscription levels; ‘Basic’ at 280 Baht a month for Standard Definition on 1 screen, ‘Standard’ at 350 Baht a month for High Definition on 2 screens and ‘Premium’ at 420 Baht a month for 4K (ultra high definition) on 4 screens (so you can have people using the same subscription watching content on a smartphone, tablet and a couple of laptops plugged into TVs at the same time, for example).

Netflix has over 2,000 movies and 900 TV shows available to watch. At the time of writing a Platinum package from True Satellite costs 2,155 Baht +VAT per month.

Spotify has a free version that, unsurpisingly, doesn’t cost anything and a Premium subscription available at 129 Baht a month. Spotify has over 30 million songs available to listen to, including Thai music and playlists.

Currently Apple offer a similar subscription service (Apple Music) here in Thailand at a similar cost.

Whilst both Spotify (a Swedish company) and Netflix (a US company) have been streaming for less than a decade they are already influencing the way audiences watch and listen to content.

Many people like to binge watch TV shows. Netflix enables that by releasing entire series at once, so its subscibers can watch as many episodes in a row as they want. It makes waiting a week for the next episode seem almost archaic. You control when you watch whatever you want, when you want.

Netflix is also advert free, saving the average consumer from around 160 hours of adverts a year!! Their content can be as long or as short as the content-producers wish – Netflix don’t have to figure advert times into the schedule.

Spotify allows you to listen to others playlists and share your own, it’s this democratisation of the music library and indeed the whole system (artists can publish directly to Spotify without a record company deal) that makes it feel so fresh.

I’ve discovered so much new favourite music that I simply wouldn’t have found anywhere else. Spotify and similar services are lauded as saviours of the music industry, with record labels reporting their largest growth in revenues for over a decade, all down to subscription services and their new popularity.

There is one caveat, you must have internet for both – If you’re internet connection is down for the night then you wont be watching movies on Netflix, if it’s just slow or you have too many concurrent users then your movie will buffer, stutter and pause – annoyingly.

So whilst both are great services, make sure your internet is up to scratch and keep a few DVD’s in the cupboard, just in case."

 

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Sonos opens new Berlin Flagship Store

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Sonos opens new Berlin Flagship Store

Multi room audio experts Sonos have opened a brand new flagship store in Berlin, following in the same (or similar) footsteps of the Covent Garden store opened in London at the end of 2017.

 Sonos Berlin Store

Sonos Berlin Store

 Sonos London Store (Covent Garden)

Sonos London Store (Covent Garden)

Much like their earlier Covent Garden store this new German Flagship store is set out so that each of it's listening rooms is like a real room in a house.  It's hard to experience a sound system in a shop, traditionally stores showcase stereo systems in either badly setup rows and stacks of equipment for visual/merchandising or special acousticly treated rooms, neither of which is like any room you would have at home.

 

Sonos new Berlin Store

By utilising room pods Sonos are offering you the chance to listen to their music system in a setup that replicates real life home use as closely as possible within a retail shop environment.

We’re not just designing a store to sell speakers

Of course there’s a retail component, but we really want to create a space where we can host events, spark conversations, bring people together and inspire them to listen out loud.
— Sonos Art Director - Julia Jeanguenat
 Sonos Flagship Store in Berlin

Sonos Flagship Store in Berlin

The pods that have been dubbed ‘Houses’ by Sonos are designed to simulate real life spaces with the feel of a bedroom, living room and kitchen.  The booths have specially designed soundproof doors and stylish decor and art from local artists.  Key to each experience is a tablet that lets listeners select, choose and control their music - The main selling point of the Sonos ecosystem.

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Dream Home Cinema Handover

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Dream Home Cinema Handover

Hans approached H3 Digital after purchasing a Laguna Homes house in Phuket, Thailand. He had a dream that he could house his extensive collection of rare, model Ferrari cars and at the touch of a button convert the room into a fully fledged home theatre.

 Home Cinema Bar Area.

Home Cinema Bar Area.

We custom designed a 7.1 THX Home Cinema (Front Left, Front Right, Centre, Side Left, Side Right, Rear Left, Rear Right and Subwoofer) which was then  paired with a motorized screen that dropped down in front of Hans’ display cabinet.  This specially designed cabinet house dhis collection of model Ferrari cars so he could enjoy his two favourite pastimes in the same room.

 Hans loves using his home cinema.

Hans loves using his home cinema.

We designed the front Klipsch speakers and subwoofer into a solid concrete surround to eliminate any vibrations to the display case. Philips Hue coloured Smart Lights complete the cinema experience and highlight his Ferrari collection, it’s all controlled from the Harmony Elite universal remote or his iPhone.

 Hans relaxing in his home cinema with a H3 Handover Pack.

Hans relaxing in his home cinema with a H3 Handover Pack.

If you'd like to enjoy watching movies in your very own cinema like Hans then get in contact with H3 Digital, we install home cinemas in Thailand (Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Bangkok) and Myanmar.

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Coffee Shop Sonos

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Coffee Shop Sonos

My wife recently opened up a coffee shop in Chiang Mai and asked for my assistance in setting up a ridiculously easy to use system that she'd never have to touch or worry about.  

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The answer was pretty obvious (to me).  She wanted something that sounded fantastic but that she wouldn't have to fiddle with. We coupled a Sonos Connect:Amp with a set of Roth Oli RA1 Stereo Bookshelf Speakers mounted directly to the walls.  These promised great sound and enabled us to use some of the Sonos cleverest features.

It had to be music but Incredibly simple was the main customer requirement - we solved this requirement by seting up a Sonos Alarm to come on every Mon-Fri at 8:00am for 9 Hours until she closes at 5:00pm.  Linked in to her Spotify account with a coffee shop playlist she can easily add and change music to her Spotify playlist from wherever she wants.

The music starts in the morning "as if by magic" and then stops just as she's closing up shop, I have a very happy customer (and wife) and her customers get to listen to a good selection of great sounding music.

Coffee Shop
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Chiang Mai Coffee Shop.jpg

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Amayen a Sanctuary of Sound

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Amayen a Sanctuary of Sound

This week saw us up at Chiang Mai near the Doi Saket Hot springs at the invitation of Miguel from Amayen Sanctuary.  This beautiful hotel resort is a wellness haven to contrast the modern world with all it's hustle and bustle.

They offer a variety of relaxation and transformative guided meditation and Yoga with delicious organic plant based food, traditional massage all thrown in with a splash of comfort.

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Miguel was looking to add some new age ambiance to the resort and asked us if we could come up with some ideas for non-obtrusive speakers and sound, so that music could be played throughout the resort without sounding like a Disco.

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We offered a mix of Rock speakers and architectural in-ceiling speakers from Nuvo Technologies and Roth Oli Bookshelf Speakers.

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Handover of Music System

The result is beautiful, serene music piped throughout the resort unobtrusively - Most guests would find it hard to pick out the speaker locations or even see the rock speakers.  The more they get weathered, rained on or muddy the less discernable they become, within 6 months you wont be able to tell whats rock and whats speaker.

Rock Speakers

Find out more about Amayen at www.Amayen.com

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Apple Airplay2 coming to Sonos (mostly)

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Apple Airplay2 coming to Sonos (mostly)

Sonos yesterday shared a on it's blog a post detailing their integration with the upcoming Airplay 2 standard from Apple.

If you have a Sonos speaker, amplifier (Sonos Connect:Amp) or pre-amp (Sonos Connect) you will be able to listen to music just by clicking on their phone or asking Siri to put it on.  But only if you have the newer Sonos speakers like Play:5, Playbase and Sonos One, and (future Sonos products). When you group one of these Airplay-enabled speakers with older Sonos devices, you can bring AirPlay capabilities to your entire Sonos system.

 Apples Airplay 2

Apples Airplay 2

Sonos state;

As a Sonos owner, you’ve grown accustomed to these devices improving over time through software. As the hardware in newer products has advanced, we’re extremely proud to have introduced new features and services–like Audible and Spotify direct-control– to our entire lineup of speakers. Many of you have Sonos gear that’s over a decade old and is still getting better every day.

But like with laptops and mobile phones, sophisticated new features sometimes require new hardware. For example, adding voice control to the Sonos system required us to build a microphone into Sonos One. Thanks to the way we’ve architected the system, adding just one Sonos device with voice capability means you can now control your whole Sonos system with your voice, including those older devices that didn’t have a microphone built in when we first released them years ago.

AirPlay 2 works in a similar way. The computing platforms and software architecture in some of the older Sonos players like Play:3 and Play:1 simply don’t have the horsepower to support AirPlay 2. The original Play:1, for example, has about 1/16th the processing power of its modern equivalent, the Sonos One. But by taking advantage of newer Sonos hardware, we’re able to make AirPlay 2 content available throughout the house on speakers old and new.
— Sonos Blog

Which all sounds great, except now the Sonos Platform is being broken into can-do and can't-do pieces, which is going to get confusing for many and frustrating for others.

 Apples Airplay 2

Apples Airplay 2

So in reality, only the newer speakers work properly with Apples Airplay2, the rest of your Sonos hardware can basically listen in - by being grouped with that zone, which is basically a bit of a cumbersome bodge if you ask me.  Of course they can listen to whats playing on another zone, thats the whole idea of the system - Except that now if you want to control the system through your Apple gear it's not going to work properly if you have older devices.

The Sonos Blog goes on to state;

This kind of innovation is unique in the technology industry. Can you imagine being able to buy a new phone that brings new functionality to your old phone? Not all Sonos speakers can support all the latest features, but through the magic of software, thoughtful system design, and a general disdain for forced obsolesce, we’ll do our best to make sure your investment in Sonos truly gets richer and more immersive over time.
— Sonos Blog
 Only 2 of the above components will work with Airplay2.

Only 2 of the above components will work with Airplay2.

Which in reality is a bit of a kick in the teeth to most owners who have a bit of (or any) technical knowledge.  Their new speakers aren't bringing functionality to the older ecosystem, they are sharing their music to a group.  Much the same as I can plug a CD Player into my Sonos ZP100 and share it to any other Sonos component by grouping them.  It's not new functionality, sharing whats playing on one component to another, its the premise of the whole system - except now it's going to be borked if you try to use it with AirPlay2.

 

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Networks are Ubiquitous in the Smart Home

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Networks are Ubiquitous in the Smart Home

u·biq·ui·tous
adjective
present, appearing, or found everywhere.

Our origins began with networking, we started the company up nearly 15 years ago after being brought in to wire home technology, at that time mainly wired networks and control systems into Villas in Phuket. At that time we had to import all of the Network Infrastructure Products into Thailand, Cat-6 cable, Gigabit Networks, Switches and Routers.

Home networking has always been a bit of a dark art, drilling down DOS command lines in windows to see what IP addresses are on the network, not much fun.

 Ubiquiti Networking Products

Ubiquiti Networking Products

Starting this year we have begun offering the very well thought of Ubiquiti Networks range of products, including the security gateway (router), powered and unpowered switches, access points and their range of IP Cameras.  Home networks are now complicated and congested and the Unifi controller (a web based GUI) that works with the Ubiquiti gear is a godsend.

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With the Unifi GUI we are able to track what individual IP Addresses and MAC addresses are doing and see in realtime exactly what's happening across the network.  We can rename all the network connections user friendly names and administer the network in a much more useful manner. 

 Ubiquiti GUI (Graphical User Interface)

Ubiquiti GUI (Graphical User Interface)

Ubiquiti networks are a game changer in the home network space, recently suffering from a rash of Spotify connection problems with my Sonos music system these disappeared immediately on upgrading my own home to all Ubiquiti Network Gear.  I could see exactly what all of my networked equipment was doing at a glance.

 Ubiquiti IP Cameras

Ubiquiti IP Cameras

We will be recommending Ubiquiti equipment with new installs when customers want us to help design and build their home networks, it's a little pricier than off-the-shelf consumer equipment but definitely worth it - to have a more robust and customisable network.  Especially when you consider how much of our entertainment, private and work lives is so reliant on the internet.

 

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