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Author: GMI Automation

Automation to Prepare Your Vacation Home for the Off Season

As the calendar inches closer and closer to Labor Day Weekend, and school supplies begin to line the shelves in area stores, it becomes more and more apparent that summer is nearing its end. For our luxury homeowner clients this can bring headaches, preparing to protect and restore vacation homes for the fall and winter months. Pools, landscape work, heating and cooling systems, and other vital home systems need to be prepared for the off season, quickly turning the end of the summer into a chore. Luckily, GMI and the #DoneRightNotEasy crew help solve many of these issues for our clients with our simple and reliable Crestron automation systems.

Swimming Pools

While you should always hire a licensed and experienced pool operator to winterize your swimming pool effectively and safely, automating part of your pool ecosystem into your Crestron system will help ensure a worry free off season. Armed with the proper knowledge and ability to work closely with vendors of all kinds, GMI has learned the ins and outs of providing full swimming pool automation. Allowing you to use the pool heater to automatically adjust the temperature based on the weather forecast, or have the automation system instantly trigger a pool chemical feed based on pool conditions.

Energy Use

When the #DoneRightNotEasy crew builds out a Crestron control system, energy efficiency is at the top of our priority list. Shading and lighting systems are central to this principle, as a connected lighting control system reduces energy consumption through dimming lights to use only the necessary energy, and harnessing the energy of the sun through light sensors and motorized window shades. These factors are essential to protecting your vacation home and keeping energy use low while you are away for weeks at a time. Other automation solutions rely on direct user interface in order to adjust and monitor these environmental systems, but GMI understands that our end users time is valuable, so we create and program systems to work effortlessly in the background leaving the end user to focus on their primary residence.

Security and Back End Support

It goes without saying that protecting your vacation property from robbery or vandalism is incredible important. This is one of the many reasons that all of our automation systems are integrated into monitored security systems. The protection doesn’t stop there, since your vacation home is unoccupied for weeks or months at a time, back end system maintenance becomes vital to keeping things safe and secure. This comes in the form of proactive monitoring systems which keep track of the system and notifies us of any device failure or latency. They can even be programmed to notify of negative trends, allowing us to address system failure before it happens. Even greater is the the ability to remotely access the system and address issues regardless of how far away we are from the physical location. Since our systems are comprehensively documented, if an issue pops up when your vacation home is unoccupied we can oftentimes address and repair without you worrying about keeping track of the system yourself.

The last thing on a busy luxury homeowners mind during the last weeks of summer is how their vacation home will be maintained during the off season. In the end, our custom build Crestron automation systems are about creating a simple more efficient life for our end users, allowing them to enjoy the vacation home for which they work hard all year.

Video Conference Overhaul Update

GMI and the #DoneRightNotEasy crew are no stranger ambitious and large scale projects. We pride ourselves on the ability to build customized automation, network, and communication systems for our clients, at the highest level in the industry. Our expertise has gained us access to some of the highest profile homes and businesses in the country, and financial companies more often than others have sought us out to handle projects for them after other integrators have failed. Recently we previewed the total overhaul of the video conference system for a large financial company with offices in New York City, New Jersey, San Diego, Florida and Texas. Today we will be looking at our progress on this job, and how we use our tools to manage a project with this type of geographic scope.

New York City Office

Our client’s New York City office is their newest location, and is currently being built in the extremely high profile One World Trade building. As one can imagine, the security and access control in this building is at the highest level. This becomes a challenge when attempting to bring control equipment, monitors, wires, and other hardware needs on and off site when they are needed. The extensive planning and documentation we employ on every project allows us to plan ahead effectively to ensure that these additional levels of security are navigated properly by our team on the ground.

Working in high rise buildings not only requires proper organization and logistics, it also requires a deep level of knowledge of the type of space. Unlike a home or a stand alone office building, where we can take control of the entire site, high rise projects means working closely with the building management, as well as an army of already existing vendors and contractors. Many less experienced integrators lack the site management skills needed to excel in this environment.

San Diego Office

Despite being based in New Jersey, our work routinely brings us to some of the most high profile homes and offices up and down the east coast. However bringing a crew across the country to handle a large job is a logistical challenge for even the best in the business. We are able to tackle this due to our ability to plan ahead with our team to ensure that the appropriate engineers are on site at the appropriate time, accounting for travel, tools and equipment.

The ability to do this and do it successfully comes from the unique way in which we build and manage our team. While our engineers each have their individual fields of strength, we take time to cross train each engineer on every aspect of the project allowing us to work more effectively as a unit while simultaneously drawing from each of our individual strengths. In addition our organization and experience allow us the flexibility and tools to send teams across the country without losing quality or efficiency.

Both working in a stunning New York City skyscraper and managing a remote team across the country require a high level of project management experience. Luckily for our clients the #DoneRightNotEasy crew has the experience and knowledge to be prepared for anything.

This project will continue into September, keep following along with the #CrestronDoctors blog for our next update as we continue to work to build this system for our client.

Automation Systems and Interior Design

When you work in the types of luxury spaces like the ones the #DoneRightNotEasy crew do, you are no stranger to stunning homes with beautiful views and even more beautiful automation technology. The interior design of a home is one of the most important items on many of our client’s agendas, and how the automation system will affect their overall design aesthetic is one of the main causes for concern we hear when meeting with clients for the first time. Today we will be discussing some of the ways we work together with clients to ensure the interior design of their home is as beautiful as the control system is reliable.

Effective interior design is no small task. A great interior designer takes into account many factors such as building codes, health and safety regulations, traffic patterns, floorplanning, electrical needs, interior fittings and furniture choice. These areas of course align directly with Crestron home automation, which routinely touches every part of the home in some way. Making interior design and home automation two very closely related disciplines.

As readers of this blog will know, GMI and the #DoneRightNotEasy crew strive pride ourselves in building beautiful, reliable and powerful Crestron control systems, and in doing so we take great care to maximize the usable space and maintain the interior design elements that meet the customer’s aesthetic. This starts with our system design, and with consolidated and centralized control racks. Rack consolidation starts with the removal of all video content devices from TV locations to a centralized control rack, immediately returning this valued space back to the homeowner for storage and aesthetic purposes, allowing devices and pieces of technology to be second to beautiful interior design.

When bringing a Crestron control system throughout a home, even after equipment is consolidated and centralized, work still needs to be done to ensure that all panels, switches and devices meet the specific interior design aesthetic of the end user. This makes wall real estate an incredibly important issue as well. Be it full screen control panels, lighting panels or even televisions, the design and look of a client’s wall requires careful planning when building out a full home automation system. One of the largest devices regularly mounted on walls are obviously television sets. Even the most flat panel high end television can be unsightly if it doesn’t match the aesthetic of the user’s home. Two ways we get around this this issue are by mounting televisions behind wall art, which can roll away at the touch of a Crestron remote button, or by deploying a projector system that drops down from the ceiling when ready to use.

As we have discussed many times, the true foundation of a great Crestron automation system is effectively designed, built and installed shading and lighting systems. GMI and the #DoneRightNotEasy crew’s commitment to a great looking home means that we work directly with you to select the appropriate shade patterns and lighting fixtures that meet your aesthetic. To do so we utilize our in house interior design specialist, who works with both the client and the crew every step of the way to ensure design elements are at their best.

It is clear that interior design and Crestron automation go hand in hand towards making a luxury home beautiful and comfortable. It’s easy to see why the combination of our experience, knowledge, and in house interior design specialist make GMI the right choice for not only a great automation system, but a beautiful home inside and out.

Understanding Wireless Networks for Effective Control

There’s no denying that we live in a wireless world. It seems that everywhere you turn there is a new device that is equipped with wifi designed to connect with other devices to make your life easy in some new way. With many different wireless devices bouncing around a home or office, it becomes increasingly more and more difficult to ensure a powerful and reliable wireless signal when it matters most. While on a smaller job, this may not be a problem, once you get into larger jobs wireless networks become an undertaking that can constantly fail, no matter how great your hardware is. This is GMI and the #DoneRightNotEasy crew take the extra steps in understanding and designing our Crestron control systems to work effectively with reliable Wi-Fi signals throughout the space.

The most important thing to understand about the ubiquity of wifi equipped devices and how they work together with your Crestron automation system, is that not all Wi-Fi is created equal. Wi-Fi routers and devices operate on one of two frequencies, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The primary difference between the 2.4 GHz and 5GHz wireless frequencies is range as the 2.4GHz frequency is able to reach farther than the 5GHz frequency. This is a result of the basic characteristic that waves attenuate much faster at higher frequencies. While 2.4 GHz frequency may travel farther, 5 GHz is a wider band that is more stable, carrying more data from more devices with less interference. Unfortunately though, there are many devices and situations that require the use of a 2.4 GHz frequency, making it unavoidable.

This is where having the appropriate training and experience with Wi-Fi and connected devices allows the #DoneRightNotEasy crew to effectively design a system for a large home or estate. While many of the primary devices in the Crestron control system will be hard wired, that doesn’t eliminate the end user’s need to have functioning and fast Wi-Fi on their handheld remotes, smart phones, tablets, and laptops when moving throughout the home. To ensure this, we take care to design our system properly to make sure that all wireless components can communicate properly with one another, and play nicely together. This means understanding the concept of co-channel interference.

Co-channel interference is where devices take turns talking, so the more devices on one channel, the longer it takes for a device to talk since it has to wait for its turn. This interference isn’t a major problem until there are too many WiFi devices on the same channel. Luckily, these interferences can be reduced or eliminated by selecting the proper WiFi channel. Each channel on the 2.4 GHz spectrum is 20 MHz wide. The channel centers are separated by 5 MHz, and the entire spectrum is only 100 MHz wide total. This means that the 11 available channels have to squeeze into the 100 MHz available, and in the end, overlap. However, there are three channels that don’t overlap: 1, 6 and 11. Understanding how the network at large as well as individual components are operating on the network, and which specific channels they are on, allow us to ensure the reliability of an end user’s wireless signal.

Issues can arise however long after we’ve left a job site, thanks to the ubiquity of wireless devices on the market. Accessing the network from the back end and using a spectrum analyzer, we can identify what frequency and what channel a particular device is operating on, and how it may be affecting the system at large. We can then reorganize the network devices onto the appropriate channels, restoring the system to it’s proper level of functionality.

Readers of this blog know how complicated a Crestron automation can be on their own .Adding the additional complication of reliable and stable Wi-Fi throughout a large job can create pitfalls that will trip up a less experienced integrator. GMI and the #DoneRightNotEasy crew have the knowledge, tools, and experience necessary to simplify your life through reliable and intuitive control, every single time you reach for a device.

4 Common Audio Video Distribution Mistakes

Crestron control systems, when built and designed properly, are powerful tools used to simplify and streamline not just a home, but the lives of the people inside. Shades, lights, environmental systems, security, and access control all combine to deliver simple, reliable and intuitive automation. What really sells many people on a powerful Crestron control system, though, is the ability to bring streaming audio and high resolution video throughout the home. Despite this, even the most experienced audio video professionals often wrestle with effectively designing and programming these automated systems, as a properly built Crestron system requires the years of experience and teamwork that only those at the level of the #DoneRightNotEasy crew can provide.

In our experience diagnosing, repairing and replacing these poor installs, we have seen first hand the many mistakes made by less experienced engineers, and today we will be highlighting 4 of the most common issues with distributed audio and video.

Source components not centralized.

When you bring video or audio source components, such as cable boxes, Apple TVs, or streaming devices, to a central location they are no longer locally connected to a specific device. This allows the end user to access any device from any screen or pantel in the home. These redundancies are also created to protect against failing equipment, if one piece of equipment fails the user is immediately moved to a backup device with zero downtime. We see all too often integrators and a/v professionals placing these components local to each room, cluttering the physical space and over complicating the system at large.

Failure to understand the needs of 4K

When your control and distribution system is dealing with high resolution 4K video, you inevitably run into issues with HDCP. Short for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, HDCP is put in place at the content level as a measure to prevent copying of digital audio and video content as it travels across connections. As digital piracy becomes more and more sophisticated, HDCP protocols change, which means control systems need to be built in such a way to accommodate these changes without the end user noticing. This is the number one point of failure for high end video distribution through Crestron control systems, and can only be combated by the proper programming and design of the automation system itself. Simply expecting 4K video to seamlessly stream to devices throughout the home is a recipe for failure.

Too much power to remote speakers

When integrating and distributing audio throughout a home or office, it is important to have a consistent sound quality and level throughout the space. Many other vendors will make the mistake of pushing out too much voltage from the system core, causing potential failure throughout. The reality is that proper distributed audio systems should be built around 70 and 100 volt systems, also known as “constant-voltage”, 70 Volt and 100 Volt speaker systems allow for long wire runs using small-gauge wire, and provide the potential for connecting numerous speakers per circuit. This technology allows us to run a single wire and hook up as many speakers to it as our heart desires, as long as we are putting out the proper wattage on the head end.

Not designing to expand

When building and programming our Crestron control systems, it’s important to anticipate the client’s needs even years down the line. This means building our systems with room to be expanded and upgraded, without sacrificing the user experience. Our code is written and the system infrastructures are built to allow for a video or audio component to be upgraded or replaced, without the end user needing to learn any new commands or build any new habits. The only difference to them will be the increased quality of their video or sound. Systems are segregated from one another and operated through a central control hub, which allows these upgrades and expansions to be done quickly and efficiently.

3 Ways GMI Automation Makes Your Vacation More Relaxing

As we enter August and the summer season begins to wind down, thoughts or sending the kids back to school and settling in for the autumn start to drift to our minds. This is perhaps why August is one of the most popular months for professionals to take family vacations, often up to two or three weeks at a time. When a homeowner hires GMI and the #DoneRightNotEasy crew, they know they are working with the best, which means when they go on vacation away from home, the last thing they need to worry about is their automation system.

Here are 3 ways that GMI automation makes your vacation more relaxing through our powerful Crestron control systems.

Access Control and Security

Leaving a luxury property for any amount of time can leave a homeowner stressed about protecting it from crime. Not only does GMI integrates all of our Crestron automation systems into top of the line monitored security systems, we also program our systems to know when the home is unoccupied. This allows the lighting and shading systems in the home to operate on a regular pattern which would deter would be home invaders. Integrated camera systems also allow users to look in on the property whenever they choose.

Integrated access control systems can also allow for housekeepers, pet sitters, or cleaning crews to gain entry to the home using preprogrammed codes. GMI has the knowledge to program the Crestron system in such a way that upon entering their code, the alarm system in only the parts of the home a crew would require access to is armed, while the remainder of the home would remain protected.This code is written directly into the Crestron control system, providing additional peace of mind to clients without having to worry about managing the process themselves. The user can even set up alerts so that if a scheduled visit is missed they are notified via text or email.

Environmental Efficiency

Rather than thinking of all the environmental systems of a home as separate and independent, the #DoneRightNotEasy crew looks at the home like a delicately balanced ecosystem. We combine all of the home’s systems to create the most comfortable, convenient and energy efficient home possible. Our systems are built from the ground up to properly manage power use at each and every component, ensuring not only the reliability of the control system, but also its effect on the overall energy efficiency of your home.

When away from the home for a prolonged period of time, these systems run behind the scenes to ensure your home temperature is kept regulated, and that power consumption is kept to minimal levels. Shading and lighting control, which form the foundation of any comprehensive automation system, are programmed to work directly with HVAC and other environmental systems to effectively manage the home ecosystem, even in the event of an unexpected storm or heatwave.

Concierge Level Customer Service

Perhaps the most important way we create peace of mind for our client’s during their well earned vacations is through our concierge level customer service. This includes proactive monitoring of their system to ensure we can stop issues before they happen, which allows our customers to rest easy knowing their Crestron automation system will be working properly even in their absence.

In the event that these preventive measures fail, causing any kind of system malfunction of failure, we have the ability to remotely access the system to address issues regardless of how far away we, or the client, are from the physical location.

So this August, while they beat the heat at a mountain get away or hit the beaches in a tropical paradise, our clients can rest easy knowing that their systems were built, monitored and maintained by GMI and the #DoneRightNotEasyCrew

Designing Systems to Maximize Space

When you work in a luxury environment, be it a condo, a home, an office, or an entire estate, it’s imperative that every inch of space be used effectively. Our clients invest a significant amount of money into their homes and work areas which means every part of the home carries significant value, and cannot be cluttered with unnecessary equipment. Through our extensive experience working with high end clients, GMI and the #DoneRightNotEasy crew understand this fact and design and build our systems with functionality, reliability and aesthetics at the front of our minds.

This effort starts with a core tenant of our installations, clean and consolidated control racks. Rack consolidation has many benefits, including reduction of failure points and ease of maintenance. Rack consolidation starts with the removal of all video content devices from TV locations to a centralized control rack, immediately returning this valued space back to the homeowner for storage and ascetic purposes.

The quest to effectively manage a client’s space takes on new meaning when working in high rises and condo buildings. In areas such as New York City’s upper east side both floor space and space for rack builds is at more of a premium than ever. To combat this on a recent job we designed and built a fully customized control rack to fit into the office closet of our client’s penthouse. This custom built system allowed our client to have complete Crestron control while still fully maximizing the value of their space.

Floor space is not the only thing on our client’s mind when it comes to an aesthetically pleasing control system. Wall real estate is an incredibly important issue as well. Be it full screen control panels, lighting panels or even televisions, the design and look of a client’s wall requires careful planning when building out a full home automation system. Hiding a television behind a piece of art is common practice in the automation and integration industry, but the #DoneRightNotEasy crew take it to the next level by regularly building custom mounting brackets and enclosures for equipment, ensuring these pieces are where the client wants them to be, not just where the system demands they be placed.

Of course none of this would be possible without proper consultation and documentation of a project. Failure to understand a client’s needs, especially regarding use of their space, can lead to a poor designed system. It is important to understand before the project begins what areas of both the floor plan and wall real estate are off limits, and which are available for use. When Crestron automation is customized and centralized in this fashion, proper documentation becomes even more critical for our engineers to properly manage and maintain the system health.

Case Study: Office Video Display Wall – Part 2

In part one of our case study on Crestron and Planar video display walls we discussed the benefits they can bring to a busy financial office, as well as the challenges and aspects that go into constructing such a complicated installation. Today we will be looking at a specific example of a video wall we constructed for a client’s luxury office, the challenges we encountered and the unique features we programmed for them.

Our client’s Miami Beach based financial office was looking for a video wall solution for a variety of reasons. Having already been contracted to set up automation and access control systems throughout their luxury office, we began the consultation and design for a 2×2 video wall as a main feature of the open office layout. Fast forward a few weeks and the construction of this video wall is complete, however upon seeing the finished product our client decides they needs a larger wall to fully complete their vision for the office..

A sudden change like this would stymie even an experienced crew of integration professionals, but the #DoneRightNotEasy crew was up to the task. We quickly mocked up a 4×4 solution on the same wall using Photoshop to get near instant approval from the client, allowing us to move forward right away. We then proceeded to move the 2×2 display around the corner to a perpendicular wall. This was no small feat, as it required a full infrastructure change on both the front and back end of the system; everything from new cabling, new mounting hardware, new everything. Power requirements and rack set up even had to be recalculated to ensure both displays would work at full capacity every time they were needed.

Once both walls were up and in place, it was time to begin the unique programming used to meet our client’s needs. As we discussed, when utilizing a four by four video wall you gain 16 screens of real estate to work with, and your options are vast. In the case of our client, they chose to divide this up into four primary quadrants, split between two news channels, a fully matrixed video conferencing system powered by ClearOne, and an interactive video shot of the entire secondary office located in New Jersey. These were not static displays, as users have the ability to drive and change the interface around depending on current needs. There is a drag and drop feature which allows a user to grab content from the top and release it instantly causing it to appear on the screen. This can be manipulated directly from custom built desktop panels, which also have the power to isolate audio from any source on the screen. Utilising a Crestron digital graphics engine, the display wall also had the ability to overlay images on top of the normal display, which would prove instrumental to the custom video conferencing platform we put together.

The video conferencing system connected to the video display and automation system is a thing of beauty. Every desk in the office is equipped with a microphone giving them a real real time connection to the New Jersey office. Due to the sensitive nature of work in the financial field, we wrote and installed special Crestron programming that allowed the tabletop microphones to be muted quickly, either at large or on an individual basis. This feature is illustrated on the video wall itself, as on the bottom right screen there is a graphical overlay of the desk layout featuring a color indicator showing which microphones are muted or active at any given time. This was not an out of the box feature, and required a back and forth conversation between the Crestron system, Planar monitors and Video conferencing software. Just another fully custom solution designed and programmed by GMI to ensure the needs of the end user are met beyond their wildest dreams.

In the end our client was over the moon about the power, utility and beauty of their Crestron powered Planar video display wall. The flexibility to change content, ability to pre-program based on user, and the real time connectivity of the video conferencing system would prove instrumental to their operations right away.

Case Study: Office Video Display Wall – Part 1

The modern office in the financial industry is a hotbed of activity, and in the digital age, information travels faster than ever before. To stay ahead of the news and market performance, many financial companies are choosing to bring streams of information into their offices in new and unique ways. One of the most popular features GMI and the #DoneRightNotEasy crew have been asked to install in modern connected offices have been interactive video display walls. The video display wall company of choice for GMI is Planar. When it comes to technology, service, and quality, we believe Planar is at the top of their game when it comes to video displays of all kinds, in the same way that Crestron dominates the world of automation technology.

Simply installing and mounting monitors and displays around an office is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Smart financial companies constantly have their eyes on the future, and In a busy and productive financial office, staying on top of the news and the market is the highest priority. This means having real time access to both computerized data, news media and video conferencing software at any given moment. A powerful and customizable video display wall is the modern aesthetic choice for future minded financial companies. A four by four video wall allows you to have 16 individual monitors in one place, usually broken up into four quadrants and built to stream any type of content that will give a financial firm an edge. A display of this type is usually divided into four quadrants, and using Crestron automation control can be manipulated and controlled in a variety of ways.

Properly designing and building a video wall isn’t for the faint of heart, and as with many of our projects, requires meticulous planning and execution throughout every stage of design and installation. The first step is to diagnose the amount of real estate on the wall you need to fill, which will determine the grid size and placement for the video wall components. During this phase it is also important to account for obstructions, as an ideal video wall should be visible from all parts of the office space. A proper understanding of space requirements helps build the foundation for the back end components required to run the video wall, as well as power requirements.

Once the back end wiring and components are in place, construction of the video wall itself can begin. Remember, this isn’t as simple as mounting a number of TVs on the wall and calling it a day. The mounting structure needs to be as plum and level as possible so that when screens go up they look like one seamless unit. This requires the proper tools and more importantly the proper skill levels to build and fine tune each individual panel. Once each panel gets put into place it needs to be leveled so that each screen aligns perfectly to the others, even if this is off by a mere centimeter people will notice and the effect will be lost.

As the screens go up and the display come together it becomes more and more important to handle everything with extreme care. Each display panel is an extremely sensitive piece of equipment with a small bezel. This means that even something as seemingly minor as using the wrong screw can break a display and force you to restart your measurements and work. In a piece of physical equipment with this many potential failure points during installation you need a team that is experienced and knowledgeable enough to know the ins and outs of the project. The ability for a team to work together as a unit to install such a complicated device is few and far between, which is why the #DoneRightNotEasy crew prides ourselves on working together to master every part of your job site.

In part two of this case study, we will take a look at a recent video wall installation and the challenges and unique aspects that made it shine.