Integrating Facial Recognition in to Security Systems & Home Automation

In recent years biometric finger print access has been used to replace security codes and security alarm fobs for convenience and heightened security. However we always been slightly uncomfortable with this approach – imagine an ultra high networth individual with a stunning art collection – how far would a determined thief go to access the property? The logical conclusion is removal of the clients thumb or finger to gain access. This may sound far fetched but a lot of our clients are kidnap risks and have huge amounts of wealth and property stored in their homes.

Facial recognition removes a lot of these challlenges and we are a lot more comfortable specifying these systems due to them not relying on a customers finger or thumb! They also benefit from being a lot more reliable and secure – it is a win win!

Facial Recognition - Facial Recognition Security Systems
Using Facial Recognition in Security Systems & Home Automation

Benefits of Integrating Facial Recognition

The benefits of facial recognition can be huge and we have listed a few examples below:

  • Automated Door Locks – simply looking in to a wall mounted camera can unlock doors and gates automatically. By the time a client reaches the door it has unlocked. If the face is not recognised then access is denied.
  • Access Control – Different members of the household can access different areas so staff and the children can’t access the wine cellar and staff can only access within set hours. The gardener can open the side gate but not access the home. A properly designed system can be run and configured by the house manager allowing complete control of personnel throughout the property.
  • Intruder detection – a fully armed security system can report activity to a central monitoring station – allowing interaction with potential criminals before they even reach the home. Facial recognition recognises and ignores the pool guy whilst focusing on and tracking the person who slipped through the side gate they forgot to shut behind them.
  • Integration with a Home Automation system – Imagine returning to your home and your favourite radio station is playing, lights at the right level and the temperature set as you like it. With facial recognition we can specify any event to happen at any time as you enter or move through the property – allowing audio and lighting to follow you around the home for instance.

Summary

For our high end security systems facial recognition is a logical upgrade allowing huge amounts of flexibility and control with none of the disadvantages of traditional biometric systems. The future is here and it rocks!

How to improve Wifi in a residential setting

In the modern home WiFi should be treated as a utility – everyone needs it and it should be fast, reliable and always available. Unfortunately the ISP provided routers are generally low quality and built to very tight budgets. This can result in a WiFi signal which is great in the room which houses the router but the WiFi signal can become weak and under powered as clients move around the home. Add in a few family members streaming to portable devices and the whole system can quickly become unusable!

What do the terms Wired Wifi and Mesh Wifi actually mean for Home WiFi?

There are two ways to improve WiFi around the home but both use the same principal to get a better signal – they place a Wireless Access Point closer to the client device. An incoming telephone line is often in to an area which is not ideal for a client to use the WiFi – customers don’t often stand in the hall or closet to surf. Both of these technologies move the WiFi emitter in to the main living space and in larger houses then multiple WAPs provide a WiFi signal to ensure great coverage throughout.

Mesh WiFi Networks – Mesh networks basically take a WiFi signal and repeat it so client devices get a good signal. The more the number of “hops” the slower the signal – for instance a repeater in the living room may boost the router WiFi nicely but a repeater further up the house might repeat the living room signal – meaning all traffic goes through the living room repeater before finally arriving at the router. These hops can seriously impact a clients experience. Newer mesh technologies such as Google Wifi use a dedicated wireless back haul to connect which means a faster connection and less hops to the internet – providing a better client experience.

Wired WiFi – In a wired WiFi system a client talks to a local WAP and their traffic travels down a network cable direct to the router and providing a fast internet experience. Multiple wired WAPs around the home ensure a great signal everywhere and a solid user experience.

Google Wifi 300x266 - Home Wifi - Wired Wifi vs Mesh Wifi
Google Wifi – Home Wifi Emitters

How to handle Roaming Clients

With the above technologies it is easy to see how a Wired WiFi solution will outperform a Mesh network – even the newer Mesh technologies – as they have a dedicated connection and they share less infrastructure on the way to the internet. All these WAPs can cause an issue with client devices though, imagine an iPhone on the ground floor which is streaming from YouTube. The WiFi signal may only have to travel a couple of meters and the device will show 5 bars, full power. If that iPhone then moves up the house it may stay connected to the original WAP – it had a good signal and it will stay connected for as long as it can to make the most of the signal it had. The phone wont necessarily appreciate the fact that it has a closer WAP on the 3rd floor which will also provide that great signal. This approach makes perfect sense for the vast majority of people who only have one router. With our WiFi systems we install a Wireless controller which monitors the signal from all WAPs and auto optimises them to work together – providing the best possible WiFi signal throughout the house but also handling client devices – passing them from WAP to WAP as clients move around the property. The end result from a client device perspective is one huge network which doesn’t vary as clients move around the home – WiFi perfection!

Hybrid Wifi Systems

Most homes in the UK do not have network cable installed to key locations – although our full home systems do! – which means pulling cables can be difficult if not impossible. Our high end WiFi systems therefore allow us to mix and match technologies – wired WiFi to key areas with mesh backup for areas with weak or no signal. The disadvantage of the mesh network is minimised as the signal may only have one hop – a mesh WAP talking to a wired WAP – before the client reaches the internet. The same wireless controller handles the entire management ensuring clients get a fantastic user experience.

We are often asked to provide WiFi to garden rooms and offices without a wired network connection, we install long range, directional WiFi on the main house which provides a stunning signal in the garden room and the outdoor space. The modern WiFi technologies have seriously quick connection speeds which allow clients to work on servers in the main house and easily handling web surfing and email – even for multiple clients in an office environment.

Kids Wifi Networks and Guest Networks

Children nowadays are fully connected and expect an always on connection. This can be great but obviously has some issues with some of the content available. Our networks can restrict access to certain sites and – a firm client favourite – be set to a time schedule. Children’s WiFi can be switched off at a clients preferred time, ensuring devices aren’t used past bed time – bring around the end of family arguments! Guest networks can sit alongside client networks and provide guests to the home with all the benefits of the internet without allowing access to your local devices, so a visitor wont automatically try to connect to your Apple TV or have access to your family photos.

Summary

There has never been a better time to be wire free! The technology exists to make every home fully connected with a reliable and fast WiFi signal. Some clients will be happy to roll their sleeves up and install something like Google WiFi whereas others will engage someone like us to design and install something bespoke. Either approach is good but do not settle for a poor connection!

How Home Automation Can Make Life Easier

A Crestron Home Automation system can make life a lot easier for clients with a disability such as reduced mobility, vision or hearing. A well installed system can increase independence and reduce the need for careers.

Exactly how can Crestron Home Automation help?

A Crestron system can control – and therefore automate – anything electrical in the home. One button press, or voice command, or time schedule can perform preset actions when required. For a person with limited movement something as simple as closing the curtains can be a struggle or require a visit from a career. With a Crestron system the curtains can automatically close at nightfall with lights coming on to a clients preferred level or they can close with a button press or a voice command – there are lots of options which may or may not suit depending on the disability. The ways automation can help is endless and each of our solutions is designed with a particular end client in mind, ensuring a bespoke system which meets a clients needs exactly. All interfaces to the system are custom designed and created so if a client has limited range of movement then buttons can be larger, if a client has limited vision then high contrast text can be used – whatever suits the particular client.

Harry Potter stuntman, David Holmes, explains more in this excellent Youtube Video:

Harry Potter stuntman David Holmes explains how automation helps

Some Examples of Home Automation helping with Disability:

  • Closing of curtains and blinds – Easily achieved by a button press or a voice command – or closed automatically at nightfall.
  • Opening and closing of doors – All types of doors can be automated so entry and exit doors can be automated but also internal doors providing privacy and ease of access.
  • Security and Fire integration – For clients with vision or hearing issues alarms can be integrated in to lighting circuits to provide a visual stimulus and the aforementioned doors can automatically shut off the room with the source of the fire – providing a means of escape.
  • Shower and Bath integration – voice command of showers and baths can automatically provide water at the correct temperature and the voice command ensures no fiddly controls to master.
  • Communications – Phoning and emailing contacts can easily be performed by talking to devices rather than typing, opening up a world of communication options.
  • Audio Video controls – the new Crestron remote controls feature voice commands so simply talking to the remote control can allow clients to view their favourite TV show, watch the latest block buster or catch up on the latest pod cast for work.
  • Heating and Cooling Controls – The same remote control, or touchpanel, allows voice command of heating and cooling systems allowing clients to set a more comfortable temperature or turn up the ventilation system.
  • Lighting Controls – our traditional lighting control systems add convenience by allowing a simple button press to control all the lighting in a room or zone but with the addition of voice commands then this even easier.
  • Human tracking – We can even go one stage further and track the location of the client in the home – enter a room and the lights will come on and the heating will be set to the correct temperature. If the client was listening to music in the room they have come from we can bring this through to the new room. As clients approach doors they can open automatically – even entrance doors with a voice based confirmation if approaching from inside the home.
  • Intercoms and door access – Easy communication with the front door or gate allows clients to talk to and view visitors before choosing whether to open the door or not.
Crestron for Disabled Clients
Crestron for Disabled Clients

Summary

Crestron Home Automation can seriously improve the quality of life for clients with disabilities – the above information is only a starting point – anything is possible and we love to design systems which meet clients needs. Feel free to get in touch to see how one of our systems could revolutionise your life.

A Gaming Oasis installed in a family home

Our Home Cinema Rooms aren’t solely for movie nights with the family – they also perform stunningly well as gaming rooms. High end surround systems fully immerse the player with audio coming from all sides, behind and even the ceiling! The projected image in this example is 4m wide and lit by a super powerful 4k Sony Laser Projector.

Ultimate Gaming Room
Ultimate Gaming Room

Zero Compromise gaming

Utilising one of our home cinema rooms for gaming makes perfect sense:

  • Superb Audio with full surround sound
  • Huge 4m image to really immerse the player(s)
  • Extremely comfortable seating which is perfect for longer gaming sessions
  • Soundproofed room so you don’t disturb the family!

The last item is important – our gaming rooms are isolated from the rest of the home so as well as performing brilliantly for audio in the room they also minimise sound leakage in to the rest of the home. After all, there are a total of six 10″ subwoofers hidden behind the screen – you can feel every rocket and grenade in the above game! Clients love to invite their friends round for a gaming session, multi-player games really come in to their own on screens of this size ensuring whether the clients love Gran Turismo or FIFA the experience is great.

The multi-use aspect of these cinema rooms is fantastic – the room is equally at home hosting the family for a Friday night film nights as watching the boxing in the early hours with friends.

Contact us to see how we could enhance your home.

Home Cinema Room - Rear View
Home Cinema Room – Rear View

How Does Crestron Lighting Work & How is it Installed?

If you are reading this then you are probably interested in a lighting system for home. Whether this is the first article you have read, or you are at the end of your research, we feel this article will help you work out what you need and why.

What is Crestron Lighting?

Put simply Crestron lighting solutions allow you to control the light levels in your home. This can be as simple as switching a lamp on at a certain time or in response to a button press right through to replaying the last two weeks activity to simulate occupancy.

Crestron Lighting in a Single Room

In a typical living room of a family home you may have a collection of lamps:

  • Pendant Light in the middle of the ceiling
  • Table or Floor standing lamps
  • Wall lights to show off your pictures
  • strip lighting to illuminate alcoves and shelves

In a traditional home when entering a room after dark the homeowner visits every lamp and either switches them on or sets a dimming level. Some homes of multiple switches to allow some channels to be controlled from the door but it is rare for all lighting to be controlled from here and the bank of switches would be enormous for a large room!

Crestron Lighting Keypad
Crestron Lighting Keypad

With a Crestron lighting system a Lighting Keypad replaces the light switch and talks back to a central processor. When the home owner presses “Scene 1” the processor sends the dimmer a command to say – “Pendant at 20% / Table lamp 1 at 25% / Table lamp 2 at 50% / Wall lights at 30%”. The result is perfect lighting levels in the room. Different scenes allow the homeowner to set different levels for different “activities” eg TV watching, Reading, Entertaining.

Crestron Lighting Throughout the Home

Now factor the single room benefits up to include every room of the home – not only do you get the different scenes for different activities but there starts to become convenience and economies too. Pressing a light switch by the bed head can bring lighting on in the en-suite with a different level preset for the middle of the night (with no fan!) than during the day. Integration with security systems allows setting the alarm to switch off all internal lighting (or revert to the previously mentioned holiday mode).

Saving Energy and Adding Convenience!

Whether installed in a single room or a whole home a Crestron lighting saves energy. Digital dimming ensures a dimmed lamp actual uses less energy (unlike lesser systems which simply use the same energy and create lots of heat) which means the benefits over a whole home can be huge. We have seen this in practice in two projects – Our Derby project was commissioned using a generator whilst we waited for mains hookup and the fuel lasted approximately 5 times as long as forecast; and our Dubai job where a limit on the incoming mains supply meant further expansion was impossible, we were able to prove our lighting system substantially lowered the load.

Crestron Lighting System at Work
Crestron Lighting System at Work

What are the options for installing a Crestron Lighting System?

In common with most lighting control systems the wiring they require is different than a normal UK lighting system. In a traditional switched system a live wire is dropped down to a switch point and looped back up the lamp. When the switch is closed the lamp comes on. With a lighting control system each lighting channel (in the single room example above this would be each of the five channels) is wired back to a central point. The actual light switch (or a better term would be lighting keypad) are wired back using low voltage cabling. The lighting keypad sends button presses back to the central point and a processor determines what needs to happen in response to that button press. In very large systems the central brain will have a mixture of local dimmers and remote nodes – lighting dimmer racks which are positioned around the home, nearer to the room and ensuring easier wiring.

The above works brilliantly for new build and substantial refit projects but for finished homes installing one of these systems would be incredibly difficult. For this reason Crestron also have wireless lighting solutions. In the traditional wiring example the live which goes to the switch actually powers the keypad and each lighting circuit has a dimmer installed in it’s path. This means the lighting keypad now sends a radio signal out to each dimmer with the actions required. This approach allows us to wire whole homes with lighting systems without disturbing the fabric of the rooms.

Integrating Lighting in to a Crestron Home Automation system

Crestron are not the only manufacturer of lighting control systems – the likes of Lutron do a comparable product and have been in business for around 50 years. The advantage of a Crestron system is its integration with a fuller Crestron Home Automation system. The convenience of the lighting system is compounded when other system are added. Further up the article we suggested that arming the security system could switch lighting off in the home, integrating with a fuller system could also switch off audio video systems and set heating to a lower temperature. When arriving home opening the gates could automatically bring on outside lighting (or raise the level from it’s dimmed state) and raise the temperature – different key fobs (or geo-location information from a mobile phone) could even open different garage doors or perform different actions for different members of the family arriving home.

Summary

Lighting is the first smart home technology that we would fit in a new home, it saves energy whilst increasing convenience and – crucially – it shows your home off at it’s aboslute best whilst saving energy. We are a Crestron Dealer of Distinction who specialise in high end home automation systems. The vast majority of our case studies feature Crestron lighting controls and we experts in designing, installing and programming systems for very large houses.