Press Coverage

06 Aug 2018

Source: Mail on Sunday August 2018

A high-tech revolution means you can now monitor your home remotely from a smartphone.

It also enables you to control a host of tasks, from door security to cutting energy bills and even feeding your pets.

The Mail on Sunday guides you through the technology jungle and shows how you can join in.

Look out for callers

The world of home security has long moved on from traditional burglar alarms which had a habit of going off by mistake. Now you can keep an eye on your home remotely via spy cameras connected to a smartphone.

A video doorbell costs from about £100 to more than £1,000 if you also want it linked up to a comprehensive house security system. A pinhole camera sits above the bell so you can see and talk to anyone who comes knocking at your door through a software app downloaded on to your mobile phone.

It is welcome technology for the security conscious, photographing strangers who come to your front door – or even just walk past – and then sending a picture alert to your phone. You can also talk to the visitor, particularly useful if you do not wish to miss a special delivery from the postman.

Andy Mack is founder of home technology provider Cyberhomes, based in Thame, Oxfordshire. His company installs a wide range of home functions that can be controlled from a single phone app. He says: ‘Security should be at the heart of any system – and the latest technology can help make sure that you and your home are better protected.

Among the security doorbell systems he favours is the top-of-the-range Savant Door Station which including installation costs around £1,500. Those on a shoestring budget may consider an £89 Ring which also communicates with your mobile.

Standalone security cameras that are linked to your smartphone can also be purchased to monitor both inside and outside your property.

These include the £159 indoor Canary that not only acts as an eyes and ears around the home – but can work in the dark. There is also the £313 outdoor Nest Cam IQ that sends an alert to your phone if an unfamiliar face is spotted – and includes a facility to talk back. Mack says: ‘A property need not be cluttered with electronic boxes and jumbles of wires.

A single app can remotely control your entire home.

Improve the mood with smart lighting

The traditional incandescent light bulb started to be replaced by the compact fluorescent lamp and light emitting diode nine years ago as part of European Union rules to cut energy waste. Although many households still prefer the glow of the older bulbs the replacements use a tenth of the electricity which means each bulb knocks at least £2 a year off energy bills.

The next step in this lighting revolution is the arrival of ‘smart’ lights controlled from a mobile phone. These let you turn off lights remotely and can be controlled to deter burglars when you are away from home. They can also save energy by being dimmed, while some are able to change colour to suit a mood or keep a beat to the sound of music.

Popular options include the Philips Hue range – from £15 for a white bulb to £50 for a dimmable colour light. They both use standard fittings and can also be controlled by a traditional wall switch. You must buy a separate £50 ‘bridge’ that plugs into a home modem. This allows you to control up to a maximum 50 smart bulbs via your smartphone.

George Yianni is head of technology at Signify which provides the Philips Hue bulbs. He says: ‘You can start with basic white energy-saving bulbs controlled by a smartphone app and then build from there. With coloured bulbs you can turn lights to a blue and white hue that can keep you up and alert during long dark winter months. They can also be turned to restful warmer shades in the evening. You do not even need to get off the sofa to control them.

He adds: ‘We even have multi-media options where free software can be downloaded on to your computer that connects to a TV, games console or music system. This allows lighting to fade in and change colour to coincide with the sounds.

Another smart light option includes the energy saving £20 Hive Active bulb that can be turned on and off – as well as dimmed or put on a timer using a smartphone from wherever you are.

The bulbs plug into standard light fittings but require an £80 ‘Hive Hub’ to plug into a router so it can be controlled or monitored through your smartphone.

For those wanting to embrace the full potential of 21st Century lighting the £200 Nanoleaf system includes nine light panels that sit together, providing a colour scheme to suit your room or mood. Colours or effects can be changed remotely using a smartphone or electronic device, such as Alexa.

Leslie Chen, of Nanoleaf, says: ‘Such lights can really change the mood and ambience of a home – providing mellow yellows and oranges as you are getting ready for bed and perhaps brighter reds and strong blues when you want to get active. It is not just about finding the right lighting effect to suit how you feel but to bring a sense of wellbeing.

These days you can access hundreds of television channels, thousands of movies and millions of music tunes – all piped through the internet. When it comes to watching TV you must still pay £150.50 a year for the privilege of an advert-free BBC but that aerial on the roof is most likely redundant.

Many homes now plug in a set-top box – costing anything from £20 to £200 – for access to more than a hundred channels streamed over the internet or picked up by a satellite dish. Some modern TV sets now come with this technology already built in and do not require a separate box

Andy Mack, founding partner of Cyberhomes, a digital solutions company which installs security/audio/visual/internet cabling to allow full control of a property from an app. Pic by Ian McIlgorm

Once wired up you can enjoy free access to on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub as well as paid-for video options such as £7.99 a month Amazon Prime and £5.99 a month Netflix. Shows can be accessed not just via a remote control but a computer laptop or smartphone.

Music streaming is the most popular way to enjoy favourite songs – with 45 billion tunes streamed each year over the internet. This outstrips the total from downloads and listening to CDs and vinyl.

Downloading a free app on your smartphone not only enables you to enjoy music on the go but by investing in a wi-fi gadget, such as the £30 Google Chromecast, it can also be connected to an old fashioned hi-fi system. Your mobile is then used as a remote control to play the music through the stereo.

Music streaming providers such as Spotify offer access to more than 20 million tracks.

You can sign up for free but for £9.99 a month a ‘premium’ service cuts out adverts and allows you to download music to enjoy later. Competitors to consider include Tidal, Apple Music, Napster and Deezer. Technology expert Ion Smith of Cyberhomes says: ‘It can cost you more than £1,000 installing Ethernet cables in wall cavities – but it will allow you to benefit from further innovations in entertainment.

For example, 4K ultra high-definition TV is becoming increasingly popular – and you can simply plug into this technology if you have Ethernet cables.

Otherwise you might have compatibility issues or not be able to take full advantage of it if your TV connection is not up to scratch.’

Take control of energy bills

The average household now spends £1,400 a year on electricity and gas – a bill you can cut by up to a third by using a ‘smart’ thermostat.

Traditional heating systems involve a simple thermostat dial stuck on a wall inside the house that automatically turns radiators on or off when a set temperature in the home is reached.

Yet there are now thermostats packed with sensors that decide if a room needs heating or not, turning the heating off when a room is not occupied. The devices are connected to the internet via a router in your home and you can change settings, such as times and temperature, wherever you are by tapping into your phone app.

Among the top rated options is the £179 Hive Active system, which offers an intuitive thermostat to ensure unused rooms are not being heated.

Others include the slick-looking Nest (£250) and competitively priced £140 Drayton Wiser. Alternatives include the £199 Tado Smart and no-frills £140 Netatmo smart thermostat.

You should budget a further £100 if you wish to pay an expert to install your equipment, though those with DIY skills might manage without help. Individual radiator thermostats are also worth considering. Drayton Wiser sells them for £45 each.

Smart thermostats should not be confused with ‘smart’ energy meters. These devices are currently being rolled out as part of an £11 billion Government-backed scheme to encourage everyone to replace traditional gas and electricity meters with those that can talk remotely to their energy supplier. They come with an energy monitor that often sits in the kitchen.

The idea is that households will become more energy price conscious when they see how much they are wasting – for example by leaving electronic gadgets on standby.

Smart meters are not without their faults. They often stop working if you switch energy supplier.

21 Jun 2018

Source: Home Cinema Choice Magazine June 2018

THIS HIGH-SPEC HOME theatre from custom install specialist Cyberhomes is somewhat unusual as the orientation of seating and screen doesn’t follow the typical ‘longest dimension’ rule.  Instead, the owners were keen to pivot the layout through 90 degrees, to place the room’s twin doors either side of the eventual PJ screen for pleasing aesthetic symmetry. Cyberhomes’ challenge was therefore to accommodate a 4K-projection, Dolby Atmos system within this configuration, while still maintaining the expected premium performance.

Behind the Screen Research screen, which fits snugly between the room’s two doors, sit Triad InWall Gold/6 Monitor speakers, the US company’s range-topping option, plus two in-wall subs. Bipole in-wall models, again from Triad, are adopted for the rear and surround channels; their extra dispersion deemed necessary due to the close proximity of the seating row. Traditional in-ceiling speakers (rear Atmos), 45-degree angled in-ceiling speakers (front Atmos), and two further subwoofers at the back of the room complete the system.

Processing is from AudioControl’s Maestro M9, with power delivered by a 12-channel amplifier from BGW. A full acoustic treatment (diffusion, absorption and bass management panels), plus Dirac calibration, was conducted. For its bigscreen images, the cinema features a Sony VPL-VW550ES 4K HDR projector. Sources are Sky Q, Apple TV and a Kaleidescape UHD player/ server combi. Again, full calibration was performed.

Lutron smart lighting, Control4-powered system operation and luxury Fortress seating finish off a cinema room we’d love to kick back in…

KIT CHECKLIST

  • AUDIOCONTROL: Maestro M9 surround processor
  • BGW: VXi 8.4 power amplifier (12 x 200W)
  • SCREEN RESEARCH: X4R projection screen with motorised top/bottom masking
  • SONY: VPL-VW550ES 4K HDR projector
  • TRIAD: 3 x InWall Gold/6 Monitor speakers; 4 x InWall Silver/4 Surround speakers; 2 x InWall Silver/4 MiniMonitor speakers (in-ceiling); 2 x InCeiling Silver/6 speakers (in-ceiling); 2 x InRoom Gold Sub subwoofers; 2 x InWall Bronze/4 SlimSub subwoofers; 3 x RackAmp 700 DSP amplifiers
  • FORTRESS SEATING: 7 x Kensington leather cinema chairs with electric incline
  • CONTROL4: C4-EA3 processor; C4-SR260RSK remote control
  • APPLE: Apple TV
  • KALEIDESCAPE: Strato 4K Ultra HD movie player; 24TB Terra movie server
  • SKY: Sky Q Silver PVR
24 Jan 2018

Source: Professional Housebuilder and Property Developer (PHPD) Magazine January 2018 (Cover Feature)

With an increasing emphasis on including the latest technologies and controls in new homes, Billy Hilton, Senior Engineer at Cyberhomes, reveals how one luxury new home in Lutterworth was fitted with the latest home automation and AV capabilities.  

Buyers of bespoke or luxury homes are increasingly demanding that their new property has the latest home automation and audiovisual (AV) capabilities. Many potential buyers will already have experience of an integrated smart home system in their current home and, depending on the quality of installation, will have a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ relationship with a particular solution. Clearly developers need to offer a feature-rich control and automation system in new homes, but how do you ensure buyers are going to love it?

A recent project Cyberhomes was involved with saw a modest bungalow in Lutterworth being replaced with a new two-storey house that spanned three sides of a courtyard. Although the client was a property developer, this project was his own home. With a keen eye for interior design it was essential that as much of the technology as possible was hidden out of sight and what could be seen should blend seamlessly into the room design.

Customisable lighting

Lighting has a dramatic impact on the feel of a room and the ability to easily change lighting levels of different circuits allows all the different living spaces to be optimised for different activities. At the outset we brought in lighting designer Richard Voller to work closely with the client and their interior designer.

Richard’s lighting plan dictated the number of lighting circuits required in each room so we could specify the lighting control system (a total of 76 dimmable circuits). A Lutron Homeworks QS lighting system was selected as it is extremely reliable and also integrates well with other manufacturers’ control systems, giving the owner the flexibility to change control system in the future should they wish to.

Heating controls

With such a large property, zoned heating control was essential in order not to waste energy heating rooms that aren’t in use. The use of smart thermostats in every room (19 zones) provides local control but also send temperature data back to the main control system to allow automated control of heating for maximum efficiency. Heating can be automatically turned down in rooms that aren’t occupied or if, for example, a window is open.

“With a keen eye for interior design it was essential that as much of the technology as possible was hidden out of sight and what could be seen should blend seamlessly into the room design.”

Home security

The intruder alarm and CCTV cameras are all integrated allowing the owner to ensure the house is secure whether they are at home or away. The system is constantly recording how lights are used and this can then be replayed when ‘holiday mode’ is selected.

The cameras, recorded footage and alarm status can be viewed on the owner’s smartphone anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. Access to the property is controlled with electric gates and a video intercom. Family members carry RFID key fobs so there is no messing around entering PIN codes.

Entertainment systems

One of the owner’s main objectives was for his family to be able to enjoy video and music all around the home. The entertainment system features seven televisions including an eye-catching 80-inch TV inset into a stone wall in the family room.

A video matrix distributes 4K resolution content to the TVs from a range of source options— except for the TVs in the children’s bedrooms, which can only access restricted-channel Sky boxes and local games consoles. All the rooms have discreet in-ceiling speakers that can access multiple local and streamed music sources.

A dedicated home cinema room meets the demands of movie night and major sporting events. Tiered seating and a Dolby Atmos surround sound system ensure everyone has an immersive experience.

Selecting products for the lighting, heating, security and AV that we know have good control integration capabilities gives us the flexibility to choose from a number of different control and automation systems. The preferred solution then came down to the user interface. Cyberhomes demonstrated different options and the client selected Control4 as their preference which also suited their budget.

Infrastructure

With all the product decisions made, we could design the whole system, provide cable schedules for the electrician to work to and drawings for all the in-room equipment housings.

We added a wired and WiFi data network for internet access throughout the home. Remote network monitoring provides us with notifications of any issues with equipment. We can remotely reboot or reconfigure devices providing the homeowner with continuous system performance and minimising disruption. All equipment that is in a fixed location is hard-wired via Ethernet to the network, reducing Wi-Fi traffic to just mobile devices such as laptops and smartphones.

The main equipment racks were built and tested in our workshop. Heat output calculations were done and airflow through the rack managed accordingly to ensure nothing will overheat. Once all the infrastructure cabling had been tested and certified and the site was clean and dust free, the equipment racks were installed and final commissioning undertaken. Meticulous attention to cable management ensures future servicing and upgrades can be performed efficiently.

Our attention to detail in design and installation was recognised recently when this project received ‘highly commended’ status at this year’s CEDIA awards in the Best Integrated Home £120,000 and Under category.

How To Get Started

The key to success is getting the cable infrastructure right during the build and really understanding the client’s needs when it comes to configuration and programming. That means ensuring that all the necessary data and audio/video cables are run during first-fix electrics and that they terminate in a dedicated plant room where all the necessary equipment can be located. Getting an automation specialist involved in the project as early as possible is essential in order to design the system and generate the necessary cable schedules. Identifying a CEDIA member company with the right experience is a good way to start.

Want to Know More?

Billy Hilton is a Senior Engineer at Cyberhomes. Cyberhomes is an award-winning technology company that designs and installs high-end home automation and AV systems. For more information visit www.cyberhomes.co.uk

04 Nov 2017

Source: Home Cinema Choice Magazine October 2017

Highly Commended: Cyberhomes

This cinema room previously featured in HCC #274, but it’s just one part of a whole-house project from Cyberhomes that has earned the company a Best Integrated Home commendation.

The room itself features an in-wall/on-wall 5.1.4 speaker system using Definitive Technology models, Epson projector, and Integra power and processing hardware. There’s seating for seven, but we’d make a beeline for the front row of chaise longues.

The rest of the property is as smart as they come, offering 15 separate audio zones with in-ceiling speakers, a video matrix to shunt content around multiple TVs, and Lutron control over 76 lighting circuits—all integrated into a Control4 system.

04 Jul 2017

Source: Home Cinema Choice Magazine July 2017

Plush furnishings, a 3m-wide projector screen, star ceiling and 5.1.4 speaker setup make this a cinema room we’d love to kick back in

THIS CAVERNOUS HOME cinema was designed and installed as part of a whole-house project undertaken by UK company Cyberhomes.

The rest of the property has been kitted out with flatscreen displays, distributed video, a games room and no fewer than 15 audio zones—yet it’s this movie den that gets our attention.

Feeling like a crossover between traditional home cinema and a regular living space, it’s dominated by the 3m-wide projector screen that takes up almost an entire wall. This is currently used in conjunction with an Epson Full HD projector and sources ranging from Kaleidescape to Sky Q. Ceiling-mounting means upgrading the projector to 4K in the future is a simple task.

One upgrade that occurred midway through the project concerns audio – the proposed surround sound speaker system was boosted to a Dolby Atmos installation, using four in-ceiling speakers. These join with in-wall and behind-the-screen LCR models, plus an in-wall sub (all from Definitive Technology) to create a discreet 5.1.4 setup.

Integration with Control4, the system used through the rest of the house, ensures easy operation of the cinema hardware and lighting. Automated control also extends to the black-out blind n

KIT CHECKLIST

  • SCREEN INTERNATIONAL: 3m (wide) 16:9 ratio Cinesound Screen with velvet frame
  • EPSON: EH-TW9200W Full HD projector
  • DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY: 3 x DT8LCR in-wall speakers; 4 x DT6.5R in-ceiling speakers; 1 x IW Sub 10/10 in-wall subwoofer; 2 x UIW RSS II in-wall surround speakers; SubAmp 600 (600W rack amplifier)
  • INTEGRA: DTR-60.6 AV receiver; DBS-30.3 Blu-ray player
  • KALEIDESCAPE: KVAULT-DV700; Strato player
  • CONTROL4: SR260 remote control
  • APPLE: Apple TV
  • SKY: Sky Q
  • SEATING: Owner’s own
01 Jun 2017

Source: Mail on Sunday 28 May 2017
There was a time when a remote control was only used for flicking through TV channels. But these days—often via a mobile phone—it can control your entire home and help shave hundreds of pounds a year off the household bills.

Here, The Mail on Sunday picks through the high-tech maze to explore some of the ways you can make savings, looking at everything from entertainment to energy—and even feeding the cat.

Ion Smith, co-founder of home cinema installation firm Cyberhomes in Thame, Oxfordshire, believes systems can transform the home.

He says: ‘Only your imagination needs hold you back. The best time to install a music system for the entire home is often when you are doing renovations as this enables any unsightly wires to be hidden away out of view.

‘Consider hiring a consultant to discuss what you want because at the same time you can also look at home cinema, heating, lighting controls and security systems.’ He suggests using a member of the trade body Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association, whose members sign up to a high standard of service and care for its customers.

How to stay switched on to the TV revolution: Get a greater choice of free TV

Anyone wanting to watch TV in several rooms and perhaps include a surround sound system to give the feeling of being in a cinema, should consider using a professional installer to ensure that no unsightly cables are left lying around the home.

Ion Smith, of Cyberhomes, says: ‘Be future ready. For example, the latest technology is 4K—ultra-high definition TV. Make sure any wiring is ready for this as in a few years it could be the norm.

To read the full article, visit: http://bit.ly/2rPKc9a

10 Apr 2017

Source: House Beautiful magazine April 2017

The latest in clever home technology and the most stylish gadgets around

INTELLIGENT DOORBELLS

Find out what’s new in home security technology with this insight from Andy Mack, director of Cyberhomes.

Consider the options

Simple battery-powered smart doorbells can be screwed onto your door or gatepost and connected to your Wi-Fi. More complex video intercoms have to be inset into the wall, programmed and integrated into the rest of your home system by a specialist such as a CEDIA (cedia.org) member. Standalone doorbells start about £100, while a fully integrated video intercom can cost up to £1,000.

Sound and vision

Camera-based doorbells allow you to check ID before you open the door, while those with the option to record video footage let you see who rang the bell while you were out. As they can’t see you, callers won’t know your house is unoccupied. Internet-based designs link to an app on your smartphone or tablet to alert you when someone is at your door—you can then speak to the caller even if you aren’t at home.

Special features

A smart doorbell linked to a home network can include:

  • Motion detectors that turn on the lights at the front of the house as someone approaches.
  • An intercom that can call multiple touch screens and mobile devices within the home.
  • The option to open the gate or unlock the front door remotely.
  • The ability to briefly pause music or TV you are listening to/watching when a doorbell ‘chime’ (or any chosen audio track) alerts you.
  • PIN codes or fingerprint access for family members and trusted guests.
  • Notifications on your phone for different events—every time the bell rings or the front gate is opened/closed, for example.

Stay secure

If you have a doorbell connected only via Wi-Fi and your connection is unreliable, you may miss calls. Make sure you change a default password to a secure one to minimise the risk of it being a target for hackers. If the doorbell also has the ability to unlock the door, ensure it’s well installed—it could reduce your security if someone could pull it off the wall and ‘short together’ wires to unlock the door. High-end products will have an encrypted relay module to prevent this.