In the world of home technology there are options galore. You can spend a lot or a little, focus on audio only or buy into a system that will help you save energy. However, there are a few basics that every homeowner can benefit from, regardless of the type of house you live in. You might not be able to afford everything on this list of must-haves, but it serves as a good building block, offering suggestions that can make a real difference in the comfort, convenience and efficiency of your home. Contributing to this story are custom electronics (CE) professionals Bjorn Jensen of WhyReboot, Miami, Fla.; Christian Lawrence of Insight Home Solutions, Phoenix; and John Goldene of Digital Home Technologies, Palatine, Ill. In no particular order: 1. Universal Remote Control: This one device can simplify the control of even the most complicated of entertainment systems. It can do the job of multiple remotes, consolidating controls for your TV, stereo receiver, Blu-ray Disc player, video projector, even the lights. When programmed accordingly, all it takes it one touch of a button to activate multiple devices, readying a system for movie night in seconds instead of several minutes. 2. Lighting Control System: If there's one system that packs a punch, it's lighting control. From one package you enjoy greater convenience, comfort, energy efficiency, security and decorative appeal. Eye-pleasing keypads take the place of multiple light switches. And with custom programming, you can operate several lights at once from one button. Turning off all the lights before bedtime has never been easier. Are smart LED's the future of lighting control? 3. Security System: Who doesn't want to feel safe and secure at home? A security system not only provides valuable peace of mind; today's systems can be easily and affordably expanded to automate the lights, thermostats and other devices. See #6 below plus see some of the most stolen gear here. 4. Robust, Reliable Wi-Fi Network: So many electronic devices utilize Wi-Fi to communicate, transmit and receive that having a robust Wi-Fi network in your house is crucial. Without one, commands from your Apple iPad (see next must-have) might never make it to the intended A/V component. Learn more about wireless networks here. 5. Control Apps: You use your iPad (or some other tablet) and iPhone (or some other smartphone) to text, email and surf the web. With new downloadable apps readily available, you can also use the handy device to operate just about anything in your house - lights, security cameras (see next must-have), thermostats, A/V systems and more. Pick the control interface to suit your mood.
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