Join us at the Z-Wave Alliance booth at CEDIA EXPO 2012

Join Frostdale at the CEDIA EXPO 2012 where we will have new and exciting products on display at the Z-Wave Alliance booth. Our products will be showcased alongside the growing number of innovative devices in the Z-Wave home automation and energy management ecosystem.

If you’d like to schedule some time to talk with us at the event, please send an email to and we’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

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When do smart homes just become homes?

These days, we use the term “smart home” to differentiate homes that allow for centralized, automated control over lighting, climate, security, and entertainment from those that don’t. Yet a day may come when this distinction becomes obsolete and almost comical. That is, when every home is a smart home.

If history is any indication, tech labels are only temporary. Up until the 1930s, the term “motor car” was used to indicate an upgrade from previous modes of passenger transport (though it was used in Britain for some time after that). When all vehicles were powered by motors, they were simply called cars.

There are probably a ton of examples that follow this formula. At one point in time, there was a need to distinguish automatic traffic lights from those that required a worker to pull a lever to change signals. Later, they simply became “traffic lights”. Until the 1970s or later, the term “color TV” was an absolute necessity, even a selling point. Another notable example is the “electric lamp”, a term coined by adding a modern adjective to a word that had been in use for centuries.

The point is that as a technology becomes ubiquitous, it’s no longer necessary to differentiate a product from its previous iteration. New innovations are constantly arriving, which lead to new definitions and descriptions. Color televisions, for example, become LED or LCD televisions. Cars become hybrid or electric cars.

Terms like “smart home” and “home automation” are probably not the only ones we’ll no longer find necessary in the years to come.  “eTicket” and probably quite a few of its e-prefaced friends will face a similar fate. It’s unlikely that others such as “social media” will stand much of a chance as all media becomes integrated and shareable. And, eventually, “digital life” may once again simply be called “life”.

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A smart home not for you? Think again.

There are plenty of tangible benefits to a smarter home, but maybe you’re still convinced that one isn’t for you. Maybe you think a smart home sounds too futuristic or too impractical. That’s fine. But there are plenty of ways that smart homes offer more permanent solutions to some of the temporary workarounds we’ve already incorporated into our daily lives.

What follows are just a few of the really routine problems low-priced, low-powered wireless home automation can solve. What’s not mentioned is the convenience, comfort, and cost-savings a smart home can also provide.

1. The Problem: Your Kids Can’t Reach the Light Switch

A typical light switch is about 4 feet – or 1.2 meters – from the floor. For most adults, this is a convenient height. Children, on the other hand, have a tough time with it. Step stools are too dangerous, and coming to the rescue every time a light needs switching on or off is impractical. Extensions do exist for toggle switches, but they’re not very appealing.

The Smart Home Solution:

This is a problem that is easily fixed with a Z-Wave switch, an affordable motion sensor installed in an entryway or below the switch itself, and a few minutes of your time.

2. The Problem: You’ve Got Your Hands Full

Have you ever tried to unlock the door with an armful of groceries? It’s not an easy task. If you happen to drop the keys, things only get more complicated.

The Smart Home Solution:

A Z-Wave lock, for example, which allows you to unlock the door from the car via your smartphone would elimate a lot of this unnecessary frustration.

3. The Problem: You Need a Spare Key

There’s a robust market for fake rocks, sprinkler heads, and other gimmicks in which you can hide a spare house key. One can assume that this solution works best for kids who don’t like to carry keys or for those times when you lose your keyring. The problem, of course, is that someone could see you fetching the key in that fake rock or perhaps even find it on their own.

The Smart Home Solution:

With a Z-Wave lock, you’d be able to get in with a secure passcode entered via your smartphone or the door itself.

4. The Problem: Potential Hazards

If you aren’t completely sure that you’ve unplugged the iron or turned off the coffee pot, the feeling can be unsettling. So much so that sometimes you’re forced to turn around and go back home to check.

The Smart Home Solution:

Adding a Z-Wave appliance module between your iron, coffee pot, or other potential safety hazard would allow you to check and make any necessary adjustments from the road.

5. The Problem: Hectic Mornings

For working parents, getting everyone ready and to the door can be a challenge in itself. Trying to make sure all of the lights and appliances used that morning are switched off complicates things even further.

The Smart Home Solution:

If all of those lights and appliances were integrated into a single, manageable network, you’d be able to walk out the door, drop the kids off at school, and check to make sure everything is off when you arrive at the office.

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Imagine if your home was smart enough to do this…

The smart home is full of possibilities. As evidence, we need look no further than the attention it demands in mainstream publications. What we mean is that just about every article about home technology starts with an Imagine if…, an enticement to visualize a home in which you live in perfect sync with the digital objects that surround you. Maybe it’s because we have grown so accustomed to the convenience that technology provides, but it’s a lot of fun to think about what more we can expect. What follows are just a few examples – some ideas that are just on the horizon and others better categorized as creative thinking – of how the digital home is coming together.

“A rug with a dirt sensor will tell a Roomba when to vacuum or the windshield of a car will tell the alarm clock to wake up its owner a little early when there is frost on the windshield.”

– Eric Savitz, Forbes Magazine

“Imagine an oven that’s so smart that on the day of the big game it’s able to send you a text and say, ‘Hey, your roast is about done. You’d better get in the kitchen.'”

– Patrick Steinkuhl, LG’s product insight manager to CNN

“In the future, you’ll be able to ditch your remote and simply swipe your hand through the air to change channels. Or how about integrating a Kinect with a cleaning robot, allowing it to interact with humans and map its surroundings.”

– Adam Verwymeren, Fox News

If the Imagine if… scenarios of the past are any indication of what’s to come, we can be pretty sure that if someone can dream it up, someone else will build it. Take for instance the following concept that today would strike any of us as pretty ordinary.

“Imagine being able to call your house to regulate the temperature in a given room or to turn on a specific appliance. A home with a centrally located video display could tell you whether a light was left on or whether a door was left open and where.”

– Steve Maentz, The Chicago Tribue, 1987

At other times, you’ll be given a really cool Imagine if… scenario, only to be pleasantly surprised that the technology is available right now, today.

“Imagine a house where your appliances run themselves, where lights adjust without you having to get up, and where your snail-mailbox would send you a message when you get a package.”

– Elizabeth Fish, PC World

“Wouldn’t it be great if you could lie in bed at night and turn off all the lights in the house? Or if you could use your computer at work to unlock your front door for the plumber? Or tell the oven to cook your meal exactly the way you like it?”

Parade Magazine

“Imagine carrying your tablet or phone around the house, and if you forgot to shut off a light or appliance, you can do it remotely by tapping a button on your screen. Or, imagine your house turning into a giant, Android-powered media streamer.”

– Adrian Covert, Gizmodo

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Could home energy management help to get consumers back into electronics retail stores?

Faced with declining sales revenues, retailers such as Best Buy are making a bet on home monitoring and energy management solutions. This move may help them to reinvigorate their businesses, while providing a model for how retailers can effectively blend the better elements of the online and offline shopping experience.

Over the last decade or so, traditional retailers have seen consumers flock in droves to online outlets. Often, when shoppers do visit a store, it’s only to preview an item they intend to purchase later online. Among one of the hardest hit industries is consumer electronics, which is in the top three highest grossing categories for online sales.

The answer to retailers’ problems, say experts, is to reinvent shopping in a physical store. That is, to get people back into stores means they must deliver exceptional service around great products above and beyond what they can get online.

According to Ron Johnson, the former Apple executive who engineered the company’s retail operations, the key lies in truly improving people’s lives through customer service and a counterintuitive sales approach that isn’t focused on making money in the short term.

Borrowing useful elements from online retail such as customer recommendations, ease of product research, and comparison shopping, Best Buy hopes to educate in-store consumers in what it believes is the way of the future. Through a series of partnerships, the US based electronics giant will conduct surveys to learn about household energy use, provide product recommendations, and illustrate the difference those products can make.

Studies indicate that while most people find products in this category both intriguing and worthwhile, they aren’t all that knowledgeable about them in the first place. And where the proper functioning of a product depends highly on integration or installation, old-fashioned face-to-face interaction lends credibility to the transaction from the consumer perspective. Thus, a retailer like Best Buy with its extensive reach and sales staff could help to broaden support for home monitoring and energy management by converting curiosity to revenue through a flawless customer service experience.

While it’s easy to take a skeptical view and say that consumers will simply seek the product out at the lowest cost online or elsewhere, this certainly isn’t always the case. Again, take the Apple store for instance. The products are well-known, a wealth of information is available online, and often the prices aren’t competitive. Yet people continue to shop at the company-branded stores for the experience, Johnson says.

Improving the brick-and-mortar shopping experience will also allow retailers to strengthen an implicit advantage, the ability for shoppers to actually see and touch products – shoppers are far more likely to feel positive about and will pay more for a product they have touched. This strategy could prove far better than shifting all operations online. If retailers go that route, they’ll be forced to compete with the mammoth sellers who specialize in that space (some of which are already invested in home networking and energy management space).

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Join us at the Z-Wave Alliance booth at CES 2012

Join Frostdale at CES 2012 where our wireless lighting controls will be on display at the Z-Wave Alliance booth. Our products will be showcased alongside the growing number of innovative devices in the Z-Wave home automation and energy management ecosystem.

If you’d like to schedule some time to talk with us at the event, please send an email to and we’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

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How automation is making modern cities more efficient

Now the focus of some of the world’s biggest companies, automated homes and buildings are in full view. On a quieter front, however, we’re also moving toward more automated, energy-efficient cities. There are a few concepts that have been deployed, and some really interesting ones that we may see in the not so distant future.

Intermittent Escalators

Most of the world’s subway stations are equipped with escalators. At rush hour, there’s a steady succession of passengers to justify their constant rotation. Most other times, travelers are sparse, and there’s a ton of energy wasted keeping them running.

To reclaim unnecessarily expended resources, cities throughout much of Asia and Europe are implementing variable speed or automatic start escalators. The latter being the type that starts moving only as a passenger approaches and also uses upwards of 50 percent less electricity than an always on escalator. Variable speed models are good for about a 15 percent reduction.

To illustrate what sort of cuts we’re talking about, the following comparison might be helpful. Your typical 35 foot escalator in a subway or airport uses somewhere around 60,000 KwH of electricity every year. That’s about six times the average American household.

Considering the sheer scale of their presence – there are multiple escalators in every subway station, airport, and shopping mall the world over – a reduction of this size is certainly substantial.

Highway Lighting & Pedestrian Lamps

After falling on hard financial times, cities in North America and Europe began intermittently powering down street lights in an attempt to reduce energy bills. Others were worried about having the funds to keep them on at all. While unfortunate, this course of action highlights the impact lighting can have on a city’s operating budget.

Recently, some areas have taken to reducing costs before disaster strikes by installing a combination of energy-efficient, solid state lighting and a smart sensors.The idea is to not only reduce the cost of street lamps while they’re in use, but to make sure they’re only in use when they’re needed (or at the very least dimmed when not needed).

Deployments for such systems are hardly widespread, but limited tests have been met with critical success. Once street lamps are networked, the benefits exceed energy savings. That is, intelligent lighting can also speed up repairs of burnt out lamps or even be used to signal a state of emergency.

A lot of work may still be needed in to be sure solutions are stable enough for highways or high-traffic roads, but, again, if you think about the sheer number of street lamps that burn all night long in countries all around the world, the potential for energy savings is astounding.

Public Services & Transportation

Despite some widely publicized setbacks in the pursuit of machine-guided automobiles, the technology to navigate complex roadways is evolving pretty rapidly. In Italy, for example, select municipalities trust robotic garbage trucks to make curbside pickups. Since roads are already highly organized, well-marked systems, the essential problem is simply teaching a machine to understand them. And though this isn’t a high traffic scenario, it’s likely indicative of what’s to come.

If you are inclined to think that this last scenario foreshadows robotic encroachment on more human jobs lest we put an end to it, some may beg to differ. According to at least one industry watcher, technologies like Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) and the others discussed have the potential to revolutionize the way we commute but also to usher in a new era of manufacturing and job creation.

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