When electronic systems were hardwired into a house, having a good network didn’t really matter that much. A strong wireless connection might have been helpful when you took your laptop from the home office to surf the Internet in the family room, but not entirely necessary. You could deal with the occasional drop out, right?
Now that so many products and systems communicate via Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee and other wireless languages, a solid, reliable network is absolutely crucial. While you’d ordinarily need to call in an IT specialist to beef up your home network, increasingly custom electronics (CE) pros are becoming proficient at network installation and facilitation. The same person who designs and installs your home theater gear, lighting system and home automation system should be able to also set up a home network that’s fast, reliable and able to handle any technology you throw at it. When you’re shopping for a firm to outfit your house with electronic system, be sure it has the IT factor—professionals who are skilled at setting up enterprise-grade networks.
“All networks are not created equal,” reiterates John Robbins president and CEO of HiFi House Group, Broomall, Penn.. He and other veteran CE pros who attended the fall HTSA (Home Technology Specialists of America) conference in Chicago recently discussed at length how to best serve their customers through top-notch IT systems and service. Most agree that standard residential networking equipment can no longer handle the bandwidth requirements of most high-tech homes.
• As a customer you should be prepared to invest in better, more expensive networking equipment, and more of it. That one access point may not be enough to adequately cover your house anymore.
• Also be prepared to pay your CE firm for IT service contracts. Should you loose your Internet connection even temporarily (it’s going to happen), you will need assurance that the systems in your home can still operate. Your IT tech can diagnose and fix the problem, often remotely. And as you continue to add products to your network, your CE pro can upgrade as necessary. Your first step might be to invest in a gigabit router. “This used to be overkill in residences,” says a spokesperson for Luxul, “but now with technologies like fiber to the home and A/V streaming becoming more commonplace, a wireless router with gigabit capability is ideal.”
• Remember the outdoors when you’re working with your CE pro. You’ll probably want to be able to control lights, music and more from a mobile device when you’re in the yard, and that may require the addition of an outdoor-rated wireless access point.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.