Sonos streaming music architectural speakers

Sonos has been pretty busy of late. They’re bolstering their streaming music portfolio with additional products. Last year, they released a more affordable TV sound bar, and recently they updated with their Amp. Now, they have announced branded architectural speakers.

Sonos architectural speakers

Sonos is already great when used with architectural speakers. People get great sounding streaming music, and the speakers don’t visually impact a room. Architectural speakers are passive speakers (they need a separate amplifier) that are installed in ceilings and walls, so there is no need to have regular bookshelf or floor standing speakers in the room. This is great not only for current modern home aesthetics, but they also save valuable floor space. Sonos has announced three speakers: in-ceiling, in-wall and outdoor speakers. Sonos partnered with Sonance, a respectable speaker brand, for these speakers. These ‘matched’ speakers make it easier for consumers to understand and select architectural speakers if they’re the DIY types. The Amp also enables Sonos’s Trueplay which allows for easy speaker sound optimization. Other speaker brands will continue to sound great with the Sonos Amp, but these will help make architectural speakers more mainstream.

Sonos has more to come

Sonos recently also showed off some product prototypes that they have partnered wth Ikea for. The intent is to make Sonos compatible speakers more affordable and widely available. Sonos also quietly stoped selling their Play:3 speaker, so we suspect an updated version may be on the horizon. While we’re fans of Sonos, they’re not the only great streaming music solution out there. These recent updates are great as it pushes all brands forward and provides more great streaming music options available for consumers.

The new Sonos Amp

Sonos is replacing the Connect:Amp with their Sonos Amp. Unlike their standalone speakers such as the Sonos One, the Sonos Amp can be connected to stereo speakers or other speakers. For example, we often use it with in-ceiling speakers in homes. Its currently available to integrator people like us, and will be available to Canadian shoppers in February. The new Sonos Amp has most of the same connection options as the Connect:Amp (speaker connectors, left/right inputs, sub output, two Ethenet ports). It also adds an HDMI connector for TV connections. Overall it looks like a nice update – let’s take a closer look at its main features. 

Power output

The feature that most people will notice is that they’ve bumped up the power to 125W on each side from the Connect:Amp’s 55W. While most people don’t need the volume from the extra power, it should help improve the sound even at lower levels when parts of music need more oomph. This will be particularly handy if you’re using it with four speakers, such as four in-ceiling speakers.

TV friendly 

We think the Amp is most likely to find its spot hidden away in a technology closet in a home, but it can happily be placed in a living room. If you want to use it with your TV, it has a HDMI connector for TVs with an HDMI ARC output. You can start with just your stereo speakers (it emulates a centre channel). You can then add other Sonos speakers for surround sound. It also has an IR sensor so you can use your remote control for the volume.

Future features

We suspect some of the Amp’s best feature’s are yet to come. Since it’s a new platform, there are features that can be added in the future. For example, it’s compatible with Apple’s AirPlay 2 unlike the Connect:Amp. We look forward to the possibility of native support for other smart devices such as smart doorbells. 

While many see the Sonos Amp as an ‘integrator’ focused device, it should slot in with the same kind of people who are using a Connect:Amp with their stereo speakers. We’re currently testing ours with our turntable setup, and so far, so great! We look forward to using it in our clients homes to harness the increased output power and future technology options.

Understanding home control technologies


All of your tech gear, from TVs to smart home devices, needs to be communicated with to do the great things they do. Not too long ago, you could do this with a basic remote control. If you wanted to simplify your system, you got a (sometimes not-so-simple) universal remote that was able to control your TV, VCR (remember those?) and sound system. These days, there is a plethora of ways to communicate with everything from TV to smart home products. Here’s a crash course on the more common home control technologies that are used these days.

The difference between one-way and two-way home control technologies

There are two basic categories of device control: one-way and two-way. As it sounds, one-way controllers only talk one-way – they don’t listen to check if they were heard or understood. An old school TV remote is a one-way device. You point it at your TV and press a button, like a channel button. If you pointed the remote mostly towards the TV and all worked well, the channel would change. The remote has no idea if anything changed. That’s up to you – if it didn’t, then you need to press the button again.

Two-way controllers both talk and listen. You can use two-way devices to have a ‘conversation’ and confirm that the task was completed. The device can even send back information like what its volume currently is. 

One-way home control technologies

The more common one-way home control technologies used are IR and RF. IR, or infrared, is light that we can’t see. It is used to carry control signals. Since its light, devices need to ‘see’ their remote to work. Otherwise its pretty robust and is used for devices like TVs, sound systems and cable boxes. RF, or radio frequency, controls put the control information on radio waves. These are similar to IR, but with the added benefit that radio waves can travel through walls and cabinet doors, etc.

When one-way technologies fail, like in the channel change example above, you have to correct for it manually. For a simple system, like a TV and cable box, this usually suffices. (Not always, though: the elderly lady down the street often gets stuck in a cycle where her cable box is on while her TV is off, and vice versa.) For more complicated systems with many devices, you need to make sure that all the devices got their messages. Otherwise, results can and do vary. This is where two-way systems can overcome issues and ensure home tech bliss.

Two-way home control technology

Two-way home control technologies provide a much more stable interface since the controller can get a response from the device to ensure all is good. Common two-way technologies include RS-232, IP (Internet Protocol – wired or Wi-Fi), Z-Wave, ZigBee and Bluetooth. Note that Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee and Bluetooth are all wireless technologies. These can work fine as long as devices are within the specified distances, etc. RS-232 and wired IP are usually preferred, as you don’t have to be concerned with wireless coverage issues. But, of course, you do need wires. 

Interestingly, RS-232 is actually a very old computer communications standard (from the 1960s!), but its still very capable and usually preferred by home technology professionals to control devices. The reason is that controlling devices doesn’t require much data or fast speeds, so the ol’ reliable RS-232 can still keep up with our latest technology. Its usually preferred even over wired IP, as then control doesn’t have to compete with other data, such as streaming Netflix video. That said, the ubiquity and consumer friendliness of IP makes it the go to for modern smart home systems. Obviously with a wireless control technology though, you don’t need to run wires around your home. 

The smart home system you choose often dictates the home control technology. Often people don’t consider the future headaches when choosing a certain technology for the wrong situation. Its not a coincidence that long term stable systems use a wired two-way control technology, especially old, boring RS-232. A good control system, like from RTI, will work with many or all of the home control technologies, so you can mix stable products with convenient wireless ones where the scenario makes sense. Either way, when implemented properly, you can harness their technologies to make a very complicated system a snap to use.

What is GDPR, and why so many privacy and terms of service emails?

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the European Union’s requirement on how businesses collect and use customer data. It came into effect on May 25th. European or international businesses that have customers there, must meet GDPR rules. This is great news, as home technology relies on many pieces from diverse providers. We’ve seen GDPR related emails from everyone from businesses like Google to bands such as the Arctic Monkeys. So, what are the rules?

Levels the playing field

The GDPR helps level the playing field. Companies can be ethical with consumer data protection and privacy, without risking unfair competition from others that are blasé or downright unethical with this data. The term personal data is a broad term that covers consumer data such as shopping behaviours and preferences, credit card information and addresses. Some experts estimate that only 25 percent of customer data in databases meets GDPR requirements. These corporations will have to improve transparency and protect consumer rights.

Consumer rights

General Data Protection Regulation gives consumers rights and control over their personal information. It has specific rights: the right to access, to be informed, to rectify, to erasure, to restrict processing, and to object, as well as rights in terms of data portability, automated decision making, and profiling. Basically this enables easy access to personal data and understanding on how its used. Businesses have been madly emailing out their polices to users to show that they meet these GDPR requirements.

There is a growing list of examples of why these type rules are needed (such as the scandal with Facebook and Cambridge Analytics). Canadians have rules for pieces like email list authorization, but we need a broad set of enforceable rules like the GDPR. In the meantime, we’ll happily piggy-back off the European Union’s rules for the international companies that we deal with.

How to choose the smarts for your smart home

DIY smart home hubs

Smart home technology options can make your head spin. How do you go about figuring out which smart home solution or solutions are right for you and your home? Its easy to get caught up with gizmos and sales pitches, so start with what you actually want to accomplish. For example, are you looking for some smart lights that automatically come on. Or a smart door bell to see who’s at the door no matter where you are? Or wireless speakers to make it easy to listen to more music? Perhaps you basically want it all!

Whatever you decide, think about what you want and why. Maybe its that you want your shades to close automatically at night and open in the morning. Sometimes its choosing smart lights because you have a frick-load of lights in the home you’re building, and you want a single lighting keypad vs. a wall covered with lights switches. Sometimes its to simplify home control for seniors or disabled people. Determine your targets and build out from there.

Once you have figured out your smart home targets, you can then start looking at how they will be controlled. There are three basic categories of smart home control: individual app based, DIY smart home ecosystems, and custom control systems.

Individual apps

If you’re looking at just a few smart devices, then maybe you don’t need a ‘master’ brain to control everything. For example, if you just want a smart thermostat and wireless speakers, you’d likely be well served using products like Nest and Sonos and their related apps.

Starting with a few apps to control your devices is great, but consider that you may want to add more device in the future. If you think that’s possible, its good to know what’s compatible with various ‘master’ brains. If you start using lots of smart devices, then it gets annoying switching between apps to control each device. This is where the next two categories come in.

DIY smart home ecosystems

This first level of ‘master’ brains are DIY (Do It Yourself) type smart hubs that tie your smart devices together. These allow higher level control such as grouping functions (like turning on music and setting mood lighting at the same time) or automation based on time of day or location, e.g. when you’re close to home – called “geofencing”.

There are various platforms such as Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Nest. While all have their pros and cons, a big thing to watch out for is device compatibility. For example, some devices are compatible with HomeKit, but not SmartThings. Some devices like Sonos speakers have good cross platform compatibility, but some devices are restricted to only one platform. To complicate things further, some devices like smart locks make multiple ‘flavours’ of the same thing, so make sure you buy the right smart flavour (e.g. buy the box that is labelled compatible with HomeKit if you want it to work with HomeKit).

This category is changing fast as many manufacturers are updating compatibly with and without the need for smart hubs. Although these are called DIY, you’ll want to be fairly tech savvy to tackle the set up. You can see why even though these are called ‘Do It Yourself’, some people prefer to get help with them or DIFM (Do It For Me)!

Custom control systems

The next step in master brains, are custom control systems. The main benefits of custom control systems are to make complex things simple-to-use and orchestrate devices together at a higher level. Most products in this realm are only available to custom home technology integrators, as while they have great functionality, they are more technologically challenging to set up. Getting a professional to set up and program helps ensure that everything works smoothly for you. There are more control options available as well – e.g you can add wall control panels and handheld universal remotes to work in conjunction with a smart phone app.

The cool thing is that professional custom control systems such as RTI can also control many consumer and DIY devices. Custom control systems allow control of smart home devices that would become unwieldy in an app or DIY yourself type platform. They allow for total control of all your devices; from AV media systems to smart home devices.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to smart home tech. A couple of app based devices may serve some people well, while DIY type system are better for others. Some people or circumstances require the use of a custom control system. We focus on solutions that make sense for our clients, so we help with all these categories. Feel free to reach out if you would like some help.

Is fibre optic cable needed in your home?

Fibre optic cable is becoming more mainstream – Internet providers are even marketing it as a differentiator for their service. We’ve touched on fibre optic cable in the past, but now is a great time to delve into it more. So, what is it all about, and should you use it?

Pipe for light

Fibre optic cable is a solid ‘pipe’ of glass (or plastic) that allows light to travel down it. It’s actually a glass core surrounded by a cladding layer of another type of glass. This layering arrangement helps the light bounce nicely off the sides of the core as it travels down the cable. Technically this is called a strand of fibre. Each strand of fibre is slightly thicker than a thick human hair. One or more strands are wrapped with Kevlar or similar (for durability for pulling through walls, etc.). These are then protected by a plastic cable jacket.

You can’t see it with your eye, but fibre optic light is turned on and off very quickly to create light pulses. These pulses carry data that can include Internet, phone and video. If you use the right fiber (multi-mode), you can also send different frequencies of light (basically different colours of light) for more signals over the same fibre optic cable.

Fastest way to move data (i.e. video data)

Yes, fibre optic cable is the best way to get Internet and video to your home and around in it. Phone company Internet providers need something better, as their old technology, two wires, is maxed out. (It’s really quite impressive how much stuff they were able to put over those two wires though – phone, internet and TV!)  Alas, two wires just can’t provide 100 Mbps or faster internet, let alone 4K video. They’re the first to roll out fibre optic, as they had to to keep up with cable companies. (Cable companies can push cable TV wiring a bit more, but they’ll have to go fibre optic eventually.) That said, you might not need the fastest Internet service available though and will be fine with non-fibre service.

Video is the hungry data hog in your home. Regular HDTV is bad enough, but full 4K TV can use up to 18 Gbps. (That’s a lot of data, and much more that copper wires can handle over any longer distances.) Tweaks can be made to make metal (usually copper) wire mostly handle this large amount of data over shorter distances, but fibre optic cabling is the right cable moving forward. If your 4K TV isn’t close enough, you’ll need fibre just to get a 4K signal from your TV gear.

Fast, plus now quite strong and bendy

Fibre optic is best suited for faster data and longer runs as the light pulse can travel far (up to Kilometres, depending on the fibre cable) and still be bright enough at the end. It also doesn’t suffer from issues like impedance (resistance, capacitance and inductance) that metal wires do. Impedance can be a signal killer by simply making it too weak at the end of the cable or make it impossible to move an electrical signal fast enough down the cable. Even with a whole bunch of engineering wizardry, those wires just can’t handle anything faster.

Fibre optic cable is also immune to electrical interference. Metal wires are effected by magnetic forces that are around electricity wires (e.g. power wires). This interference can make data harder or impossible to run though a metal wire.

The knock against using fibre used to be its price – it was very pricey to buy and work with, but that is quickly changing now. It’s increasingly easy to work with and has improved costs of cabling and putting plugs on the ends. Fibre optic cable is also not as fragile as it used to be. It’s often easier to install since it’s thinner and can be bent and pulled as much as or more than metal cable. (It will break though, where a metal wire may still barely work, sometimes sporadically, when kinked or bent too far.)

What should you do?

If you’re building or renovating a home, consider running fibre optic cable. Running to/from your network hub (i.e to/from the street) and TV/media areas are the first places to consider. Next, think about other areas that could use a lot of data, e.g. den. You can consider pulling it to Wi-Fi access points too, as when Wi-Fi data rates increase, fibre can feed it. You might not use your new fibre cable for a while, but it’s likely you’ll leverage it when 4K video hits the mainstream. Its a whole lot more affordable and less messy to install wire in the walls at build time than trying to do it later when your walls are all finished.

Our current minimum recommendation is duplex (two cables together) multimode OM3 (up to 100 Gbps) fibre optic cable, as current fibre equipment expects duplex, and its fast enough for the foreseeable future. The cost of fibre and related equipment will only come down. Sometime in the future when you’re setting up a new 4K TV system (or 8K TV!) or other data hogging gear, you’ll be happy you have your fibre optic cable ready.

Home tech maintenance

Home technology is like many things in our lives, it needs regular maintenance to keep running smoothly. The good news is that most consumer home tech is quite serviceable, so most tech maintenance can be straight forward. Start by working on something that you’re comfortable with then expand from there. If you’re stuck, get help where needed. Let’s take a look at some tech maintenance areas that need attention.

Passwords

Passwords can be a tricky subject. In a perfect world, you would update your passwords every month using a random string of 20 letters, numbers and symbols. Of course, you would also use a different one for every account that you have. We know that’s not very realistic for us mere mortals.

While we do recommend a different password for each account, we try to use something more memorable in case you don’t have access to your 1Password or Apple iCloud keychain (if you don’t know what these are, you should look and use one or similar). A memorable short phrase with some letters swapped with numbers and characters is a good start. While something like “m3&Y0u” isn’t very secure, its infinitely better than “password” or “sunshine”. You can likely do much better than that with a bit of thought – check out some tips here.

While you don’t have to go crazy updating all your passwords every month, you should at least charge the defaults ones, the really easy to guess ones (e.g. phone number or kids name), or ones that have been anywhere near a security breach.

Software and firmware updates

You should regularly update all your software and firmware for your tech devices. We realize that this can cause an avalanche of interconnected updates, but its for your tech safety. Good manufactures keep up with the security issues and usually patch any deficiencies when possible. Plus, you’ll get any new features and services that they have added.

Network gear like Internet routers and network switches should be updated when the updates are released, but at the very least, try to check for updates every quarter. Absolutely make sure that all your network gear is protected with good passwords. The same goes for your Wi-Fi passcode. If you make it easy for someone to get onto your network, then they can cause all sorts of trouble and likely snoop through your computers too. Networking gear is an important tech maintenance focus.

The same basic tech maintenance rules apply to connected devices like cameras, smart doorbells, smart lighting, smart thermostats, etc. Although these devices are less important in the security food chain, they can be used for unscrupulous goals as well.

You can be a bit more relaxed about entertainment devices like TVs, universal remotes, streaming devices, Blu-ray players, etc. You will likely favour these ones though, as often these updates have fun new features like new streaming services or connectivity options. Entertainment devices often update automatically. If so, check that it has, and its up to date.

Smartphones and app updates

Aways try to keep your smartphone and tablet up to date with the latest operating system and updates. For example, Apple pushes out their updates and you get that little notification on your settings app icon. Updates can be a bummer when they change the way things are laid out or the way things work, but it often comes with some nuggets of goodness, and more importantly, any security patches. You can hold off a week or so to update for minor fixes or feature improvements until bug issues are ironed out, but you should install critical security updates asap. Apps are usually less security sensitive, so you can be more lax on these. That said, often developers make some cool changes and are constantly fixing bugs.

Computer tech maintenance

You should treat computers with the same concern as your smartphone. Good and bad, Microsoft now forces you to update Windows (usually at the worst time too it seems). Apple lets you control updates, but you should stay on top of them either way. The same goes for application software. Programs like MS Office and Intent browsers provide power tools that can be comprised by the wrong people if they have security holes.

Check on your network

Tech maintenance includes regularly checking on your network. You can run SpeedTest to keep you Internet provider honest. There are also LAN test applications (e.g. from Totusoft) if you’re nerdy and you’d like to check on your internal network. This may show that your network gear, e.g. router, is on its last leg. Yes, these things do wear or burn out, and sometimes its a slow death until it grinds to a halt.

Check on your router admin pages to see what and who is on your network (maybe your Wi-FI passcode isn’t as great as you think). Also look at your router logs to see if there are any weird errors (Google may be your friend here to help translate from nerd language to English).

Make changes

Its also a good time to check on how things are set up or programmed. Maybe you want your favourite channels on your remote updated with your actual favourite channels. Maybe its just to catch up your favourite channels after your TV provider moved all the channels yet again.

You can also look at things like smart lights and adjust programming like turn on time or add more lights or music to the ‘scene’ keypad button. You can also take advantage and clear up gear clutter – maybe its finally time to recycle that VHS player that hasn’t worked since the 90s.

Find a process that works for you

If you’re a casual user, don’t tackle this all in one sitting. Break up tech maintenance tasks over several sessions, so its easier on your time and brain. If its not your thing, don’t sweat it – look for some help or look at biannual, quarterly of monthly maintenance service (FYI, we’re happy to help). What ever way you address it, regular maintenance it all part of proper home tech hygiene.

Why we love remote power management (and our clients do too)

The other day I received an email from a client whose cable box wasn’t working. It turns out the cable box just needed a restart. Restarting cable boxes and other electronic gear is a common part of our modern world – from the most simple self-installed TV system up to mega smart homes. But what can you do to help people who aren’t comfortable with technology? You can use remote power management.

Please unplug your cable box

When you phone your cable or internet provider with an issue, the first thing they ask you to do is unplug and replug your devices. This is because resetting a device fixes the vast majority of issues. Since your cable provider isn’t sending your cable box to the moon, its just more economical (and therefore affordable for us consumers) to build cable boxes that aren’t nearly invincible. So, they need to be restarted from time to time.

I’ve restarted your cable box

To help my client, I restarted his cable box from my smartphone. I did this using a remote power management device. Within a few minutes his system was recovered, and he was able to watch TV. My client called me “a miracle worker!”, but I wouldn’t have been able to do this without remote power management.

Remote power management

Remote power management devices are basically really smart power bars. We recommend remote power management devices to clients who aren’t very comfortable with technology or just want to have more support available. Remote power management devices, such as WattBox and BlueBOLT, allow restarting individual power outlets. We can also schedule proactive restarts in the middle of the night for trouble devices like cable boxes. Depending on the smart power device, they can also offer auto reboot, surge protection, power conditioning, and energy monitoring. If clients are fairly tech savvy and comfortable with it, we can even configure a smart phone app to allow them to restart common devices like that tricky cable box. This way they can correct issues on their schedule.

It may not be a matter of life or death, but getting someone’s home tech back up and running quickly is pretty sweet. Everyone wins when this can be done without scheduling the cable company or a costly visit. Some clients can even have this support as part of a service plan. Remote power management can be part of great home tech solutions to simplify technology in your home.

Do you want voice control for your home?

Apple recently announced their wireless speaker with voice control. Yes, home voice control is available to today, and is growing in popularity, so Apple wants to get in on the action along with Amazon and Google. Let’s take a look at these voice control devices.

Let’s first look at the voice control speakers that are currently on the market. Although Amazon’s Alexa Echo speaker isn’t officially available in Canada, many Canadians are using it all the same. Amazon started with the Echo, and they have added the Echo Dot. The Echo is a voice controlled speaker, and the Echo Dot is a more affordable version (with minimal speaker). The idea is that you can just add an Echo Dot to enable voice control in a room. At US$49.99 US, its pretty attractive. They also recently added the Echo Show which includes a video screen and camera.

You can use the voice control to request tasks like playing music through bluetooth speakers, or turning on lights and setting the temperature with compatible smart devices. Many music services are compatible, so you can, for example, play your Spotify playlist just by talking to an Echo. You can ask for the weather, sports scores, news and more. You can also get handy info like how many millilitres are in 6 ounces when your hands are wrist deep in food prep. If you’re interested in Alexa, you can look through its growing available ’skills’ to see what it can do for you.

The Google Home speaker has similar features, and its even officially available in Canada. Its priced at $179.99, since its also a fairly decent sounding speaker for music playback. It can connect with your Chromecast media player so you can control services like Netflix as well.

That brings us to Apple. They’re planning to ship the US$349 HomePod in December in the US, UK and Australia. Canada will likely follow shortly after. What separates it from Amazon’s and Google’s offerings, is the HomePod is also trying to challenge Sonos in sound quality. (Sonos doesn’t offer voice control,.. yet.) Apple’s target is to provide home voice control with a good wireless speaker. Initial reports are that it sounds terrific. Apple’s ecosystem of both its devices and HomeKit, make it a pretty easy call for a home full of Apple devices.

If you think voice control would improve your life at home, then these are worth looking into. There are still some glitches to work out and not all systems are compatible, but voice recognition works quite well. But its always listening, so keep that in mind if you’re concerned about privacy or marketers hijacking it. (There are privacy settings, but having to walk over and press a button for it to listen takes away from fluid voice control.) As voice control develops, it will really show its power for those who want to operate their integrated home tech through voice commands. So if saying “OK Google”, “Hey Siri” or “Alexa” to your home sounds compelling, you can give them a try.

Home tech upgrades for parents of teens and pre-teens

Teens and preteens can be complicated, but their home tech doesn’t have to be. There are some affordable updates you can do to make their lives more comfortable (and therefore more sane for you). Simple tech upgrades like Wi-Fi access points, wireless speakers, and smart locks can simplify life for everyone.

Good Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is the life blood of a teen’s home tech – from Snapchat to music streaming. A well thought out Wi-Fi network using good quality equipment can keep the Wi-Fi signal strong. This will give your kids the social media connection they crave while allowing them to continuously stream Drake’s latest album. As a bonus, you can leverage the Wi-Fi upgrade to solidify whatever your technology rules are, e.g. acceptable usage times and no devices in bedrooms.

Wireless speakers

Teens and music have gone together like chocolate and peanut butter for ages. To keep Chance the Rapper playing in their spaces, you can give them (or ‘lend’ them) a wireless speaker. With a wireless speaker, such as a Sonos speaker, you can avoid hearing every smartphone message beep and pop like from a Bluetooth speaker. You don’t need a smartphone nearby for them to work (so you can maintain a no smartphone in the bedroom policy, if you like). When a wireless speaker is in Wi-Fi range, it’ll happily stream music without being tethered to a smartphone. A wireless speaker like the Sonos Play:1 is also humidity resistant, so they can use them temporarily outdoors and get some fresh air. If they want more control, you can mate them with a remote like the Lutron audio remote. You can also subscribe to a music service like Deezer or Spotify, then they can maybe explore more music than the 20 songs all their friends listen to.

Smart locks

The days of the house key on a shoelace around the neck are gone. A smart door lock can allow your kids easy home access regardless of how good they are misplacing keys. You can choose models that open via smartphone or keep it simple with a keypad. You can also use it with a smart doorbell so they can see who’s at the door when they’re home alone. (And maybe you can watch your home’s coming and goings when you’re out, just saying.)

Parents of teens and preteens know that they can be a tricky bunch. These easy tech upgrades can improve everyone’s enjoyment inside and outside your home.