One of the greatest value-added services that we provide our clients is our knowledge of where entertainment technology has been and where it is headed. No one area of the home offers a clearer example of the added value we bring to our custom installation clients than the knowledge of how ethernet-connected devices in the family rooms audio/video center can significantly enrich the overall entertainment value of their home.
In some cases, we have had to install an eight-port switch to an entertainment zone to connect all of the IP-based network devices that we now install in the family room A/V center. Lets review a few of our more successful offerings:
The XBOX 360. Microsofts XBOX 360 gaming platform is one of the most engaging and addictive entertainment platforms that you can buy. But what makes these games particularly compelling is that the XBOX 360 has an ethernet port that supports online gaming over a broadband connection. Our clients can play games against anyone in the world, and with the wireless headset they can talk over this IP-connected line to their playing partners or adversaries. The network connection behind the TV makes this a much more exciting platform.
Slingbox. This inexpensive video streaming device will encode any A/V content (up to S-video in quality) and stream it to any computing device in the home. You can even access your home A/V content remotely. A typical example is one where the Slingbox is connected to a personal video recorder (like a TiVo) and the content from one of the TiVo A/V output ports is streamed to any computer in the home loaded with the Slingbox client player. Slingbox has even included the IR remote codes in its software for most of the common in-home A/V devices so you can be watching your favorite episode of CSI on your laptop in the backyard and use the built in TiVo software remote to fast forward through commercials. Better yet, you could be sitting at that same laptop in a hotel room in Japan with a broadband Internet connection and watch and control a CSI episode that resides on your homes personal video recorder. This is a great example of how an ethernet-enabled product can leverage the A/V content in the family room entertainment center and distribute it to a location and time convenient to the homeowner.
Sonos Audio Player. The Sonos Player can search for music on any hard drive in the home (or from the Internet) and play it back through local in-room speakers or a whole-house audio system. Think of a whole-house audio system (like Russound, for example) and now include the Sonos Player as one of the Russound audio sources for your clients system (in addition to the traditional AM/FM/XM or CD sources). They can now listen to any ripped CD or Internet radio station from any room in the home where the Russound whole-house audio system is installed. Your clients can control their music from either the wall-mounted keypads or the Sonos handheld remote controller. Locating Sonos networked players in the family room entertainment center allows you to leverage the audio capabilities of the locally installed whole-house audio system amps and/or the receiver amp, providing surround sound in this entertainment room. This is a great audio complement to the audio solutions that you are already providing your clients.
Media Center Computer. This networked device can serve up all the photos and videos that are stored on the office computers to be viewed on your clients large entertainment room plasma or DLP screen. And if you program the IR codes of the up/down/select functionality of the Media Center onscreen GUI into a universal remote control you can make the experience of viewing photos or videos as easy a choosing a TiVo program to play or record.
Wireless Access Point. While this networked device doesnt provide any specific entertainment value, it does allow you to spread the wireless cloud to sections of the home that may be too far from the office or distribution panel where the initial wireless access point is located. Since most entertainment areas in the home are centrally locatedit becomes the ideal place to install a wireless access point to maximize the wireless coverage in a home.
TiVo. While the TiVo recorder can get its online guide via the phone line, it can also use the ethernet broadband connection to accomplish the same task. In fact, if you have Series 2 TiVo boxes in your clients homes, then you can network them together throughout the home so that programs recorded on the family room TV can be seen from a TiVo located in the master bedroom. This is a very compelling feature for clients that record TV content in multiple places in the home and want to watch this content from any TiVo-enabled room in the house. A networked TiVo makes this solution possible.
These are just six examples of how networked entertainment products can add entertainment value to every room inside or outside the home. The next time that you sit down with a prospective client to discuss the latest in plasma or LCD screens and surround sound systems, be sure to include a discussion of these networked entertainment options which can greatly increase the value of their homes audio video entertainment purchase. Your knowledge of these products can only improve your ability to close your next large, whole-house audio/video proposal.