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How to give the gift of tech

Home automation and wireless sound tops Gadget Gal’s gift ideas

(As seen in Local Life)

By Christina Gomez

Do you find yourself in the same predicament every year? It’s the middle of the gift-giving season and you’re staring down a shopping list of people who are difficult — if not impossible — to shop for.

Sometimes, tech is the best bet for the gift-challenged.

For the music lover, add whole-house sound — without a pricy, major overhaul — through wireless streaming. Sonos is a well-trusted product that offers crisp sound and is easy to integrate. The hot gift item this year that has bloggers raving is the Sonos One — a smart speaker that just got smarter. Thanks to its built-in Amazon Alexa integration, you can use voice commands to tell Alexa to turn the volume up while you’re in the shower or to play songs while you cook.

Movie connoisseurs — especially of the DVD or Blu-ray variety — don’t need to neglect their collection that took years to amass. Preserve the movies through the Kaleidescape movie player, which stores them on an internal hard drive up to 10 TB (with additional storage available). The movie buff in your life can watch digital copies of their files and shows on any Internet-connected device — TV, PC, tablet, smartphone or game console — and enjoy them whenever and wherever through the cloud-based solution called UltraViolet.

Many people today depend on their mobile device to get through the day to communicate with friends and family, to create shopping lists or to research the best lunch places. With products like Nest and ELAN Home Systems, many aspects of the home can be controlled from a mobile device — including the thermostat, the security system, the smoke and carbon dioxide alarms and even doorbells. These home automation products are programmable, self-learning and sensor-driven systems.

What does this mean? You can dim the lights, check on your security cameras or run a load of laundry all through a mobile device. If the carbon monoxide alarm is activated, the thermostat is alerted to turn off the furnace, which could be the likely culprit.

Never lose another Amazon package with a video doorbell. When the doorbell is pressed, push notifications alert mobile devices when there is a delivery, allowing the user to speak back to the delivery person, so they know where to leave your package.

If you plan to venture down the gift-giving road to home automation, consider hiring a professional integrator to consolidate all of the home-control apps into one simple interface. Commercials make Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home seem easy to set up, but the truth is it’s not as easy as reading the directions. A professional integrator can work with your budget, find the right hardware for the right locations and troubleshoot any IT/network issues, for starters.

In other words, when you say, “Alexa, play some music” or “Alexa, dim the lights,” you won’t just be talking to yourself.

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