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Outdoor Tech is Hotter than Ever

A study was performed by CE Pro Magazine recently and they found that usage of outdoor technology has increased by 23% yearly. Here is a listing by highest usage to lowest.

1. Outdoor security surveillance cameras
2. Under-eave speakers
3. Outdoor access points (Wi-Fi)
4. Mounts (Weather resistant)
5. Flat panel TVs
6. Staked, satellite speakers (Located in Landscaping)
7. 70V speakers (A way to locate speakers further away from the house)
8. Buried, in-ground subwoofers
9. Rock speakers
10. Landscape lighting
11. Satellite dishes/equipment
12. Security lighting
13. Staircase/railing lighting
14. Cellphone booster/antennas
15. Waterproof remotes/control interfaces
16. Flat panel enclosures
17. Planter speakers
18. Projectors/Screens

Wireless Internet Becoming Popular Outdoors

More people want better WiFi while lounging on their patio or enjoying the pool and are looking for solutions. Companies such as Ubiquiti have made outdoor wireless access points for years but mostly they were purchased by businesses such as country clubs, restaurants and such. Home & Office Network Solutions has seen a recent surge in HOAs installing wireless coverage at their pools as their homeowners demand more services for their community dues.

The cost for outdoor WiFi can vary because the size of coverage varies. A home with a very large yard and a pool extending deep into the yard would require several access points whereas a patio or porch would need just one. Most homeowners do find that their indoor WiFi just doesn’t carry well onto their porch. There is major lag time & drops, if they get coverage at all, so many consumers have to depend on cell coverage, which can get costly based on the plan purchased from the carrier.

As consumers depend more & more on using their cell phone & tablet wherever they go, including their own backyard, we may just see wireless internet move up the list of architectural trends.

Streaming Devices

Here are 5 streaming services devices. Pick the one that works best for you.

ROKU Express – Connects using auxiliary ports to turn an old TV with no HDMI ports into a smart TV.

Apple TV 4th gen. – Access popular streaming services (except Amazon video) and all things Apple (iTunes, photos, radio. Navigate using Siri or a touch pad remote.

ROKU Premiere – Has more 4K and HDR apps than smart TVs, making It the best, most efficient way to stream 4K and HDR videos. Connect headphones to the remote for solo listening.

Amazon Fire TV stock – Works with Alexa friendly apps. Alexa listens via remote and replies via TV speakers.

Chromecast Ultra – Sends what’s on your smartphone, tablet or laptop to your TV, including 4K content, via Wi-Fi. A powerful processor makes for smoother, faster streaming.

Source: Better Homes & Gardens, February 2017, page 68. Great flowchart provided that helps you determine which device is best for you.

When Does It Make Sense to Use Ethernet vs WiFi?

WiFi lets you use your mobile device or laptop on your network from any room and is a workaround when you don’t want to run a cable in a room. WiFi is best used as a means of convenience if you don’t want to cut into walls to run a cable, or dig up the yard. Also, if a device needs to move around, then WiFi is the right choice.

On the other hand, if you have a desktop PC, server, streaming media device (Apple TV, Roku), game console or set-top box that stays by your TV, Ethernet is still the best option. Assuming it’s easy enough to plug the devices in with an Ethernet cable, you’ll get a more consistently solid connection and better overall experience.

Sometimes you need a combination of cable and wireless. If your Internet connection is dropping or slow when using WiFi, then adding a wired device to extend the WiFi connection may be the best choice. Many people opt for an extender, but many times this may not be the best choice of equipment to solve the problem. There are a variety of WiFi products that are considered when putting together a network; access points, bridges, extenders, adapters. Adding a single device won’t necessarily fix the problem if it is not the right one and configured improperly.

The best way to ensure a quality network is to identify what you want for data, audio and video throughout your home and outdoors and then have a network specialist design and install your infrastructure.

Understanding cat 5e and cat 6 cable

Just a few years ago, the choice of Ethernet cable for residential usage was Category 5 or 5e. In most cases, Cat 5e is still perfectly fine. However, there can be a need for the more expensive Cat 6 cable. We will try to explain the difference between these two cables and then which should be selected and why.

First, the name category 5, 5e or 6 cables is wrong. The correct cable name is Unshielded Twisted Pair, UTP. UTP is the broad heading for the cable type and it refers to its construction. The cable is unshielded and the copper conductors are twisted together in pairs. The amount of pairs of copper wires can vary from 1 to thousands of pairs. There are 4 pairs of wires in each cable for Ethernet network use.

Ethernet cables are rated for performance into sequentially numbered categories (“cat”) based on different specifications specifically for use in Ethernet networking; sometimes the category is updated with further clarification or testing standards. As the category number gets higher, so does the speed and megahertz (Mhz) capibility of the cable.

Here is a very important point. As mentioned in the above paragraph the “category” rating is for Ethernet usage only. UTP cables are used for many things in the home and business. It is a very versatile cable type and can be used to carry audio signals, video signals, doorbells, lighting controls, landline telephones, etc. It is very easy to get confused about the functions of the cable can. In this article we are focusing on the use for Ethernet networking.

There are two main physical differences between Cat-5 and Cat-6 cables, the number of twists per cm in the wire, and the thickness of the copper wires. While cable twisting length is not standardized, typically Cat 5e has 1.5-2 twists per cm and Cat 6 has 2 or more twists per cm. The additional twists help cut down interference and increase speed. A nylon spline inserted into some manufacturers Cat 6 cable helps eliminate crosstalk in the wire and makes for a heftier cable.

We will go deeper into the uses of this cable type in future articles.

For a more indepth look at cables, go to http://www.howtogeek.com/70494/what-kind-of-ethernet-cat-5e6a-cable-should-i-use/