Making the Smart Home Smarter

Making the Smart Home Smarter

Share

In his entertaining recent editorial, CNBC Technology Product Editor, Todd Haselton, experienced, firsthand, the frustration that many smart home enthusiasts have endured for a long time: smart home products that don’t work with one another. Typically, manufacturers don’t want their customers to “mix and match” products, but rather, they “encourage” them to stay loyal to their brand by deliberately limiting compatibility with competitors. But what manufacturers don’t realize is that these “technology islands” are actually discouraging potential users from buying any smart home products at all. Aside from the more geeky early adopters (ok, my hand’s up), smart home gadget users don’t want to invest in a brand and have that brand become obsolete within the next few years (i.e. “choose wrong”) so many people just aren’t choosing at all. As Haselton points out: “How do you choose which one to go with? It’s almost like the VHS vs. Betamax wars.”

 

A simple solution to this problem, as Haselton notes, is “one single standard that works for everything.” At Blackfire Research, we’ve done just that. A few years back, Blackfire Research founder and CEO, Ravi Rajapakse, became frustrated – much like Haselton himself and countless other smart home gadget lovers – when he realized that there was no seamless way to transfer and share entertainment media throughout his own home. What was once a personal project to create a multi-room entertainment system soon became ten years of research into a revolutionary new protocol, which we call The Blackfire Realtime Entertainment Distribution (RED) framework. The Blackfire RED framework can stream both HD 5.1 audio and 4K video, simultaneously, across multiple devices – all over the standard WiFi you already have. As well as connecting light bulbs, thermostats and door locks, Blackfire also works as a bridge between your smart home and your entertainment systems – with precise synchronization, low latency for lip sync, and overall reliability. Because ultimately, that is what smart home owners want – to mix and match devices while having their music and movies available to them anywhere in the home.

 

Oh yeah, did we mention that Blackfire enabled products are compatible with each other, even across brands? Just look for our logo on select Harman/Kardon, Onkyo, Pioneer, Integra, and HTC devices. It’s just one of the many ways Blackfire Research is making the smart home a whole lot smarter.

The New Harman/Kardon Omni+ Wireless Speakers Featuring Blackfire

The New Harman/Kardon Omni+ Wireless Speakers Featuring Blackfire

Share

Blackfire Research partner, Harman Kardon, began shipping an updated version of their Omni Wireless Speakers last month, which they are calling The Omni+ Series. Like the first generation, the new Omni+ Series features Blackfire technology, “Wireless HD Audio”, for whole home connectivity. It also features the same lightweight, portable design of the Omni 10 and Omni 20, but now, they’re trading in the glossy exterior for a more sophisticated matte finish (in black and white.) Additionally, Harman Kardon has added another speaker to the series: The Omni 50+, a wireless HD indoor/outdoor speaker with a rechargeable battery (up to 5 hours of playback time), that is also “splash-proof,” so it’s perfect for your next backyard BBQ, no matter the weather.

 

The most exciting update that comes with the Harman/Kardon Omni+ Series is the addition of built-in Spotify Connect, which lets you play your Spotify library through the Omni+ wireless speakers directly from the internet – freeing up your phone to take calls and browse through your apps. If you have one or two of the first generation Omni wireless speakers and want to play music from your Spotify account throughout your home, you can, easily! With the addition of one or more Omni+ wireless speakers to your existing collection, you can re-broadcast Spotify Connect to your Omni speakers. Check out this blog post to learn how!

 

You can learn more about the new Omni+ Series on the Harman/Kardon website!

Onkyo TX-RZ610 with FireConnect named “Top Pick”: Sound & Vision

Onkyo TX-RZ610 with FireConnect named “Top Pick”: Sound & Vision

Share

Did you know that the Onkyo TX-RZ610 A/V Receiver was named a “Top Pick” by Sound and Vision Magazine? In their glowing review of the receiver – which features Blackfire’s FireConnect Multi-Room Wireless Technology – they call FireConnect the “icing on the triple-layer cake of Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth.” Sounds delicious.

Read the full product review here and check out Amazon or another authorized Onkyo reseller to purchase yours today!

Re-Broadcasting Spotify Connect With The Harman Kardon Omni+ Series

Re-Broadcasting Spotify Connect With The Harman Kardon Omni+ Series

Share

Blackfire Research partner, Harman Kardon, recently released an updated version of their Omni Wireless Speakers, which they are calling The Omni+ Series. Like the first generation, the new series features the same lightweight, portable design of the Omni 10 and Omni 20, but this time, they’re trading in the glossy exterior for a more sophisticated matte finish (in both black and white.) Additionally, Harman Kardon has added another speaker to the series: The Omni 50+, a wireless HD indoor/outdoor speaker with a rechargeable battery, perfect for your next backyard BBQ. And of course, all speakers in The Omni+ Series feature Blackfire wireless multiroom technology built-in, so your favorite song can follow you from room to room.

 

One of the most exciting updates in the Harman/Kardon Omni+ Series is the addition of built-in Spotify Connect which lets you play your Spotify library through the Omni+ wireless speakers directly from the internet – freeing up your phone to take calls and do other things. But what if you have one or more of the first generation Omni wireless speakers and want to play music from your Spotify account throughout your home? With the addition of one or more Omni+ wireless speakers to your home, re-broadcasting Spotify Connect to your existing Omni collection is as easy as pressing a button. Literally.

 

Whether you have an Omni 10, an Omni 20, or Adapt, the process will be exactly the same. After you add any speaker from the Omni+ Series to your collection, initiate normal setup (make sure you have the latest version of the Harman/Kardon App first):

  1. Place the speaker in your desired location
  2. Connect it to a power source
  3. Open the Harman/Kardon app and follow the easy setup instructions
  4. Make sure you have added the new speaker to the same Wi-Fi network as your other speaker(s) and your source device(s)

 

Now that you have chosen a location, a name, and the correct network for the new speaker, you can begin to re-broadcast Spotify Connect throughout your home!

  1. With all your Omni and Omni+ wireless speakers on and connected to the same Wi-Fi network, open the Spotify App from your phone, tablet, or desktop
  2. With the Spotify App open, click on “Devices Available” at the bottom of the pageHarman Kardon
  3. Find the name you’ve given to your new Omni+ Wireless Speaker on the list of available devices. Since the Omni+ speakers all have Spotify Connect built-in, it will show up as an available device on the Spotify App automatically
  4. Choose your Omni+ Speaker from the list as your playback device
  5. Test the connection by choosing a song to play from your Spotify account – music should now be playing from your new Omni+ speaker

 

While music plays from your new Omni+ speaker, you have two options of how to re-broadcast Spotify Connect from you Omni+ speaker to your Omni speaker(s). You can either:

Press and hold down the “Slash Button” on the top of your Omni+ speaker until all of the Omni speakers in your collection start playing the same song

 

OR

 

Press the “Slash Button” on each individual Omni speaker so you can control which specific speaker(s) to re-broadcast to (in case you don’t want to re-broadcast Spotify Connect to all of your wireless speakers.

These same steps apply if you want to stop re-broadcasting Spotify Connect to your Omni speakers: simply press and hold down the “Slash Button” on your Omni+ speaker, or, press the “Slash Button” on each individual Omni speaker to stop the re-broadcasting.

And that’s it! Re-broadcasting Spotify Connect from an Omni+ Wireless Speaker to your first generation Omni collection is as easy as pressing a button. Now you can enjoy music from your Spotify account played from any speaker, throughout your entire home. Did someone say “Party?”

Getting the Most out of your Router

Getting the Most out of your Router

Share

In my two previous blog posts, I recommended purchasing either the ASUS RT-AC56U or the ASUS RT-AC68U; explained why I chose the ASUS RT-AC68U router for my own home; and walked you through the setup of 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands for best performance. In this post, I’m going to show you how to tune your router to avoid wireless network traffic from other routers near by.

First off, how do WiFi frequency ranges and channels work?

The 802.11 standard allows wireless devices to be backward compatible, interoperable, and to work internationally. After WWII, the radio frequency spectrum in most countries was strictly controlled by the government, and was mostly allocated to police, military, and emergency service use. By the 1990’s, gradually, some of the high frequency (or “microwave”) spectrum was being derestricted. The 2.4GHz band became available in most countries around the world, and so it was adopted for several wireless technologies, including cell phones, Bluetooth devices and of course – WiFi. Now, nearly 30 years later, 2.4GHz band has become a very busy part of the spectrum indeed. The newer 5GHz WiFi band still has the advantage of much less data traffic – but due to physics, has the disadvantage of having a shorter signal range, meaning, the rooms in your home furthest from your router will have a noticeably weaker signal.

Both WiFi bands (2.4G and 5G) are divided into individual channels, each spaced a few megahertz from the next. By default, your router will automatically jump to the first channel it finds. However, you will get the fastest WiFi performance if you first check which channels have the least traffic and then manually set your router to that channel.

Avoiding the Busy Channels

First you’ll need to download a WiFi Analyzer app. If you have an Android smartphone, there is a free WiFiAnalyzer app that works very well. Unfortunately, there is no convenient free app like this for my iPhone, so I used my Windows 10 laptop to download an equally effective WiFi Analyzer app from my browser, free from the Microsoft App Store.

Once you download an app, you can see which channels are currently being used. Let’s start with the 2.4GHz band.

Here is the WifiAnalyzer app screen for the 2.4GHz band. My router is the one called BFRX-BUTTERS (the SSID I chose for the 2.4GHz band):

 

The ASUS router had auto-selected Channel 3, which is right on top of two other routers – probably my neighbors’ WiFi. As you can see from the image above, the channels above 6 look much clearer. So I opened up the ASUS router Configuration Page, which you can find by typing this local address into your web browser:  http://router.asus.com

 

Under Advanced Settings, I selected the “Control Channel” pull-down menu, and instead of “Auto,” I selected “Channel 11” to force my router to operate in the clearer part of the spectrum:

 

which means my router is much less likely to conflict with 2.4GHz band signals from other routers:

 

Next I checked the 5GHz band, which is much less busy; it looks like my neighbors have not yet taken advantage of newer routers like mine:

 

In the image above, my router (BFRX-BUTTERS_5G)  has been auto selected to Channel 161 which is in a clear part of the band (note that the channels between 48 and 149 are not available for WiFi). To make sure it doesn’t auto select another channel, I decided to change the 5 GHz band setting from “Auto” to fix it at “Channel 161” anyway, using the same method as before:

 

Once you’ve switched your 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands to clearer channels, you’ll experience less interference from other networks – meaning that you can seamlessly stream music or videos throughout your home, wirelessly, with much less chance of pesky dropouts.