The Wireless Home

Mobile and wireless technology converge to make home media more fun, less cluttered and more useful than ever

When it comes to home media and entertainment, the smallest screen is the one calling the shots. Measuring in at just under two by three inches, the iPhone—and other smartphones—are small but media mighty.

Add to that ubiquitous.

“Smart phones are like fingers,” says Jeff Grundahl. “Everybody has them.”

And they seem to be able to do everything.

“The smartphone technology, the platform they’re based on, allows so much more than just phone calls and email,” says Grundahl, owner and president of JG Development, a builder offering new construction and remodeling services to residents of Madison and southern Wisconsin. “It’s a controller for all kinds of things that can be programmed, and users want to be able to control everything from their mobile banking to their media platforms.”

Grundahl says his customers want to be connected but not tethered. The beauty of mobile combined with wireless technology is that it makes it easy to have full control of any television in any part of the house without multiple components attached to each. With smartphone or tablet-computer controls, homeowners can access seemingly unlimited television shows, movies or other media anywhere they have a screen. Everything is literally at their fingertips.

Smart houses have been around a long time, Grundahl acknowledges, but smartphones are making smart houses more accessible. For example, intuitive apps take much of the guesswork out and make adoption easy, Grundahl says, noting that smartphone owners tend to share and learn about features from friends. This user pattern seems to speed adoption and increase penetration of nonphone functionality.

After all, the whole point of a smartphone is that it’s far more than a phone. Yet smartphones are also about far more than media. They are also increasingly in charge of automated lighting, temperature control and security systems. Instead of using a separate remote or control system, homeowners can use apps to have lights come on as they pull into the driveway from work, to crank up the thermostat before everyone wakes up or to respond to security breaches in Madison from beaches in Mexico.

Controlling household systems this way is not only fun and convenient; it also saves energy since, once your system is programmed, you will never forget to turn the heat down when you go to work and you’ll never leave the outside lights on overnight.

Yet the rise of the little screen does not mean the end of the big screen. Television technology continues to evolve rapidly and prices continue to fall just about as quickly. The picture quality and slim profiles along with the integration capabilities have accelerated the acquisition of flat-screens as much as or probably more than the broadcast conversion from analog to digital did.

“I know personally I’ve bought more TVs in the last four years than I did in the first forty,” Grundahl jokes.

Many homes still have dedicated viewing spaces with theater-style seating, access to refreshments and sophisticated sound systems. While these rooms are not going away, Grundahl says the movement now is toward integrating media rather than dedicating specific spaces to it.

“Not everybody wants a media room, but everybody has media and everybody wants it integrated,” Grundahl says.

Gone are the days of being able to watch cable only from the TV in the family room. Everything you have can be accessed from every screen. And the design of today’s technology makes it easy to have a screen anywhere you want one.

“Media is so easy today and comes in so many forms that we see it in almost every single room. People want to be able to view or hear or understand or interact with media throughout the home,” Grundahl says. “We even mount TVs in bathrooms.”

– Jennifer Garrett

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