June, 2013

Advancements in Today’s World of Home Automation

The world of automated home gadgets is young and exciting, filled with a vast amount of promising new products. In previous years, the “smart” home was dreamt about, shown only in movies and prototypes.  Now, that home is finally a reality with a variety of usable devices, many of which can be controlled from the convenience of a smartphone.  Mashable and CNN broke down the benefits that come with the home automation evolution.

Improved User Experience

Nest Learning ThermostatCompanies that develop household appliances will have access to an incredible amount of data about users and their experiences.  This new data will allow professionals to gather more insight into how products are used in real life and will provide opportunities to create a more personalized user experience.  Nest, the “learning thermostat”, is a great example of putting this data to use.  Users “teach” this proactive device their patterns for a few days and then Nest automatically adjusts settings to save energy based on user habits.

Reduced Costs

Home automation brings the concept of the “smart grid” into consumers’ homes.  Homeowners can control large appliances digitally and have them set to run at the time of day when energy prices are at their lowest.  HVAC systems, like forced air and zoned heating, will be able to work hand in hand within a home to be energy efficient while maintaining a desired temperature.  Additional opportunities for synchronization of systems are being developed that will help consumers save energy and money.

Plant LinkConvenience

In this fast-paced world we live in, it is now all about effectiveness and efficiency.  You can control home security cameras, blinds, check air quality, see if windows are open, unlock your house from halfway around the world, or use GPS to have your heater turn on…all through the palm of your hand.  A product called Plant Link monitors plants’ moisture levels and sends a text to the owner when they need water.  Philips Hue is a wireless lighting system that allows users to control every light in their house down to its color, saturation, and brightness, right from their smartphone.  Controlled through the Hue App, which comes with 17 pre-loaded “scenes,” users are able to use these scenes or create custom scenes, capturing the color from these images and recreating the desired hues throughout their home.

Here at LVM, we find home automation fascinating and are actively learning about what is now possible and will be possible in the near future.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Summer Solstice Marks the Start of Summer

sun_lgToday we celebrate Summer Solstice, officially the first day of summer.  Starting at approximately 1:04am EDT on June 21st, the Northern Hemisphere of Earth has its greatest tilt toward the sun, making it the longest day of the year.

To get an idea of what happens (astronomically) on this special day, we looked to Wikipedia for a brief explanation.  We found that June 20-21 is one of two solstices: June 21 is called the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.  Around December 21, the solstices are reversed and winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere.  During the solstice, the rays of the sun directly strike one of the two tropical latitude lines and the sun reaches its highest position in the sky.  When summer occurs in a hemisphere, it is due to that hemisphere receiving more direct rays of the sun than the opposite hemisphere where it is winter.  In winter, the sun’s energy hits the earth at oblique angles and is thus less concentrated.  For several months of the year, one half of the earth receives more direct rays of the sun than the other half, hence creating the four seasons we are fortunate enough to experience.

Worldwide interpretation of the event varies among cultures, but most recognize it with festivals, holidays, and rituals during this time.  To join in on this celebration, we found a few Summer Solstice events in the Southern California area:

The Financial Benefits of Citizenship for Hispanic Americans

CA_Latino_Financial_Access_ReportWeb.pdf - Mozilla Firefox 6132013 21951 PMThe National Council of La Raza (NCLR) recently released a new report titled ‘Latino Financial Access and Inclusion‘, which examines the financial benefits of citizenship for Hispanic Americans.  Included within the report are ways in which citizenship provides new opportunities for individuals to build their financial capacity.

Between January and April 2012, NCLR worked with eight NCLR Affiliates and four Progreso Financiero stores to survey more than 1,000 low-income Hispanic individuals across California.  The objective of this survey was to understand how Latino households were interacting with the financial services industry, the qualities and experiences that shaped their attitudes and decision-making, and the ways in which technology was either fostering or inhibiting access to financial services.  Below are a few key factors we pulled from the report:

Account Ownership and Use:

  • The majority of survey participants were saving. However, those without a bank account were less likely to save than participants with an account.
  • Survey respondents were tapping into a wide range of financial tools beyond those associated with accounts, such as checks or debit cards. Moreover, personal networks were an important financial tool.

Age, Citizenship Status, and Employment:

  • Account ownership fluctuated among age groups. Immigrant account ownership varied based on time in the country.
  • Foreign-born citizens had higher engagement levels than similarly situated immigrants who have yet to naturalize.
  • Participants pointed to the lack of bilingual capacity among financial institutions and burdensome identification requirements as major obstacles to building a meaningful relationship with a financial institution.
  • The unemployed were less likely to have an account than the employed.

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Runners Unite on Fifth Annual ‘National Running Day’

This week marked the fifth annual National Running Day, which was created to shine a light on the many ways in which running improves lives and society.  In its brief history, National Running Day has become a mostly informal celebration, as running has become increasingly popular.  According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, more than 50 million Americans lace up their sneakers and run each year, with a little over half of which who run 50 days or more throughout the year.

I Run logoCreated in 2009, National Running Day is held the first Wednesday in June and is organized by the New York Road Runners, Boston Athletic Association, Running USA, and USA Track & Field.  Geared specifically towards this day, organized group runs are held in more than 130 cities.  This year the organizers of National Running Day are encouraging runners to donate to the One Fund Boston, which was created to help the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15.

“It is a coast-to-coast celebration of a sport and activity that’s simple, inexpensive, and fun,” reads the description on the National Running Day site. “It’s the perfect way for longtime runners to reaffirm their love of running and for beginners to kick off a lifetime and life-changing commitment.”

At LVM, running is an important part of our office culture.  With a handful of marathons under our belts, spreading from Orange County to Malibu and Catalina, we’ve put in quite a few miles and know what it takes to be considered an ‘avid runner’.

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