Alexa Turn On? – Amazon Alexa Smart Home Integration

My Alexa Home Automation Journey

Alexa Z-Wave Smart Home

This is a recap of my recent experience with the Amazon Echo Dot, Phillips Hue bulbs, Samsung SmartThings, Harmony Hub, and numerous Z-Wave home automation devices.

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo DotThis Christmas I took advantage of Amazon’s special deal on their Echo Dot smart devices and bought several for use in my home and to give away as gifts. In case you live under a rock and haven’t heard of the Echo Dot, they are really cool, hockey puck sized devices that are inexpensive and very useful and entertaining.

The all-new Amazon Echo Dot is in it’s second generation and is available in either black or white.  The Echo Dot uses seven microphones with far-field voice recognition technology. This enables Alexa to understand your voice commands even in a noisy environment. I have one right below my big screen TV and it works exceptionally well at discriminating between your voice and the background noise from the TV.

The speaker that comes in the Dot is usable, however you can connect speakers or headphones to the Dot via Bluetooth or using a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone cable. Personally I use the Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ Angle 3 portable Bluetooth speakers with my echo dots. The OontZs Angle 3 speakers sound great and will not automatically shut off after inactivity when connected to a AC adapter. This allows you to leave the portable Bluetooth speakers permanently connected to your Echo Dots.

The Dot is a smaller version of the Amazon Echo. The full sized Echo is more expensive and has a larger speaker comparable to it’s Google Home competitor.

Alexa Home Assistant

The now familiar female voice from the Amazon smart home devices is named “Alexa”. You can rename her in the settings, but I left the default, which works better than I had expected.  You’ll need to download the Alexa app for your specific device or use the Alexa web page from a computer browser.

Alexa Add Beer To My Shopping List

In addition to retrieving useful information such as your local weather forecast, commute time, theater line-up, etc., Alexa can also create shopping and to-do lists. I really like this feature. Alarms and timers are also convenient.

Alexa Smart Home Control

I had to try out the voice activated lighting and other home automation features that the Echo Dot integrates with, so I purchased a Phillips Hue starter kit which included the Hue hub and two Phillips Hue bulbs. The Hue hub installation was fairly straightforward and after a little experimentation with the Alexa App, I had Alexa controlling the two Phillips hue bulbs that I installed. You need to ask Alexa to “Discover Devices” and press the button on your Hue hub to get it working. Then you can say “Alexa turn on the bedroom 20%” and Alexa will link to your Hue account and turn on the bedroom lamps to 20% brightness. The wow factor is very high and it is “WA” (Wife Approved).

After this taste of futuristic smart home automation, I needed (truthfully wanted) more, so I fired up my Amazon Prime account and ordered a Samsung SmartThings hub and a Harmony Hub along with several Z-Wave switches, outlets, dimmers, and other controls.

Samsung SmartThings Hub

Samsung SmartThings Hub

To control electrical devices you need a Z-Wave Hub. There are competitive Z-Wave hubs from HomeSeer, Wink, Vera and others, however from my online research, it appeared that the Samsung SmartThings hub was the most popular and compatible.

The Samsung Z-Wave Hub connects to your router via an Ethernet patch cable and then communicates with the controls using Z-Wave. Z-Wave is a 900 MHz mesh wireless network. This allows the devices to repeat the signals giving you a large range for your Z-Wave network.

Once you connect the hub, you need to download the SmartThings App.
Apple – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/smartthings-mobile/id590800740
Android – https://d3ijxvf5kli6f6.cloudfront.net/assets/img/icn-app-android.c06b457b.png
Windows – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/apps/smartthings-mobile/9wzdncrdszmq

The app gives you full control of your SmartThings Hub from any Apple, Android or Windows phone or tablet. You’ll also need to set up a Samsung SmartThings account. Here are the detailed instructions for setting up your SmartThings Hub.

Linking Alexa and SmartThings

You need to add the SmartThings skill to Alexa so you can use voice commands to control your devices. Here are the Alexa SmartThings skill instructions. Once everything is configured, remember to ask Alexa to “Discover Devices” when you add a new device to your SmartThings hub or rename an existing device.

SmartThings Z-Wave Devices

There is a plethora of Z-Wave devices available for the Samsung SmartThings Hub, Here are a few that I am familiar with:

Z-Wave Plug-In Lamp Dimmers

GE Z-Wave Lamp Module

GE Lamp Module

These are very easy to install and require no wiring. You just plug the Z-Wave dimmer module into a standard electrical outlet and plug your lamp into the module.

I purchased two GoControl PD300Z-2 Z-Wave Plug-in Dimmer Modules from Amazon. They are also available at other retailers such as Home Depot. I like the GoControl PD300Z because it only takes up one spot on a duplex receptacle and has a grounded pass-thru outlet. In effect you can still use both grounded outlets and also have a lamp connected with Z-Wave dimming and on-off features. They are rated for up to 300 watts (Incandescent).
UPDATE: While researching the specs on the PD300Z-2, I noticed that several Amazon reviews complained about poor performance when dimming low wattage LED bulbs. I haven’t experienced this, but both of the GoControl PD300Z-2 units that I have are used in multiple LED lamp applications. One lamp has 2 Phillips 9.5 watt (60 watt equivalent) dimmable LED bulbs  and the other PD300Z-2 connects to two bedside lamps via a multi-tap extension cord. Each bedside lamp has one 9.5 watt Phillips dimmable LED bulb. Looking at the GoControl PD300Z-2 manual: it states Incandescent only and a 20 watt minimum load for proper dimming. My setup is 19 watts of LED bulbs and it works good. For a lighter LED load you might want to choose a different model such as the GE 12718 which is rated for LED’s. The GE 12718 Lighting Lamp Module with Dimmer Control is almost identical in outward appearance to the GoControl PD300Z-2 but supports dimmable fluorescent, LED and CFL fixtures.

Z-Wave Plug in Appliance Modules

These are also very easy to install and require no wiring. I bought the GE Lighting Control 12719 Appliance Modules from Amazon. These are rated for 1800 Watts (15 Amps) and are used for switching heavier loads such as a portable heater or coffee pot.

The GE 12719 Smart Switch is designed the same as the GE lamp dimmer switch with one pass-thru outlet and one Z-Wave controlled outlet. The difference, in addition to the 15 amp rating is the 12719 Z-Wave controlled outlet is grounded and doesn’t support dimming, just on or off.

Z-Wave Outdoor Plug-In Switch Modules

I purchased two GE 12720 Z-Wave Outdoor Modules  to control my outdoor holiday lights. These function like the GE 12719 Smart Switch above, but are encased in weatherproof protective cases for outdoor use in damp or wet conditions. These are very convenient for outdoor lighting. You can tell the SmartThings app to turn them on automatically at a specific time or even at a preset time before or after dusk. The dusk setting adjusts for your location so you don’t need to reconfigure your timer settings throughout the year as the days get longer or shorter.

Z-Wave In-Wall Switch Modules

Z-Wave in-wall switchThe Z-Wave in-wall switch modules replace existing switches to make them Z-Wave controllable. Although these are the best solution for many Smart Home upgrades they also require more knowledge and skill to install.

The advantage of installing Z-Wave switches over using smart bulbs such as the Phillips Hue is: If you install a smart bulb in a fixture that is controlled by standard switch(s), then the switch must be left on all of the time for the smart bulb to be able to communicate with the hub. If you turn it off manually with the switch, you’ll need to manually turn it back on. With the Z-Wave Smart Switch you can turn the light or device off with the switch or via the hub. The switch is momentary, and doesn’t stay in a off position like a standard switch does. This allows full manual or wireless control anytime.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In-Wall Z-Wave modules require a “Neutral Wire” to be connected in order to function. If you don’t know what a neutral wire is, then you should most likely have someone experienced with electrical wiring install them for you. Normal switches do not require a neutral wire, so it’s about a 50/50 shot whether there will be a neutral in the switch box. I got lucky all of my boxes except one had neutral wires.

Many times the switch box is used as a junction box to connect wires going to other locations. If this is the case there will typically be a bundle of bare ground wires, a bundle of black (hot) wires and a bundle of white (neutral) wires in the box.

All neutral wires are white, however all white wires are not necessarily neutral wires.If there is a white wire connected to a standard switch, it is NOT a neutral wire.  Switches simply break the hot wire going to the load, so one wire will be the line side from the breaker panel and the other wire will be the load side which connects the line to the load when the switch is closed. The neutral connection is never switched.

In addition to requiring a neutral wire, the Z-Wave devices are thicker than standard devices, requiring more depth in the box to fit flush.

DANGER WILL ROBINSON: There are dangerous AC voltages inside of electrical boxes. You should make sure all power inside the box is turned off at the breaker panel. Use a multi meter or audible voltage detector like this to be sure all power is off.

If you separate the bundles of hot or neutral wires in the box, make sure that they are tightly reconnected by twisting with a pair of linesman pliers and tightly twisting on the proper size insulated wire-nut. Those wires carry current to other circuits and loose connections can heat-up, melt and possibly cause a fire.

If you don’t feel comfortable working with electrical connections, then have the Z-Wave controls professionally installed.

In-Wall Z-Wave Switch Module

These are used for switches that control non-dimmable loads. Such as a switched outlet, non dimmable lighting, exhaust fan, etc. There are two states on or off. The switch also has a blue status LED that can be configured to illuminate when the switch is on or when the switch is off. It can also be disabled completely if you like.

I used the GE Z-Wave 12722 On/Off Switches . You can use a Z-Wave hub for wireless operation of the switch or traditional manual, up is on down is off operation.

In Wall Z-Wave Dimmer Module

As the name suggests these are Z-Wave on/off switches with dimming functionality. You would use this type of switch when you have a switch controlling lighting that can be dimmed.

I used the GE 12724 Z-Wave Smart Dimmers . You can adjust the brightness of the lighting locally by holding down on the switch to dim or holding up on the switch to brighten. A single press will turn the lights on or off to the preset light level.

Using your SmartThings app you can control the lights from anywhere using your smartphone or tablet. Once you teach Alexa the SmartThings skill you can also use voice commands such as “Alexa dim the bedroom to 10%” to control the lights.

In Wall Z-Wave Fan Speed Control

This control is used for motor speed control. Don’t use standard dimmer switches for fan speed control. The motor will hum and operate poorly.

I used the GE 12730 Z-Wave Smart Fan Control , it works good and smoothly and quietly controls the fan speeds.  A single press turns the fan on or off at the last preset speed. Holding the control to the top will increase the fan speed and holding the bottom will decrease the fan speed.

NOTE: The GE 12730 Fan Control will not work with remote control fans, this control is for fans with manual speed control. Put your fan in high speed using the manual switch and use this control to vary the speeds or turn the fan on or off.

In Wall Z-Wave Add-On Switch (3 Way Applications)

This switch can not be used by itself. It is a add-on for any of the above in-wall Z-Wave controls for use in 3 or 4 way applications. When used with dimming and speed controls the add-on switch can also control the brightness or speed in addition to on/off capability.

I used the GE 12723 Add-On Switch for Z-Wave, ZigBee and GE Bluetooth Wireless Lighting Controls . Once I figured out the wiring diagram installation was straightforward. I had two 3 way switches that needed the add-on to function properly. You can add up to 4 GE add-on switches to a GE in-wall control.

NOTE: Make sure you examine the wiring diagram carefully.  this switch does not connect like traditional 3 and 4 way switches. only one traveler is used to communicate between the switches.

Z-Wave Duplex Receptacles

GE 12728 Z-Wzve Duplex OutletZ-Wave controlled duplex receptacles are fairly easy to install and typically provide one Z-wave controlled outlet and one always on outlet.

Be sure to read the “DANGER WILL ROBINSON” section before working on electrical wiring.

I used GE 12721 Z-Wave Duplex Receptacles . These work very well, however the blue status LED is very bright and might be a distraction. In the SmartThings App you can configure the status LED to be always off, however you can not adjust the brightness.

The outlet has three pigtails and uses included wire nuts to connect to your existing wiring. All you do is remove your existing receptacle and connect the pigtails to the wires that you removed from your old outlet.

The GE 12721 is rated at 15 Amps. The Z-Wave controlled outlet is rated for up to 600 watts incandescent, 1/2 HP motor, or 1800 watts resistive.

Z-Wave Door Locks

Kwikset Z-Wave Door LockHave you ever left home and wondered whether you locked the front door. Well, with the new Z-Wave door locks those days are over. You can check the status of your lock and remotely lock or unlock it from anywhere.

I used the Kwikset 910 Z-Wave SmartCode Electronic Deadbolt . It comes in three finishes and features Kwikset’s SmartKey technology for easy re-keying to match your existing Kwikset keys.

The lock is easy to install and has a keypad that you can program with up to 30 user access codes so you can unlock the door without keys.

You can use the SmartThings app to control the lock, however for security Alexa does not control the lock so someone does not stand outside and yell “Alexa open the front door”. There is a workaround for locking the door. IFTTT (If This Than That) is a collection of applets that allow Alexa to control many devices that it doesn’t natively support.

Smart Thermostats

Nest Smart ThermostatMany smart thermostats can be controlled using their apps or by Alexa. Names include Honeywell, Nest, Ecobee, Sensi, and others.  Here is a list of Alexa supported thermostats.

These devices are very cool. I have one installed at my older parents house so I can remotely diagnose problems and get smartphone alerts if the house becomes too hot or cold.

I have the Nest in my house , it was very easy to install and is built very well, metal and glass as opposed to plastic construction. Easy to configure and plays well with Alexa. Using the Nest app you have full remote control of the thermostat. You can also have the nest set back the temperature levels when no one is home which it accomplishes by sensing the presence of your family’s smartphones.

NEST UPDATE: The Nest skill is rather limited to adjusting thermostat temperature. Read this blog post for a better Alexa Nest skill, that offers much more control of the Nest via Alexa.

 

 

Securifi Almond Touchscreen Router Review

Securifi Almond 2015 Wireless Router

Securifi Almond 2015

The Securifi Almond 2015 Long Range Touchscreen Wireless Router / Range Extender is an Amazon best seller in the computer routers category with extremely high customer reviews.

The most unique feature of the Securifi Almond is the built-in touchscreen. This enables easy setup of the Securifi wireless router without the need to connect it to a computer. Many of the customer reviews comment about the quick and easy 3 minute setup.

The new Almond 2015 has 30% better WiFi range than its 2012 predecessor, which also has an amazing 4.5 star rating with over 10,300 reviews. The Securifi Almond can function as either a primary wireless router or can easily be configured as a wireless range extender, utilizing your existing router, to extend your wireless range in your home.

With compatible sensors the Securifi can also double as a smarthome security and automation hub to remotely monitor doors or windows and control lighting, thermostats, appliances, etc.

 Securifi Almond 2015 Long Range Touchscreen Wireless Router / Range Extender Price

Securifi Almond Router Reviews

As of this writing there were 1276 Amazon reviews with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. For a product with this volume of reviews this is an excellent rating. Here is a breakdown of the Securifi wireless router ratings.

  • 927 or 73% gave the Almond a solid 5 star review.
  • 130 or 10% of reviewers posted 4 star rankings.
  • 67 or 5% ranked the router 3 stars.
  • 44 or 3% were somewhat disappointed – 2 stars.
  • 108 or 9% gave a dissatisfied 1 star rating.

Almond Router Mobile AppA quick note on my observation of the poor reviews. Many of the 1 and two star reviewers complained about compatibility or speed issues when configuring the Securifi Almond as a wireless range extender. There were a lot of complaints about slower Internet speeds when connected to the Securifi range extender vs. connecting to their primary wireless router. Unfortunately this is how all wireless extenders function. There are some losses in the process and you can expect somewhat slower speeds as a tradeoff for the extended wireless range. To eliminate this would require configuring the Securifi as a wireless access point (WAP) and running an Ethernet cable between it and your primary router.

Almond 2015 Features

Securifi Almond 2015 Features

Below you will find the most common pros and cons of the 2015 Securifi Almond router / wireless extender extrapolated from over 1200 Amazon customer reviews of the product.

Securifi Almond Pros

  • Quick & Easy Touchscreen Setup
  • Excellent Wireless Range
  • Home Automation Features
  • Good Securifi Tech Support
  • Smart Phone App
  • Reliable Connection – No Restarts
  • Local Weather Screen Display
Easy Setup

Easy Setup

Securifi Almond Cons

  • No Dual Band – You need the Almond+
  • Doesn’t Support Z-Wave
  • Connection Failures – Some users experienced connection problems.
  • 3 Min. Setup Unrealistic – Some users had difficulty configuring the Almond

 

Almond 2015 Technical Specifications 

Almond 2015 Technical Specifications 802.11bgn (300Mbps)

2 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB

Home Automation: ZigBee HA 1.2

Port Forwarding, Firewall, DMZ, UPnP

Free iOS & Android Apps & Browser UI

Range: 50-150 ft. (Depends on Construction)

Power Supply: 12V, 1A (Input:110 – 220V, 50-60Hz)

Securifi Almond Resources

 Securifi Almond 2015 Long Range Touchscreen Wireless Router / Range Extender Price

 

Recent ISP 1 Product Reviews:

 

 

Current Cox Data Limits

Current Cox Data Limits

Current Cox Data Limits

Cox has typically employed “soft data limits”, which did not carry any penalties for exceeding the monthly data cap for broadband Internet usage. However as Dslreports.com recently reported in their post “Cox Communications Eyes Usage Caps, Overage Fees“, Cox has been testing data overage fees in trial markets.  Below is a excerpt from this page of the Cox website detailing the current monthly Cox data limits for their various Internet packages.

Current Cox Data Limits:

Cox High Speed Internet packages include various speeds and Data Plans tailored to provide you with plenty of freedom to stream, surf, download and share. See the table below for available options.

Note: Unused data does not carry over to the next month.

Package Monthly Included Data Speeds

Download / Upload

Starter 200 GB 5 Mbps / 1 Mbps
Essential 250 GB 15 Mbps / 2 Mbps
Preferred 350 GB 50 Mbps / 5 Mbps
Premier 700 GB 100 Mbps / 10 Mbps
Ultimate 1000 GB 200 Mbps / 20 Mbps

Note: 300 Mbps / 30 Mbps in select areas

Gigablast (Where Available) 2000 GB 1 Gbps / 1 Gbps

Recent Cox Posts:

 

Cox Gigablast Internet Install

Cox Gigablast Internet Install

Cox Gigablast Install

I recently had the new Cox Gigablast (Gigabit) Internet installed. In this post I will explain the Gigablast install and review the performance of the service.

Gigablast is Cox cable’s name for its fiber optic Gigabit Internet service. Google started installing Gigabit fiber Internet a few years ago and other ISP’s such as Cox are following suite with their own fiber offerings to stay competitive in the residential Gigabit Internet market.

Fiber Infrastructure




Cox recently dug up my neighborhood and pulled new multi-fiber cables and installed the necessary equipment to support their FTTH (Fiber to the home) expansion. Below are pictures of the new Fiber Optic termination enclosure which Cox buried flush with the ground. Inside the enclosure is the pictured fiber connection equipment which splits the multi strand fiber to the individual houses. These upgrades enable Cox to provide synchronous Gigabit Internet to residential homes and businesses in the area. Synchronous means that the upload and download speeds are the same, in this case 1 Gbps upload and 1 Gbps download speed. Most Internet service plans are asynchronous, with higher download speed and lower upload speed. My old Cox Internet plan was around 100 Mbps download speed and 10 Mbps upload speed. Many newer services such as online backups and cloud storage involve the uploading of multiple Gigabytes of data. The super fast upload speed of the fiber optic Gigablast Internet make these services much faster and more convenient to use than slower cable or DSL broadband Internet.

Cox Fiber Optic Junction

Cox Fiber Optic Junction Box

 

Flush Install of Fiber Connections Enclosure

Flush Install of Fiber Connections Enclosure

 

Cox Fiber Distribution Assembly

Cox Fiber Distribution Assembly

Cox Gigablast Is In Your Area

A few weeks ago I got an email from a Cox representative informing me that Gigablast Internet was available in my area. The email went on to offer me a terrific deal, if I would commit to a two year contract. The price was $50 cheaper per month and I would get the much faster Gigablast Internet service with free professional installation ($300 Value), a free fiber modem (ONT) and a free Netgear R6300 wireless ac Gigabit router. My previous Cox bundle also included premium two number phone service (I have a separate Fax #) and the 6 tuner, 2 Terabyte Contour DVR service plus three additional DVR client boxes. Cox threw in free HBO and a three year price lock guarantee to sweeten the deal. Since I had no intention of switching Internet providers in the next two years, it was a no brainer decision to upgrade to the Gigablast service. I also opted to upgrade my Contour service to the newer X1 Contour with voice remotes. Cox recently licensed the X1 technology from Comcast. Although this option cost me $10 more in monthly fees, it was well worth the money. The X1 interface and menu options with voice control is light years ahead of the old clunky Contour interface. It would take another review to fully describe the new Contour system, maybe later I’ll get around to it.

UPDATE: I got around to the New Cox Contour Review.

Here is a copy of the email I received from Cox:
Installation Date: June 14th between 8am – 12pm

Cox Communications would like to welcome you to the world of Gigablast Internet service!

Cox is unleashing Internet so powerful it will change how you connect with everything. It’s the technology of tomorrow at 100x the speed of today. Run all your devices at the same time & Download 100 tunes in 3 seconds, an HD movie in under a minute and more

Your current monthly service is $271.97
Your total estimated monthly service is $218

Includes Free Gigablast Installation & Modem/Router, Advanced TV HBO with New Contour 6 & Premier Phone Line

This comes with 24 month commitment & 3 Year Price Lock Guarantee.

Please click on the link below for Price Lock Guarantee and installation process.

Price Lock Info     Gig Installation Process

(Cox Representative’s Name Removed)

Gigablast Team

Gigablast Install

Short Fiber Run To House

Short Fiber Run To House

My house is very close to the Cox distribution box, the fiber optic cable only needed to be pulled around 15 feet to reach my house. It was so easy, that the installer moved my installation date up by 2 weeks. Before the Cox installer came out, someone from Cox pre-installed the heavy sheathed fiber cable to the house. (See Pictures). When the installer arrived he mounted a box on the exterior of the house that serves as a fiber optic coupling to transition from the heavy underground cable to a more flexible fiber cable that is run to the location where your fiber modem, technically called a Optical Network Terminal or ONT, will be located. Special equipment is used to install the connectors on the fiber strands. Due to the technical skills and tools requires to properly install fiber, Gigablast must be professionally installed, there are no self install kits.

Professional Gigablast Install

Professional Cox Gigablast Install

On my install the Cox technician had to redo one of the fiber connections because the optical signal wasn’t right. I had assumed the TV and phone would share the Gigablast fiber connection, however this is not the case. The TV and phone service is provided via your existing RG-6 coax. You still need your coaxial cable modem / VoIP interface for your Cox phone service if you have it. My network equipment is in the laundry room, so the technician routed the fiber through the attic and into my laundry. Then he wall mounted a Alcatel Lucent G-010G-A Optical Network Terminal (ONT) where the fiber terminates. He then disconnected the WAN connection to my router from the old DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem and connected it to the new ONT. This needs to be a Gigabit rated Ethernet cable that connects the ONT to your router’s WAN or Internet port. CAT6 or possibly CAT5e Ethernet cables will support Gigabit network transfer rates. Your router also needs to have Gigabit Ethernet ports and support the newer wireless ac standard to fully utilize the available Internet bandwidth provided by Gigablast. Cox provided a free Netgear R6300 AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Router with the deal. Since I already had a suitable Synology RT1900ac Router, I configured the Netgear R6300 as a Wireless Access Point (WAP) to extend my wireless range. After everything was connected, the technician called in so Cox could De-authorize my old cable modem and authorize the new fiber ONT.

Alcatel Lucent G-010G-A Optical Network Terminal

Alcatel Lucent G-010G-A Optical Network Terminal – (ONT)

 

Completed Outdoor Fiber Connections

Completed Outdoor Fiber Connections

Special Fiber Install Tools

Special Fiber Optic Install Tools

Cox Gigablast Speeds

The Gigablast speeds are incredible. On a Ethernet connected desktop, I got 943.31 Mb/s download and 951.56 Mb/s upload speeds. Ping time or latency was almost nonexistent at 2 ms. As with any network connections, your speed will vary depending on your equipment and conditions. Typically Ethernet connections are fairly stable, whereas wireless (WiFi) connections vary considerably depending on conditions and equipment. My Galaxy S7 Edge smartphone showed respectable 329.69 Mbps download and 377.36 Mbps upload speeds with a 4 ms ping on a 5 GHz WiFi connection to my Synology router. Even my 2.4 GHz ASUS Ultrabook gets over 100 Mbps Internet speeds for both uploads and downloads.

 

Cox Gigablast Ethernet Speed Test

Cox Gigablast Ethernet Speed Test

Smartphone Speedtest

5 GHz WiFi Smartphone Speedtest

Conclusion

With the special Cox promotion, installing Gigablast was a easy decision for me. Even if there were no promotions, the Gigablast service has great value if you utilize a lot of monthly bandwidth, such as multiple streaming from sources such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc.  The data caps on Gigablast is currently 2 Terabytes per month, which is much higher than other Cox broadband Internet plans or competing ISP providers. I think the price for just the standalone Gigablast Internet without any additional Cox bundled services is around $100 per month. With additional bundled cox services it drops to around $70 a month.

Cox Gigablast Commercials

Other Cox Gigabit Internet Posts

 

 

Verizon Certifies NetComm Wireless M2M Router

Verizon Certifies NetComm Wireless M2M Router

NetComm Wireless M2M Router

NetComm Wireless Limited, a leading global developer of data communications devices has its 4G Wi-Fi M2M Router (NTC-140W-01) certified by Verizon Wireless for use on the Verizon Wireless Private Network.

The certification now opens the door for customers of both entities to enjoy a whole new Internet experience. In a press release dated May 3, the company said mission-critical wireless Machine-to-Machine (M2M) data can now be secured using the NTC-140W-01 to create a direct connection to internal enterprise systems over a segregated private network.

It has been developed to accelerate the uptake of M2M in the US and the NTC-140W-01 brings Verizon Wireless LTE/XLTE network coverage, speed and security to enterprises that collect and manage large amounts of data. These will come from digital displays, smart buildings, remote healthcare, emergency response and other bandwidth-intensive M2M applications.

David Stewart, the CEO and Managing Director, NetComm Wireless made the official announcement of the certification. “We are pleased to introduce a device that separates M2M data from public Internet traffic to secure remote management and advance real world M2M applications by providing undisrupted access to the bandwidth, speed and capacity offered by the Verizon Wireless Private Network.”

It has further been designed to support M2M deployments over the long-term and the future-proof NTC-140W-01 enables the secure migration of machines and business assets from 2G to 4G LTE. The industrial-grade device reduces deployment risk and features automatic failover for reliable connectivity to time critical systems, tele-health services and disaster recovery applications.  The NetComm Wireless NTC-140W-01 features powerful edge processor for optimal performance, and its embedded NetComm Linux OS and Software Development Kit (SDK) enables the installation of custom software applications to the on board memory.

The NTC-140W-01 features two super-fast Gigabit Ethernet ports and high-speed WiFi connectivity to decrease data transfer delays and enable fast and reliable networking across multiple devices.

Recent Verizon Posts:

 

Cox Ranked 18th in Top 50 Companies for Diversity

Cox Ranked 18th in Top 50 Companies for Diversity

Cox Diversity

Cox Communications has continued to show why it’s the best service provider in America after ranking eighteenth on the 2016 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list.

The announcement was made officially by DiversityInc at the diversity and inclusion’s keystone event held at Cipriani Wall Street on April 19. DiversityInc’s annual survey – tracking the nation’s top companies when it comes to hiring, retaining and promoting women, minorities, people with disabilities, LGBT and veterans – is the most rigorous, data-driven survey of its kind, gauging detailed demographics based on race/ethnicity and gender at some of the largest U.S. employers.

“At Cox, we believe that creating a culture of inclusion builds diversity.  We place a big emphasis on leadership involvement in diversity and inclusion and we are proud to see our efforts once again being recognized on DiversityInc’s prestigious Top 50 Companies for Diversity list,” Len Barlik, the company’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer said in a press release.

“With more than 1800 companies considered, Cox’s rank in the top 20 for the second straight year, as well as our position on two of DiversityInc’s specialty lists – Mentoring and Diversity Councils, is very rewarding.” Luke Visconti, the DiversityInc’s founder and CEO paid tribute to President Pat Esser and his team for continuing to push Cox Communications to be an employer of choice and a thought leader among companies committed to making strides in diversity and inclusion.

Companies with more than 1,000 U.S.-based employees are eligible to enter, and there is no cost to compete. Each company’s rank is based on an objective analysis of 183 separate factors, based on data from a 300-question survey. The four equally weighted areas of measurement are talent pipeline, equitable talent development, and CEO/leadership commitment and supplier diversity. The mission of DiversityInc is to bring education and clarity to the business benefits of diversity.

Recent Cox Posts:

 

Portland Joins Google’s Digital Inclusion Fellowship Program

Portland Joins Google’s Digital Inclusion Fellowship Program

Google Fiber Low Income Internet

Google Fiber customers in Portland have something to smile about after the company confirmed it will be adding the city to its program for expanding Internet access to low-income residents.

Other beneficiaries of the development will be people who go without speedy online connections.  The Digital Inclusion Fellowship program operates in partnership with a Portland organization, the Non-profit Technology Network.

It is already in the second year and awards fellowships in 11 cities to reach people without Internet access and help overcome the digital divide. Oregonlive.com reported that in Portland, the fellowship program will work with the Multnomah County Library and Free Geek as host organizations.

The library has just posted its fellowship opening, a one to two-year post responsible for enhancing existing digital literacy programming while building and expanding the capacity of community partners to deliver adult digital literacy programming.

Google Fiber contributes $1 million to support salaries and benefits for the fellows, and stipends for community organizations that participate.  The Digital Inclusion program operates in 11 cities. Portland is the only one of them where Google hasn’t committed to offer its superfast Internet service.

Even though there has been no official communication from the company in regards to this development, all latest indications have clearly painted an announcement in the offing. For instance, they have hired Portland staffers, won permission to string its fiber on local utility poles and begun applying for permission to build network hubs in the city.

Expanding the Internet’s reach has been a priority for Google Fiber since the service’s launch four years ago. Last month, it announced a new, $15 service in areas of its cities where unusually high numbers of residents go without Internet access at home.  Portland is preparing its own “Digital Equity Action Plan” to improve broadband connectivity for low-income residents.

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Windstream Takes Kinetic to Sugar Land

Windstream Takes Kinetic to Sugar Land

Windstream Takes Kinetic to Sugar Land

Windstream Communications has announced that Kinetic, the company’s next-generation television service, is now available in Sugar Land, Texas.

They will allow over 30,000 homes in Sugar Land to sign up for the new television service. Kinetic utilizes the company’s 100 percent fiber-backed network to provide an enhanced viewing experience. This new development is geared towards increasing their market presence in America.

Sugar Land is the third Kinetic market following successful launches in Lincoln, Neb., and Lexington, Ky., in 2015. The Kinetic launch came in the wake of Windstream announcing ultra-fast 1-Gigabit Internet service in Sugar Land. The two services make Sugar Land one of the most advanced and connected communities in Windstream’s consumer markets.

Sarah Day, the president of consumer and small business for Windstream said their customers should be braced for more goodies going forward. She reiterated their commitment to serve customers in the best way. “We continue to invest heavily in innovative technologies that allow us to offer services that meet our customers’ current and future needs,” she said in a press release dated April 11.

“With the launch of Kinetic today and the announcement of 1-Gig service last week, we’re offering the Sugar Land community access to an unparalleled in-home TV and Internet experience.” All customers interested in signing up for Kinetic are encouraged to call 1-877-481-9463, or visit Windstream.com/Kinetic.

Kinetic is powered by the Ericsson Mediaroom platform and offers a unique user experience coupled with features that subscribers want and deserve from a TV provider. With Kinetic, customers will receive fast, high-quality, interactive television with features like High Definition (HD) channels, video on-demand, kinetic on the go, instant channel change, wireless Set Top Box and free Whole Home DVR among many others.

Kinetic is available as a bundled service with Windstream’s High Speed Internet and telephone services. All bundle rates, which vary based on channel selection, include the features listed above. Rates for TV-only service start at $39.99.

 

Midcontinent Agrees to Acquire Dataware

Midcontinent Agrees to Acquire Dataware

Midcontinent Dataware

Midcontinent Communications has entered into an agreement to acquire Dataware, LLC, with an aim of increasing their foothold in the local industry.

Dataware is a firm that has provided data center space, and cloud and managed services since 2001. The deal includes two data centers located in Sioux Falls and Yankton, SD – giving Midcontinent the infrastructure to deliver business-class data center and managed services across the Upper Midwest.

Scott Smidt who leads the data center strategy and team as Vice President of Business Engineering and Operations for Midcontinent said the new development is a positive to their growing business. “The combination of the data center environments on top of our Northern Plains Network is an advantage for Midco Business, but even more so for our customers,” he said in a press release.

“Businesses already benefit from the reliability, redundancy and capacity of our wholly owned and operated fiber-optic network. Soon, they can use that network to access their secure data housed in a Midco facility.” Even though details of the agreement are not in public domain, it’s understood to be a win-win situation for both parties.

Actually, Midcontinent will continue to serve Dataware customers as it expands its service line near-term and long-term to include additional managed business IT services. The company is assessing opportunities to expand the data center strategy into other cities. That will be a trend-setting move for other industry players who are still lagging behind.

“As we look to the future, we may examine opportunities in additional Midco markets presently underserved by large data centers, such as Fargo and Grand Forks, and then move our focus to other key Midco markets,” Steve Grosser, the EVP for Midcontinent said.

Midcontinent data centers are considered Tier II facilities, meaning they deliver on service-level commitments while also offering a cost-effective solution for businesses of all sizes.

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