New Home Build (in process) - Have Questions About Media Sharing

Background:
I’m having a new home built as we speak. I’ve opted for numerous “smart home” features like smart thermostats, door locks, smart plugs and switches, security cameras, and CAT6 data drops in almost every room. Gigabit internet will be available. We are a family of 4 and we can often be found streaming different things at the same time and also doing quite a bit of gaming. We each have our own PCs and mobile devices.

What I hope to do:
I would like to be able to have a NAS to store all my media (photos, music, movies/tv) that I currently own and have all of that available to be viewed/heard on the three TVs we will have as well as mobile devices.

We will also have streaming content as well like Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc. whiich we currently get through a Roku and an AppleTV each driving a different TV in our current home. I want to be able to access these streaming services from any device in the house. I am planning to buy 3 new TVs when we move in so that we have the latest tech (and because our current ones are too small for the new house).

My Questions:

  1. Should I buy a NAS to store all of the media I want to share and would/could that NAS be connected directly to the router located in the media enclosure in the master walk-in closet?

  2. If I go with a NAS, would I then just need to have something like Plex installed on each TV/device so that I could access that media?

  3. Similarly, would I just need to install the streaming service apps on each device so that can stream independently of one another?

  4. Would I still need to use the Roku or AppleTV and, if so, would I need to have one for each TV or could they be attached to the router at the media enclosure and shared across any device on the network? I’m thinking they would not be needed but want to confirm. Maybe just the AppleTV since I’m guessing that’s not an app that is found on TV app stores.

  5. Is there anything else you can think of I am missing or where I can take advantage of this or other tech to do something cool in the house?

Thanks so much for reading. I’m fairly tech-savvy but haven’t really been keeping up with the latest tech for quite some time. Now I am ready to get caught up and jump right in now that I will have a great home to do it in.

Sounds like a fun project! :sunglasses:

This forum is specifically for users of the Samsung SmartThings ™ Home automation platform, so all of the questions and answers are assumed to be in that context.

And unfortunately, the Samsung smartthings platform pretty much sucks at audio/video integration. It’s just not really designed for that.

There are certainly some community members who have separately done a lot with AV and may have some suggestions and ideas for you, but to be honest, I think you will get a better discussion if you go to one of the more general forums, or even better, one specific to AV projects.

Reddit has a good sub forum on home automation which is brand agnostic— if nothing else they can probably direct you to an AV forum.

https://www.reddit.com/r/homeautomation/

I know there’s a home theater sub forum at reddit, I just don’t know if it’s any good.

CocoonTech has a good AV forum and is usually the first one I use.

Anyway, good luck again! I just don’t know how much we can help you here.

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Thanks, I wasn’t sure if I posted in the right forum or not. Thanks for the referrals. I’ve been searching for a good place to ask my questions and ended up here lol. I was told by the low-voltage guy that my builder is using that I will have a Samsung SmartThings hub and 2 Ecobee thermostats and a couple Z-Wave switches and outlets. I’ll also be getting a 5.1 surround system built in with an Onkyo receiver and Klipsch speakers so all of that along with being able to most efficiently stream media to every device is what I am trying to wrap my head all around. I’ll check out those other forums and see what sage advice I can get. Thanks!

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Agreed - very fun project.

Personal opinions below - you’ll find most of what you asked is based VERY Much on how people prefer to work, there won’t be an authoritative yes.

That’s purely a ‘you’ question - do you have enough data to warrant a NAS?

Basically, yes.

Again, basically, yes.

and

This is where it gets very custom. So given that the last two answers are yes, you’ll need something to display your data - that something PROBABLY comes in the form of Plex (It’s just easier, ask my wife when she first looked at our ‘smart’ tv’s default view of network shared data) So you need a Plex app.

Do you have SmartTVs - Does the TV allow for a PLEX app? If no how are you going to get PLEX? What OTHER services do you access (Netflix, Disney+, CBSAllAccess, list goes on and on) and how EASY will it be to navigate between those presentations. I STRONGLY urge you to look at the portfolio of everything you consume as a whole and take an assessment of HOW you would consume it and what the user experience would be for someone (not you) to access it. I found most of my family’s ‘stuff’ is a series of apps that are all available on my XBox One and XBox games. By automating the tv to turn on and switch to XBox no matter what as default - in almost all cases they could get what they want without having to switch inputs or ‘figure out the remote’ Can I use voice on Alexa to say ‘Watch netflix’ reliably? No - but I’ve also found that’s not really how my wife wants to do it. She likes to get her snack, sit down and pick up the remote because that’s what she’s done for well over 30 years. So it wa much more important for that experience to be ‘easy’

And finally - Don’t do something because it’s COOL. What I mean is don’t hunt for problems. You’ll have plenty of problems to solve without seeing cool tech and trying to find a way to fit it into your life.

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BTW, I myself am quadriparetic so I need totally hands-free TV controls. I really like most Apple products and I do own an Apple TV box, but it’s primarily used as a hub for my HomeKit home automation system.

I find that I can get everything I want, including an Apple TV app, with an Amazon FireTV cube attached to each TV. And that’s it. That’s all we need.

We can watch Hulu, Disney plus, amazon prime, Netflix, britbox, Apple TV plus, CBS All Access, ESPN, all via Amazon Prime on the Fire TV cube. We can even watch HBO max as a Hulu add on.

And the voice control is great: I can say things like “next episode“, “fast forward 20 minutes,”. And if I say “Alexa, Watch Star Trek Deep Space Nine” it will ask me if I want to watch that on Amazon prime or on Hulu. Just very cool technology for a relatively low cost with great customer support. :sunglasses:

The only thing to be aware of is that the cube model has many more voice features than the fire TV stick or the plain fire TV box. Specifically I need to be able to say “scroll right“ or “scroll down“ to move around the screen and pick some selections. Those voice options are only available on the fire TV cube, which is why it is the one whose product description says “totally hands-free.“

So not only can I say “watch Netflix“ reliably, I can say “watch Tiger King” And it will automatically find it on Netflix and start it. :tiger: (assuming, of course, I’m already signed into Netflix: otherwise it will bring up the sign in screen.)

For the other models you have to use a combination of voice and button remote which is not physically doable for me.

Also, you probably already know this, but you still have to pay the individual subscription fee for the paid services. It’s just that it works like Roku, you can then view them on the fire TV box. So you sign into the service once and then you stay signed in so it’s ready the next time you turn on the TV.

And of course it also has a button remote if you prefer that.

As for your photos and videos, if you are an Amazon prime member, you can store those in your Amazon account and then view them on the fire TV cube. Again, really easy, and great customer support.

I highly recommend buying one of these now and just playing around with it and seeing if that in itself will do what you wanted. Because it’s a really simple, consumer friendly solution. :sunglasses:

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Not really related to what you asked about but you mentioned you had a media closet, if you intend on having that as a central point for the rest of the house i would recommend putting extra empty pipes to the rest of the house while its being built.

Im in the excact same position as you, currently building a house and have a rack at the center of the house where all the equipment Amplifiers for all the rooms, D/A, Splitters, Switches, Fiber, Cat6, USB, PoE etc. and made a small change to the plan few weeks back and had not planned for two new cables into one of the rooms - bottom line is, make sure you plan for extra pipes/wires, better to have extra empty ones for the future then having to redo walls.

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Thanks for the great information. I too am living with a disability after 10 failed spine surgeries during the course of one year. 8 months ago I couldn’t even walk and had been bed ridden for 7 months. Anyways, through a lot of hard work (physical therapy), incredible willpower, and the good Lord above, I’m now walking, working, and capable of small errands and projects. I say this only because it is one of the drivers for some of this home automation interest. I live with pain 24/7 and sitting upright in a chair is painful. I’m hoping that some of this cool tech will save me from getting up as often just to turn off a light, unlock the front door, or change the temperature of the house.

Again, thanks for the tips and advice and God bless!

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Looks like you wound up in the right place after all. I can’t recommend the Ecobee Suite smartapp strongly enough ([RELEASE] Universal Ecobee Suite, Version 1.8.01). The star feature for me, with a fairly basic setup, is being able to tie your Ecobee mode (home/away/night) to your SmartThings mode, which you can control using mobile presence in the SmartThings app or via some other more complicated setup. That is to say, you can set it up so that when your phone arrives within the radius you set, your hub switches from Away to Home, your door unlocks, the light turns on, and the thermostat switches modes and starts cooling the house. It’s especially handy for us right now when we’re on a less consistent schedule that the Ecobee’s internal schedule wouldn’t be able to keep up with.

Another feature is having the system automatically shut off when I leave a door/window open for more than X minutes (requires contact sensors on your doors and windows, of course).

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Good advice. I know it’s not the same as what you’re saying but I did make sure to have a CAT6 drop in every possible location I could imagine needing one. I also am having them put in Smurf tubes in each of the 3 TV locations so it would be easy to hide the wires, etc.

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Thanks. All of the smart home tech that we’re getting comes by way of upgrade packages offered by a company used by our home builder. We do not get a choice of which smart thermostats, as an example, we get. Those actually come standard with the house (no upgrade). Upgrades were things like the Z-Wave door locks switches, plugs, it comes with a SmartThings hub and bunches of other stuff. So I’m counting on all this stuff to play nice together because that’s basically the experience they have sold us. Granted, there may be better options for some of this stuff but unfortunately, we didn’t get to choose it.

So basically, we’re getting what we’re getting at this point and I’ll see how it all comes together when we take ownership. Then I can make adjustments if needed to do what I want.

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While you’re thinking wire drops - If the walls are open, I’d also add extra 4 conductor bell wire to EVERY single window (top corner) back to a single location… In addition to your security prewire… If you ever want to add controllable blinds / shades, it will allow you to power them off of DC power instead of batteries.

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I have another question for you (and anyone else) since you use a lot of voice control.

Unfortunately, I found out after the fact that my wife is adamantly against things like Amazon Echo/Dot due to her being paranoid about Amazon listening in to our private matters. I was caught off guard by this at the time but I did say to her that Amazon and just about anybody else already knows everything about us through other means and that our cell phones capture private info everyday. I told her some guy an Amazon headquarters isn’t sitting there listening in to our conversations all day (or at any time really).

My question is what would you say to someone to convince them that having an Echo or similar device in the home is not a cause for great alarm. I really wanted to get into the voice control aspect of this but if I do, it looks like it might be limited to my one man-cave/nerd room that I’ll have all to myself.

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Good tip. Sounds like a fair amount of work and I’m not sure I’d be up to that in my condition but I’ll look into it the next time I walk the house.

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Looks like you’ve gotten some good advice. We’re kinda going through the same process after buying a new Samsung TV last Black Friday, now finishing our basement, and trying to get rid of an old desktop that currently stores our media.

What I found when buying the new Samsung TV last year (Q70) was that we didn’t need the Roku at all. Samsung has all the apps we used available on the TV (including Plex), so packed up the Roku and just used HDMI ARC to get audio to the receiver. However, i’m keeping the Roku on standby since smart TVs don’t have a good history of staying up to date.

Next step in the plan is to get a NAS compatible with Plex and retire the old desktop. This should be seamless to everyone else in the house since they will still use Plex and see the same media. Once the basement is done in a couple months, I plan to add another Samsung TV. That way the interface is familiar to everyone else in the house and using it will be the same as the one in our living room.

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  1. Even if you don’t have Echo devices in your home, you can set up the Alexa app on your phone (or Google Home if you use Android) and use that for voice commands. Less convenient but only listening when you tell it to.
  2. You could use one of these devices to take external control of when your devices are listening:
    Commercially available option:
    https://www.pcmag.com/news/alexa-jamming-device-keeps-amazon-speakers-from-listening-echo
    DIY open source version:
    https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2019/1/15/18182214/amazon-echo-google-home-privacy-protection-project-white-noise
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Totally understandable, Dave. if you can manage though it was probably the only thing I wish I’d have done ahead - it’s nigh impossible to add after the fact without literally destroying every wall. :frowning: I can fish a network cable in minutes - but those damn windows… :slight_smile:

On your voice response. You’re already on the right track. What do they really get by hearing… (INSERT THING HERE) Start from the point that you likely won’t convince her and you wont be disappointed.

I took the tack voice response in the common rooms and my spaces, and automation in the places she would rather not. Each room introduces its own ‘challenges’ from a voice privacy issue. The living rooms and kitchen are a much different concern than bedrooms… (Obviously)

So I basically went through the cases of what someone might expect to hear on our devices and what benefit they might have from those conversations. We both came to the agreement that if someone knows I’m a Star Wars freak, like scotch, ride Harleys and things with motors and my wife has a penchant for vintage and heirloom clothing - worst case is they show us a bunch of ads for rockabilly stuff…

For the bedroom I got her agreement that if we weren’t voice controlling there, I could build in a button panel and a bunch of sensors to get the automation to work well… (So well it’s almost transparent now, but it’s taken almost 2 years of tuning)

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This is a very personal issue, and some people just can’t be convinced. But for people who are just concerned but not 100% against it, the Amazon echo listens locally for the awake word (normally “Alexa,“ but could also be “computer“ or “echo“ or “Amazon“). Until it hears that, nothing leaves your house Nor is there any record of it.

When it hears the wake word, Then it will start listening for what else you’re going to tell it, but as it does so a blue light comes on on the top of the unit so you can always tell when it is actually listening. That snippet does get sent to the cloud for processing so it is possible that someone else speaking in the room at the same time might have their word sent as part of that 20 second recording. But it’s not common. Echo is pretty good at realizing who is speaking to it.

Those recordings are then processed by computers, not people. It’s not impossible that some person might hear it at some point, but honestly, to me the benefits far outweigh the potential risk of someone hearing my dog barking in the background. :wink:

The number one thing I would say about voice technology for those who are able to voice is that it saves so much energy that you can then do an extra couple of things in a day. And that means a lot to someone with a disability. I do use mine to adjust the thermostat, watch TV, turn on a pathway of lights when I’m ready to go to bed… Just being able to turn off the light that shining from the kitchen after I’ve gone to bed is huge.

If your wife understands the extra effort you have to put in to get through the day, she might be able to see voice technology as assistive technology, like a cane might be. Something that just makes your life a little easier at a time when a lot of things are pretty hard.

Here’s an article from a previous skeptic that might help:

But, like I said, it might also be that she just doesn’t want to deal with it. It’s not always a logical concern.

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Having some High up outlets or wire drops also allows you to later add sensors or LED lighting or stuff like that that can benefit from the higher location. :sunglasses:

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I also have the ecobee and really like it. I don’t know what phone you have, but Apple stuff is generally much more disability friendly and so everything I buy works with echo, HomeKit, and smartthings. Which the ecobee does. :sunglasses:

Echo gives me the best voice recognition, HomeKit gives me the best reliability for basic use cases (And everything except voice works even if the Internet is out, which is not true for the echo or smartthings), and smartthings gives me access to much more complex automation rules.

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My kids are pretty tech savvy (especially my son) and they adapt to changes pretty well. My wife cares little about such things and just wants the viewing options and for it all to be easy to access and navigate. I think they will all do fine and I know they are expecting a certain amount of change once we move to the new house.

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