Gold Investments – Some of the Hottest Alternative Investment Opportunities Today

Gold investments are among the best alternative investments currently available, especially in the context of the economic insecurity that still affects many world economies.

Why It’s Worth Investing in Gold

Gold is seen as a great investment whenever there is the threat of a raising inflation, as it helps people convert volatile assets into a precious metal that will continue to be valuable regardless of what befalls the economy.

But gold also makes for a possibly good investment for those who seek to get a nice return on their investments. Short term investments in gold, however, do not tend to be as rewarding as other investments, since the price of gold is somewhat more stable than that of say silver, which rises and falls more often and more significantly.

But when it comes to long-term alternative investments, gold is considered by many to be unrivaled. That’s because gold has been since time immemorial prized for its beauty and value, and will continue to be so for years to come regardless of what happens with the financial markets.

Unless an unimaginably vast deposit of gold is found soon – which is unlikely, considering that right known gold deposits are actually dwindling – gold will continue to retain its high value, which makes the precious metal ideal for an alternative investment.

Gold is venerated and desired and these contribute to making it one of the most secure things to invest it. And besides, when you invest in gold you can actually own the material, which may give you a pleasure than not all the money in the world can buy.

Gold’s Rivals: Silver and Platinum

Gold clearly dominates the other precious metals. Silver is more volatile and much less valuable, its market being much smaller than that of gold. This makes silver investments potentially good for quick gains, but ultimately unreliable for long-term serious investments. And besides, silver takes more storage space than gold.

Platinum, on the other hand, is more valuable, but also more difficult to handle. Investments in platinum are infamous for their high risk, and only few experts really carry them out. What’s more, unlike gold, platinum is hard to convert into cash.

How to Invest

Gold investments can be some of the most rewarding alternative investments, especially when they are significant. But even investing in small quantities of gold can be rewarding.

You can invest in gold by buying bullion or coins. Alternatively, you can buy stock in gold mining or gold producing companies, as well as gold futures contracts. Some say though that the best gold investments are those in which you buy and own the precious metal yourself.

Investing in gold is definitely one of the hottest alternative investment opportunities today. But to invest successfully you need to compare investment opportunities and to go with the one your calculations point you to.

Maximizing Business Potentials While Lessening Communication Expenses

Today, economically worthwhile solutions directly mediated with business drawbacks concerning minimized potentials and escalating expenditures of operation. Thousands of associates in businesses are internationally situated, and worldwide transactions have not been simple as it was hampered by high travel expense outlays. This business development has been made possible through conference calls – a modern platform of conducting meetings, trainings, and assemblies for business intentions without the need for physical encounters.

Problems in communication rarely arise in the past because businesses were simply counting on e-mail and paper-based messages for communication. With comprehension level at its minimum, lifeless memos devoid of tone variations and sound intricacies are most likely to cause and forestall to misinterpretation. This problem has affected some businesses greatly, vindicating the necessity to use modern solutions that work for the advantage of any business.

Technology takes shrewd corporations and organizations at the prime position of markets dealing with international scopes. Businesses may fund or invest in pursuits that foster simpler communication. This steadfast resource makes businesses attempt to deal with larger spans worthwhile. The then assemblies and meetings done in the borders of the conference room have advanced its way to virtual space where a certain software and a fast net connection are the only prerequisites.

Business partners can now practically communicate through teleconference calls organized and intended for both local and international participation. Numerous international businesses have engaged in regular conference calling with the purpose of keeping clients and workers in frequent communication. Literal distances around the world, being an effort to be surmounted has been dealt with properly by this modern method in communication that is highly efficient.

Charges in conference calling services has evidently decreased as more telecommunication groups provide varying choices. In the passage of time, international call conferencing outlays have plunged dramatically, but these calls will definitely not come for free. Business resources must apportion a fraction of its operation expenses to the organization and maintenance of international conference calls. As members may hail from varied countries, costs for international call conferencing may change. The accrued total of these entire individual charges are taken care of by the conference host who is mostly the administrator or the business’s supervisor. Evaluating the per-minute-charge of international conference calls for a corresponding conference permits businesses to apportion budget correctly and as well serve as a prompt for conference holders to keep to the agenda; in this way, businesses do not use more than what is budgeted for.

A Comparative Analysis of Smart Home Automation Technologies in the UAE

The Smart Home Automation industry in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been growing at a rapid pace since its dawn over the last several years. The market is becoming more and more aware of the capabilities of having a complete automation system whether at the scale of individual residences, palaces, real estate developments, and hotels. Many developments in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have already been completed with a pre-installed automation system. Many developments in areas like Victory Heights, Arabian Ranches, Sports City, and Reem Island have also been built with infrastructure to support such technologies in the future.

In basic form, automation includes systems that control Lighting, Appliances, HVAC, Curtains and Multimedia. The market in the UAE has not only begun to realize the benefits in terms of comfort, security, and luxury. But also in terms of energy saving and increasing property value, thus all these realizations will continue to lead to a booming market in the UAE.

As automation is somewhat of a new technology in the mainstream market, one must be aware of the countless number of underlying technologies that connect and allow for the communication between a user and the Light Dimming Systems or Air Conditioning Systems. On the surface, these technologies may seem to lead to the same functionality, but in the back-end, they are different in potentially catastrophic ways. This leads us to the reason why we started composing this article, that is, to shed light onto the pros and cons of the different technologies (regardless of product or vendor) which are available in the UAE market today.

Any automation system is composed of 2 high-level components, the controller, and the modules. The modules include light dimmers, relay switches, thermostats, motorized curtain control systems, distributed speakers..etc. which are to be controlled by the home owner. The controller, is the heart of the system from which signals are sent to “Dim the lights” or “turn on the air conditioning”. The method of communication between the controller and the modules are the Automation Communication Technology which we wish to address in this article. The method of communication can either be through wires or wireless and are usually in line with certain protocols or standards of communication. This article will explore and compare KNX, X10, Zigbee, En-Ocean, and Z-wave.

The criteria for comparison which we will explore are the following:

  1. Reliability of Communication: How reliable is the communication between the Controller and the Modules? When a message is sent to a module, the system must ensure the message’s arrival and confirmation of receipt. Scoring well in this criteria is very important to ensure that even under circumstances of wired or wireless interference messages are resent until confirmed by the receiving module. Not all protocols comply with this requirement.
  2. Security of Communication: The protocol must guarantee that a 3rd party cannot infiltrate an existing system and operate it with unauthorized access. The results of a hacker entering a parking lot of a hotel and turning all its lights off is disastrous.
  3. Price
  4. Features and Capabilities: It is important that automation technologies go beyond just controlling individual modules and have the capability to integrate with other systems most typically entertainment since that is an area of high usage of any home owner. Example: Easy Integration with Multi-room Music Systems, Multi-room multimedia distribution systems (Movies, Videos, Pictures, Music)…etc.
  5. Investment Protection: It is important to make sure that installed Controller or Modules can be easily replaced in the future. Consider having installed a system that has some components fail after 5 years, and at the same time, the company which installed it became bankrupt. The home owner would be left with no choice but to completely revamp the entire electrical system in the residence which would cost more in time, labor, and equipment that what was originally paid for the automation system. Having a system that is standardized means that any other company can support it or replace certain parts with different products, maybe from different vendors, in order to ensure continued operation.
  6. Interoperability: This criteria refers to the capability of the Controller to speak to multiple Modules from different manufacturers. This will ensure that a system is made up with Lighting, HVAC, Curtains, Appliances, and Multimedia Control Modules are purchased from different manufacturers which are the best or most specialized in those fields. This ensures that a system has the best-in class Modules for each particular purpose. It is not logical that the best manufacturer of light dimmers is also the best manufacturer of curtain control systems, or audio systems. Some communication protocols are closed or proprietary, thus forcing the customer to purchase everything from a single manufacturer. This criteria also overlaps with the Investment Protection Criteria since having an interoperable system will give future flexibility to easily replace Modules even if the company which installed them has closed down.

The remainder of this document will address each communication technology based on the above criteria.

KNX

KNX is an international standard of communication typically installed in wired twisted pair environments. KNX was designed in 1990 and was made as a very robust protocol to be used in industrial automation applications. The protocols reliability cannot be questioned since it implements many OSI communication layers and is quite complex. KNX is also controlled by the KNX association and any company usually spends thousands of dirhams on their employees to go through training in order to understand the inner workings of the system. KNX is a complex protocol by nature, and was designed long before the “smart home” concept was born, thus the hardware that has the capability to support the complexity of KNX is expensive not only to engineer, but also to manufacture and thus the hopes for this technology to become cheaper than its current alternatives is futile.

KNX has and is a popular choice for hotels since 2006 and has been deployed in many developments such as the Shangri-la in Dubai, Rotana Hotels in the Marina, Fairmont, Movenpick to name a few. KNX is also being specified by many real estate consultants for major developments in the Abu Dhabi Reem Island and Yas Island.

  1. Reliability of Communication: Yes
  2. Security of Communication: Yes
  3. Price: No
  4. Features and Capabilities: No. KNX has been more focused at the simple facility of automation and typically fits in hotel environments where customization and multimedia integration is not required.
  5. Investment Protection: Yes
  6. Interoperability: Yes

X10

X10 is an international open standard developed in 1975 by Pico Electronics of Scotland, in order to allow remote control of home devices and appliances. It primarily uses the 220Vpower line wiring for sending messages between the Controller and the Modules (Lighting, HVAC…etc).

X10 has only receyved some popularity many years ago when automation technology started being introduced in the UAE. And was typically installed in small villa project then was slowly discontinued due to its reliability issues.

  1. Reliability of Communication: No. Since it is prone to interference from multiple sources like transformers, motors typically found in TVs, washing machines, fans…etc. Also, messages from Controller to Modules are never acknowledged so there is no 2-way communication.
  2. Security of Communication: No. If a 3rd party can tap into the powerline of a house, messages can easily be sent to control whatever the 3rd party wishes.
  3. Price: Yes
  4. Features and Capabilities: Yes. This technology can easily be integrated into PC based systems and many options are available to provide feature rich capabilities for residential applications.
  5. Investment Protection: Yes
  6. Interoperability: Yes

Zigbee

ZigBee is an open wireless network communication protocol based on the IEEE specification IEEE 802.15.4, which enables the Controller to communicate with its Modules via Radio Frequency. The standard is a development of the ZigBee Alliance, which was founded in the end of 2002. It is an industry alliance of more than 230 enterprises who take up the worldwide development of this technology. The first ZigBee products came on the market in the beginning of 2005. Because Zigbee standardises only the lower protocol layers (radio layer), the different manufacturers have defined their own higher software layers. As a result ZigBee devices of different manufacturers are not compatible with each other.

  1. Reliability of Communication: Yes. A wireless mesh network is created and ensures multiple path routing to every module which translates to long reach, and high reliability in case of interference or even in case of in-path device failure.
  2. Security of Communication: No. Zigbee uses weak hashing algorithms and has been researched to be penetrable. Penetration is not easy but software tools such as “Killerbee” exist and can allow any person with little Linux and scripting experience to hack into an existing Zigbee network.
  3. Price: No
  4. Features and Capabilities: Yes
  5. Investment Protection: Yes
  6. Interoperability: No

En-Ocean

EnOcean is a wireless radio frequency based, energy harvesting technology used primarily in building automation systems. It is not set out for international, European or national standardization; however, EnOcean GmbH is offering its technology and licenses for the patented features under license within the EnOcean Alliance framework. The concept was developed to enable batteryless sensors and switches for building automation. Which is questionable in terms of energy saving because existing alternatives can consume as little as 500W per 60 storey tower in automation devices.

EnOcean based technologies have been installed in some big projects such as the Abu Dhabi Central Market, the Dubai Financial Center…etc.

  1. Reliability of Communication: No, En-Ocean does not offer 2-way communication between the Controller and its Modules. Also the Controller is at a star network with the Modules and there is no wireless meshing, this one-to-one signal mapping can drastically fail in times of high interference.
  2. Security of Communication: Yes
  3. Price: No, En-Ocean prices are more aligned with KNX.
  4. Features and Capabilities: No. Supported but not yet seen in the market.
  5. Investment Protection: Yes
  6. Interoperability: Yes

Z-wave

Among all the above protocols, Z-wave ranks the best so far. The strength of Z-wave lies in the big number of different products from different manufacturers as well as the very robust, 2-way, meshed, and secured wireless communication. Z-wave chips also consume a 10mW at peak and are low cost compared to all other alternatives. Why? because Z-wave has been originally designed for residential applications.

Z-wave is viewed as the next generation of Smart Home Technology and product lines have started to emerge from big players such as Honeywell and Schneider Electric. This technology is not only feature full, reliable and secure, but will be offered at competitive prices and investment protection for projects of any size starting with individual villas all the way to large real estate towers. As of today, Z-wave has been deployed in many villas in the UAE at an individual scale. Z-wave is also starting to make its way through many of the large tenders for developments throughout the Emirates.

  1. Reliability of Communication: Yes
  2. Security of Communication: Yes
  3. Price: Yes
  4. Features and Capabilities: Yes
  5. Investment Protection: Yes
  6. Interoperability: Yes