It’s time to toss the VCR! 14 tech products you need at the cottage in 2023

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My friend’s cottage near Dorset, Ont., is technically in cell range. But to make a call, they have to walk a few hundred metres to the top of a small hill, stand on one leg, and wear a metallic hat. Okay, the last two parts aren’t true, but a real estate lawyer making multi-million dollar deals with squirrels and chickadees listening in is a funny enough visual.

That he goes to such lengths says a lot about our dependance on connectivity at the cottage. And it’s not just work. It’s also how we listen to music, share photos, cook, and entertain. It keeps our cottage safe, secure, and running efficiently.

These days, more connected devices enable us to have lights, window shades, and thermostats, and smoke, leak, and heat sensors, all controlled from an app. And better cell and satellite coverage allow more people to work from anywhere, including the dock.

But cottagers should still manage their expectations. Trees and other obstructions can hamper satellite service. Cell towers can only handle so much traffic. And too many wireless devices on one system can slow down even the most robust networks.

Plus, with technology, the line between helpful and headache is often thin. That’s why I asked experts in rural connectivity, audio, and entertainment, as well as savvy cottagers, to help cultivate the following 14 products. This new technology will make entertaining, living, and working at the cottage more fun, safer, and easier—no metallic hat required.

Products for entertaining

Technology is increasingly integrating into how we enjoy the cottage.

Products for living

In the past, it could be days or even weeks before you discovered a disaster such as a leaking pipe or a burst hot water heater.

Products for working

With internet calling options and unlimited data plans, it doesn’t really matter whether you have cell or Wi-Fi at the cottage, as long as one of them is reliable.

How to keep everyone online and your connection freeze-free

Cell, satellite, and fibre optic coverage may be nearly ubiquitous these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s always enough, says Mark Elliot, the owner of Cottage Country Audio Video in Muskoka, Ont. The minimum download speed for streaming video is one megabyte per second (MBps) and at least three MBps for high-definition video. Accommodating a host of connected devices requires far more: 20 MBps download and five to 10 MBps upload speed, Elliot says.

With more people coming online in recent years, speeds in cottage country have not kept up with the promised rates. Elliot suggests testing speeds on-site, either by hiring a pro or with apps such as “The more people on a system, the slower the internet gets for everyone,” Elliot says. “The providers are adding more capacity, but it’s a process.”

The same limits apply to a personal Wi-Fi system—you can’t necessarily stream 4K content and have everyone on their iPad at the same time. Your service provider may not be able to deliver fast enough upload and download speeds to a rural property to meet your demands.

Your best bet is to hardwire as many devices as possible and lower quality settings on all wireless devices to reduce demand, particularly anything video- related, says Elliot. At a recent cottage call, he turned the security system cameras from 4K to a lower quality setting. It was enough to improve speeds from less than one MBps to streaming the Cottage Life channel in freeze-free HD.

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