Electronic Design

The Real Universal Remote

One common element between home-automation and media systems are control points. These may be panels, radio or infrared remotes, and PCs. They could also be cell phones, wireless phones, or MP3 players.

Unfortunately, the universal remote doesn’t exist yet. Infrared TV remote controls are a start, but they can be a pain to program. They also need to be pointed at the appropriate device or an action will not be recognized. Moreover, this type of remote is unidirectional, so it doesn’t know if the device has received the desired command.

RF remotes can provide feedback and eliminate the directional issue. Freescale’s EC-net remote control is based on 802.15.4 (see “Remote Controls Go From IR To RF,” ED Online 16523). The same base protocol is used by ZigBee Pro. These devices will be found in consumer products like Sony’s new HDTVs. It will allow better linkage between devices, but it remains to be seen whether this will move past individual devices (e.g., HDTVs and Blu-ray players) into home automation.

ZigBee Pro is another possibility for a control platform, as are 802.11b/g/n-based systems such as mobile Internet devices, wireless audio and video media players, and IP phones. Even cell phones could be a control device.

Most new cell phones already contain Bluetooth support, so it’s not too far-fetched to look forward to phones with Wi-Fi and ZigBee support. In fact, platforms like Apple’s iPhone or iPod Touch already have Wi-Fi support. They’re also programmable, so don’t be surprised if someone turns these mobile devices into DLNA media controllers. After all, you only need software.

FREESCALE • www.freescale.com

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