Are you ready for a big change? Are you ready for the remote controlled home?
There is a new generation of remote controls about to invade your home.
Instead of using decades old “point and shoot” infrared beams to provide a connection between the remote and the device being controlled, the new generation of remote controls are using RF or radio frequency. Actually to be more precise, they will be using what is known as ZigBee RF4CE.. Similar to Wi-Fi, it provides many of the same wireless networking capabilities with much less power requirements.
The RF4CE organization (Radio Frequency For Consumer Electronics) was formed by four of the top consumer electronics manufacturers in the world – Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony. In 2009, the RF4CE group was adopted by the ZigBee Alliance and the new ZigBee RF4CE was inaugurated.
The ZigBee Alliance has fine-tuned the ZigBee RF4CE standard to transform it into more of a total home media experience. In addition to controlling all the home’s media equipments such as TVs, stereos, DVRs, DVD players, etc., this now includes a SMART automated home theater experience.
When you insert a DVD disk into the player, the player then talks to the entire home via wireless connections. The TV automatically switches to the DVD input mode, the remote switches to DVD control mode, the room lights would dim and the curtains would close. You are ready to watch your favorite DVD.
In addition to being smart, the new ZigBee RF4CE remote control can function as the “home mobile dashboard” – connecting home entertainment, automation, security, HVAC, power use control and management, health monitoring, etc.
By using the ultra low power 802.15.4 wireless technology, a wide range of low data rate devices and sensors can either directly or indirectly talk to and be managed by the remote control. The cable companies and service providers would like to see their set top boxes – managed by the remote control – become the centerpiece of the new smart home with all the homes systems flowing through it. The Home Mobile Dashboard then monitors and controls all the systems via the set top box. Another advantage of using the set top box as the central base station is its internet connection to the cloud which enables the home owner to remotely access and control the home’s systems via any mobile device including cell phones.
New Features and Capabilities
The new ZigBee RF4CE remote control also delivers a variety of exciting new functions and capabilities. As it is using an ultra low power wireless network, its power draw is almost negligible which makes the device essentially maintenance free.
By using ZigBee RF4CE it is possible to build remote controls that never need to have their batteries changed or recharged.
Aside from the obvious great reduction in batteries and their load of heavy metals and toxic chemicals, this means that manufacturers are finally freed from the need to include battery compartments with battery lids.
Most people, especially those with kids, have had the experience of broken battery lids which means wrapping the remote with rubber bands or duct tape. Even more exciting for the manufacturers, without the need to accommodate batteries and battery compartments, is the ability to design remote controls in exciting new form factors and shapes.
No more aim and shoot
As ZigBee RF4CE is a radio technology, it transmits through walls, furniture, people, etc. You no longer have to carefully aim your infrared (IR) remote at a tiny target on the front of your DVR or TV set. ZigBee RF4CE remote controls can manage your entertainment and home systems from anywhere in the home.
This enables homeowners to hide away their control boxes. No longer does the set top box or DVR have to be out in the open, available for control. These boxes can now be hidden away in cabinets, in shelves or even in the attic!
Interactive – ZigBee RF4CE Remotes Provide Two Way Communication
Maybe the most exciting capability of ZigBee RF4CE remote controls is their interactive features. This can include a small display on the remote that let you see what effect you are having on your TV set or DVR. You no longer have to watch your TV screen to see what station you are tuning into, what shows you are programming to record. All that info can be available on your remote’s display. By using low resolution still image grabs transmitted to your remote control, you could see who is ringing the buzzer at your front door without getting out of your easy chair.
Your home’s climate control settings, power management, and indicators for windows and doors – are they locked or unlocked? Is someone walking around outside? Is someone tampering with an upstairs window? All of these security sensors could be accessed via the remote control’s display. By using ZigBee’s RF4CE’s interactive capability, you could even remotely lock the unsecured windows. And as this is an ultra low power network with minimal energy draw, homeowners won’t have to change the batteries on these remote security sensors every year.
Home energy management is an interesting new development. Imagine being able to view your home’s energy consumption on a single graph and then remotely turn on and off the various appliances. Turn off the AC upstairs and watch the home power consumption decrease. Turn on the outside lighting system and watch the power consumption tick upwards. It could be fun to be green.
Other cool interactive features include “find me” and push messaging. Have you ever lost your remote control? Press the new Find Me button on the TV set or settop box, and your “lost” remote can start buzzing, flashing or playing your favorite song, making it easy to find. Push messaging enables your TV and entertainment system to talk to you – to send you alerts that your favorite sporting event is about to begin or that your bid on the TV shopping channel was accepted. Your appliances could talk to you as well. You are out of beer and you need to go shopping. The load of clothes in the dryer is done and needs to be folded!
In 2011, the first ZigBee RF4CE powered remote controls and TV sets will be hitting the market. At first, they won’t feature the full feature set but within a short time, it will be possible to control your entertainment system, your home and maybe your world, from the remote in your hand.
It is no longer “just” a remote control.