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Learn about:

  • Universal Remotes
  • “Macro” Capability
  • “Favorites” Feature
  • Dedicated Remotes vs Smartphone Apps
  • IR vs RF Control

Smart Home Control: Pulling the Pieces Together

Remote monitoring and control devices let you check on the status of smart home systems—alarm status, lighting control settings, even the name of a song—and make changes remotely. Whether it’s a small handheld remote that controls a home theater, a master controller programmed to all the systems in a smart home, wall-mounted touch panels with screen views that are custom-tailored for each family member, or a smartphone and apps that allows the owner to check up on things from the office or when out of town, smart monitoring and control is essential today for simple management of all the electronic devices that make life more enjoyable and safe.

Smart_Home_Control_illustrationMost home electronic devices come with some sort of remote control. But as the number of components increases, this once-useful accessory quickly morphs into a nuisance, with too many remotes, and confusion over which one controls what feature.

Universal Remotes. Universal remote controls address this confusion, and are especially useful for controlling the components in a home theater—including lighting and shade control, if needed. Here’s what they can do:

  • All-in-One. A single universal remote can be programed to control all of your components, eliminating that basketful of individual remotes that are forever getting misplaced, or are in need of fresh batteries.
  • Favorites. Display a list of “favorite” stations to choose from (NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, FOX, ESPN, etc) so you don’t have to remember the numbers.
  • Macros. Program the “Macro” feature, so that a single command (touching a key custom-labeled “Golf,” for example) turns on the TV, the cable box, and the surround receiver; then sets the surround receiver to the “cable” input and adjusts the cable box channel selector to the Golf network!
  • End Redundancy. Provides a single button to control volume (via the surround receiver), with the other volume controls (on the TV and cable remote) eliminated.
  • RF Communication. Provides Radio Frequency (RF) control of components that infrared-based (IR) controllers can’t “see.”

Integration Remotes.   Systems from the major automation suppliers (Crestron, Control4, Total Control, or AMX) are best controlled by dedicated remote controllers from that manufacturer. Depending on the system size and the homeowner’s needs, this might mean an in-wall keypad or touch-panel display, a handheld remote, or a large handheld touch-panel. These companies also can supply apps which allow their systems to be controlled by a tablet or smartphone—when you are away from home.

As smart home systems become more comprehensive, the size of the display—and its capacity to be custom tailored to the homeowner’s needs—becomes critical. For a home that includes an alarm system, lighting control, a home theater, multi-room music, and other features, a touch-panel may be the only control device that is large (and flexible) enough to display status information for all systems in a single view. With a comprehensive intrusion control system, for example, creating an Alarm page displaying the status of all door and window locks superimposed on an image of the actual floor plan will make it very simple to use.

Smartphones & Tablets.   Apps are available today which allow smartphones & tablets to control virtually any smart home system. They are wonderfully convenient for checking up on things when you are on the road or at work. But at home, their small screen sizes, visual clutter from non-smart home apps, short battery recharge cycles, and reduced capacity for integration across systems can interfere with full and easy management of smart home features.

If you decide to control a multi-feature smart home with a tablet or smart phone alone, consider dedicating the device to that single purpose. And develop a routine for charging it every night. If you run out of power while listening to a favorite song, it’s inconvenient. But if your battery goes dead while managing lights and door locks in a home emergency, it could spell disaster. See the Very Smart Remote Control Systems and Advanced Remote Control Features INSIGHTS reports.