The current crop of custom integration-centric wand-style remote controls are
much more sophisticated than your average coffee table clicker–a device that
has remained relatively unchanged in appearance and functionality over the
years. In contrast, premium-style remotes for the integrated home now feature
many app-style conveniences, such as swipe and gesture support, and better
reliability and response time than previously available.
|RTI’s next-generation controllers, such as the T2i, T2x (pictured in a dock), and T3x, also include higher
capacity lithium-ion batteries and a new docking station design that utilizes a docking connector for
reliable battery charging.
For URC, the biggest step forward came when the company’s engineers
harnessed the power of the home network to control consumer electronics.
“By creating whole-house automation systems that are IP based, we’ve opened
the doors to virtually any and every new technology that could appear,” URC
director of marketing Cat Toomey explained.
URC is also deploying “incremental improvements,” such as the OLED
screen on its TRC-780 and RM-1 remotes, for example, which are easier to
read and consume less energy than standard LEDs. And, the company’s designs
offer live full-motion video on the remote’s screen from cameras connected to
its control systems.
To enhance the user experience, the latest wireless interfaces from RTI
implement many of the familiar features found in smartphones and tablets.
For example, grip sensors keep the units awake during use, while built-in
accelerometers provide fast “instant-on” control, and flush-mount, edge-to-edge
touchscreens allow for improved gesture support, such as swiping through
music libraries. Also, RTI is incorporating haptic feedback in its upcoming T3x,
which will give users a subtle vibration when a touchscreen button is pressed.
RTI’s sister brand Pro Control utilizes 2.4-inch TFT LCD touchscreens for
its remotes. The brilliant displays automatically wake up when the units are
picked up, ready for users to press colorful icons on the screen to start watching
TV or listening to music. The screens are also capable of swipe gestures.
Crestron believes that when it comes to creating handheld remote controls
for the home, “it’s all about creating a better user experience,” said
director of residential marketing, Tom Barnett,
“and we feel that comes down to the basics.”
Crestron’s MLX-3 remote, for example, features
user-replaceable AA batteries. “This means you’re
not stuck unable to turn the television on if the
kids forget to put the remote back on the cradle
when they’re finished. It also eliminates costly
replacement batteries later down the road,” Barnett
said. “Thanks to the low power consumption of the
MLX-3, the batteries will last for several months.”
ELAN is now working with low-cost, battery-powered Wi-Fi technology coupled with the ELAN g! IP-based solution. “We have worked hard to make our Wi-Fi remote more responsive and reliable,” said Joe Lautner, director of control for Core Brands. “For instance, ELAN’s HR2 Wi-Fi remote, is equipped with a motion sensor that provides an instantly responsive experience coupled with long battery life. When the user walks up to the remote it starts to wake up, by the time it is your hand and you press channel up it works. The remote, which controls multiple zones and systems, is not limited inside and outside the home, as long as the Wi-Fi connection is accessible. A user can bring their HR2 remote outdoors and control their music with a solid Wi-Fi connection.”
Crestron utilizes two-way wireless communications
on its MLX-3 to provide true feedback from
lighting, climate, and shading systems. To
overcome RF interference (RFI) and other
inconsistencies associated with wireless devices,
Crestron’s handheld remotes use the company’s
mesh network, infiNET EX.
“Unlike Wi-Fi, in which each device connects
to a single central access point, each device in an
infiNET EX network acts as a repeater, Barnett
explained. “So, if a wand remote doesn’t have a clear
path to the control system due to interference, the
message can be relayed through other devices like
lighting dimmers or shade motors. This means that
every device added effectively increases the range,
strength, and reliability of the entire network.”
The company’s MLX-3 remote includes
recently improved firmware to make it faster and
more reliable in noisy RF environments, as well.
With dual-RF technology, every RTI remote offers
the option of wireless control via 433-MHz RF or
2.4-GHz ZigBee. For integrators, this provides the
flexibility to simply change the RF frequency if
an environmental issue can’t be overcome by just
moving the antenna. Going a step further, RTI’s
top-of-the-line handheld controllers also feature
built-in Wi-Fi, which allows for more robust two-way
feedback and even wireless program updates.
Pro Control also utilizes 433-MHz RF
transmission via trigger codes to a control processor,
which stores system commands and macros. “This
is a significant, and highly unusual, technology at
this price point,” said Mike Everett at Pro Control.
“For example, say the activity ‘watch TV’ is
selected. The RF trigger code is sent to the ProLink
processor, which then initiates the macro to turn
on the TV, select the input, turn on the receiver,
etc. By sending one RF trigger code, Pro Control
eliminates the possibility for missed steps. Every
time a button is pressed, the same predictable event
happens, which makes users very happy.”
Pro Control also has introduced its Pro.rfz range
extender for the ProLink.z processer, which allows the
Pro24.z remote controls to operate over even greater
distances. With the Pro.rfz, integrators can hide
equipment, yet still provide control from multiple
remotes in multiple zones throughout the home.
|Crestron utilizes two-way wireless communications on its MLX-3 to
provide true feedback from lighting, climate, and shading systems.
||Pro Control has introduced its Pro.rfz range extender for the
ProLink.z processer, which allows the Pro24.z remote controls to
operate over even greater distances.
URC’s Toomey acknowledged that there are
technical challenges and potential pitfalls anywhere
electronic components are used and that RFI will
never completely disappear. But, she says, URC’s
IP-based systems, Total Control, and the new
ccGEN2 are much more resistant to the maladies
that commonly afflict 418MHz and 433MHz
“In the conventional RF remote and base
station world, we successfully licked RFI a few
years ago when we moved to narrow band RF,”
Toomey explained. “The big virtue here is what we
call ‘improved spurious adjacent signal rejection,’
or in other words, narrow band RF does not ‘listen’
to the interference as much as regular old RF
technology does. URC offers many models with the
418 and 413MHz to accommodate every install.”
URC programmers and integrators can now
program both Total Control and the company’s
new ccGEN2 whole-house automation systems
offsite from the comfort and convenience of their
office. “This makes a huge difference to them
and also their clients in terms of convenience and
savings,” Toomey said.
And for installations with multiple rooms and
multiple interfaces, URC Accelerator and Generator
programming editors can program all remotes (or
all keypads), for example, at the same time instead of
each separately and laboriously. URC Accelerator
also automatically programs macros, so many once-tedious
steps are now automated.
Integration Designer is the software used to
program all RTI remote control products. As a
CEDIA Hall of Fame 2011 inductee, Integration
Designer is considered a pioneering technology in
the industry in terms of customization and ease
of use, providing integrators with a drag-and-drop
environment that allows the interface to be
completely customized to each client.
|URC’s Quick Connect feature, found on its TRC-1080, joins the
network almost instantly, so there’s no annoying waiting, and
current status appears for the user. And the built-in motion sensor
turns the remote on when it’s lifted from the charging cradle, so it’s
ready to go at once.
“For advanced two-way programming, pre-built
and tested two-way drivers created by RTI allow
integrators to easily deliver robust control for their
clients, without having to learn advanced software
coding,” noted RTI’s Brett Stokke. “However,
for those who do have experience in software
engineering, our RTI Driver Development
program allows them to write their own drivers.”
The Pro Control Studio software was built to
program most modern one-room systems–media
rooms, home theaters, and bedrooms featuring a
receiver, TV, satellite or cable box, DVD, iPod dock,
tuner, and internet radio–in a short amount of time.
This software is template-based and provides the
ability to completely customize the interface to the
Crestron’s design software includes icon libraries
for common channels and sources, which makes
programming quicker and easier.
“This makes it a breeze to have clean,
professional logos for each ‘favorite’ TV or internet
radio station,” Barnett said. “Integrators don’t
need a USB cable to load the code, because it can
be sent via the wireless mesh network. This also
enables remotely uploading updates to a remote
control using the home’s internet connection.”
The Touch Test
Of course all of the best behind-the-scenes software
and programming can go unappreciated by the end-user
if the hardware, or outer shell, of the remote
is not thoughtfully addressed by the manufacturer.
And this effort goes beyond the final fit and finish of
the remote into other technical areas.
For example, Crestron’s MLX-3 has been
engineered to “wake” instantly at the press of a
button. Button presses are sent immediately, just like
an IR remote but with none of IR’s limitations. So
spontaneous actions like muting the audio, pausing the
video, or changing the channel can be executed on the
fly, with just a single button press. Backlit button text
also affords improved legibility in a darkened room.
URC’s Quick Connect feature, found on its
TRC-1080, joins the network almost instantly, so
there’s no annoying waiting, and current status
appears for the user. And the built-in motion
sensor turns the remote on when it’s lifted from the
charging cradle, so it’s ready to go at once.
Toomey pointed out that URC also has spent
“an enormous amount of time” on ergonomics.
“Pick up our new TRC-1080, and it feels like an
extension of your arm–it’s so comfortable to hold–
and the buttons are placed precisely where your
fingers expect to find them,” she said. “There are
three perfectly placed finger grooves on the back
for optimal balance for any sized hand. All of these
things combined leverage URC’s nearly 25 years
of experience in remote controls to deliver the best
possible solution for daily use.”
Building on the success of their predecessors,
RTI’s latest- generation solutions combine sleek
styling with improved ergonomics to further
enhance the user experience.
“This is achieved with numerous cutting-edge
design elements such as flush-mount, edge-to-edge
touchscreens, soft-touch backlit buttons (which
incorporate Light-Guide Film technology), grip
sensors, and accelerometers,” Stokke said. “Next-generation
controllers, such as the T2i, T2x, and T3x,
also include higher capacity lithium-ion batteries and
a new docking station design that utilizes a docking
connector for ultra-reliable battery charging.
Today’s control solutions have to complement
the home’s decor, and Pro Control’s remote
controls are designed to provide an elegant addition
to any room, Everett said.
“By combining brilliant touchscreen displays
with gesturing capabilities and iOS integration,”
he concluded, “Pro Control delivers exactly what
today’s consumer is expecting: an outstanding user
Jeremy Glowacki is editorial director of