Getting Control of My Home Theater

Im learning more than I ever knew before about control products sold through the custom installation channel, specifically Universal Electronics Inc.s Nevo Q50 remote and RTIs T4 touchpanel.
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In recent days, Ive been learning a lot about control. Not self-control--the kind that will keep me away from my pregnant wifes box of Valentines Day chocolates tomorrow. No, Im learning more than I ever knew before about control products sold through the custom installation channel, specifically Universal Electronics Inc.s Nevo Q50 remote and RTIs T4 touchpanel.

If youll recall from last weeks blog entry, Im in the middle of a pretty big home theater project in my new-ish house in the suburbs. After getting the major pieces of the puzzle (projector, screen, audio processor and sources, and speakers) together, my attention has turned to controlling all of the gear with one integrated RF-based remote. As much as I enjoy getting up from the sofa, walking to the back of the basement, opening the storage room door and pressing the volume control on my IR remote, I thought it was time to explore RF-based options from some of my industry friends.

In the meantime, Im also looking to upgrade what has been a very solid performer in my living room, the Harmony 890 remote. With nearly daily performance over the past three years or so, this family-favorite is ready to be retired from service.

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RTI's T4 Universal ControllerTwo companies are currently vying for my attention in this space. A full year ago I was given the opportunity to play with an RTI T4 touchpanel. Even for as much as it has improved the productivity of control systems programmers once bogged down by C++ code, I was still a little intimidated by the idea of PC drag-and-drop-style programming of a touchpanel. And until I could get my home theater up and running this month, I wasnt in that big of a rush to try it out. However, now my timing couldnt be better as RTI has just introduced its new Integration Designer programming software, which greatly enhances that companys already well-thought-out controller programming process. With the help of RTIs animated online training modules, Im learning as I go about assigning IR codes and creating macros. Its not all new to me, but this is the first time Ive dug deeper than the consumer level with such a product.

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UEI's Nevo Q50For the family room, Im having a similar experience working with the folks at Universal Electronics Inc. (UEI), programming on one of its Nevo Q50 remotes. I find the experience quite similar, which gives me hope that our industry is finally finding a way to design standard processes that dont reinvent the wheel. Although I miss the online modules that RTI provides, Ive been receiving steady over-the-phone handholding from UEIs senior product manager, Steve Clegg, as I set up his companys remote.

Clegg was the first person to teach me about the idea of using voltage and video sensors within an RF-controlled system, to avoid unwanted triggering of power commands within a macro. Ive discovered the same capabilities, as well as the more common IR blasters, in the RTI system. It remains to be seen if I can apply these helpful technologies appropriately in my own system.

Suffice it to say that these manufacturers have a tough act to follow in the Harmony 890. I realize that, at the consumer level, this product achieves a great deal in terms of set up and operation. However, on more complicated systems, like the ones that custom integrators design, a more robust and customizable system, like the UEI or RTI solution, is required. Now Im learning how these products can work for or against you in the projects that you design. Stay tuned for more details on my experience.

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