Home Control systems are getting popular with every passing day. Specially with the technological changes and revolution in Smart Phones, tablets and pads it is becoming convenient to design and own these systems. Its a real comfort to get rid of all those remotes and replace by a user friendly application on the iPad or a phone.
Home Control systems typically is a overlay over automation which helps to control Lights, Curtains and HVAC systems and a replacement of remotes in simpler terms for AV devices like televisions, set top boxes and blu ray players with Home Theatre systems. It also allows to integrate multiple systems on a single touch, For example when you play a movie on Blu ray player the play button and turn the lights off, turn the TV ON, Turn the Blu ray Player ON and play the desired movie on the display. sounds great isn’t it.
However this is the layer which creates maximum frustration for a customer. Lighting Automation is a robust implementation and works fantastic as long as it is controlled from the wall keypads. The home control system speaks to the lighting automation system on a IP network or on a serial port which is a better way to do the same. Hence this implementation is usually very robust. The issue is with the consumer grade systems like the Television, Blu Ray Player etc. Commonly these devices do not come ready with communication ports and have a remote to control them which communicates with these devices over Infra Red or IR.
Each button on the remote has a code behind it. When you press a button on the remote which has to be in line of sight with the receiver on the device, the code is communicated and the device does the desired function.
Now most of integrates use a IR code learner and copy these codes to their systems. So now when you operate the same function from say a mobile device application, it is sent to a Home Controller over Wifi, The home controller sends the IR code to the device through a IR probe which is stuck to the receiver on the device, basically your Home Control systems becomes a glorified remote. This is a simple technology to implement however must be avoided for following reasons.
- No Feedback
The IR code when sent to the device make the device functional , however since this is a native one way communication technology the device never comes back and tells the controller if its ON or OFF. For example if the air conditioner is turned ON using a conventional remote in the bedroom the iPad in the Living room will continue to call it OFF. One can never find the real status of the device. This leads to may confusions specially when the ON and OFF codes are in toggle mode and same code is sent for both these functions. So the ON command on remote will also be the OFF command.
2. The Real issue – The IR Probe.
First this probe looks ugly on the beautiful setup. It has to be visible all the time and cannot be hidden. It has to be pasted on the IR receiver of the device which. This is tricky as if you paste the IR probe completely covering the receiver then the remote does not get line of sight and it cannot be used. Not just that many time a half covered IR probe does not execute the command and the user has to keep tapping on the iPad and that is really frustrating.
3. IR Probe – Cleaning makes the issue
The IR probe is stuck to the device. Normally when users or servants try to clean it the probe comes out. One needs a expert to paste it back. Else the device stops responding to the Home Control system and one needs to fall back on remote. Anyways who likes a visitor in his home every now and then.
How to avoid this frustration :
Ask your integrator to use cables to control everything you want to control. Worlds most advanced and user friendly systems like CasaDigi use USB , Consumer Electronics Control (CEC), IP to control most of these devices. Hence it is currently the most robust system available world wide. Serial ports are available in some TVs, Home Theatre AVRs, Projection systems. It is the most preferred way of controlling. Modbus can be used to control HVAC systems, elevators etc.
Don’t let your integrator to cut corners and save cost using IR, its easy to control over wired networks these days, its robust, consistent and convenient.