Home Technology Blog

Turning Your Smartphone Into a Universal Remote

June 24, 2013 | Comments


There's More to it Than Meets the Eye


In today's app world, we can do just about anything with our smartphones and tablets, including control all kinds of devices at home - electronic door locks, lights, thermostats, security systems and, of course, our beloved audio/video gear.

But when it comes to controlling your TV, A/V receiver, wireless speaker system, and other entertainment components, it's usually a case of a specific app controlling a specific device. You still end up with a bunch of different apps, which might be better than having a pile of remotes on your coffee table but is far from ideal. Sure, "universal remote control" apps exist, but they can be tedious to set up for the average Joe and Jane.

If you're wary about messing with "simple setup" situations - who hasn't spent hours doing something that's supposed to take 15 minutes? - and like the idea of having one unified control interface on a tablet or smartphone, you might consider reaching out to a CEDIA member home technology professional. These guys live and breathe technology and, in addition to designing and building home entertainment systems, are experts at creating custom apps.

In addition to controlling all of your components, a personalized app will provide ready access to the controls and options you use most so you don't have to dig through layers of menus to change channels or adjust the volume on your receiver.

Still not convinced? Let's take a quick look at some of the other ways a pro can help eradicate coffee-table clutter, virtual or otherwise. They can…

  • Integrate "legacy" components - like an old VCR or CD player - into your control scenario.
  • Set up the app so the right controls appear when you want to stream movies from Netflix, listen to music or fire up your Blu-ray player.
  • Set up automated routines or "macros" that execute a series of commands with one button press - like a Movie button that turns on all of the components, selects the right input, dims the lights and starts playback (sorry, popcorn popping is excluded).
  • Set up an alternate or complementary control solution if you prefer real buttons over touchscreen buttons for some or all control options. Using a smartphone to control a TV is a very different experience if you're used to "old-fashioned" buttons that you can feel in the dark.
  • Deal with software updates and set up the control app on a new phone or other mobile device.
  • Back up everything "in the cloud" - i.e., on a remote server you connect to via the Internet - so all of your personal settings can be easily downloaded to a new device if your phone or tablet is lost or stolen. Such cloud integration also enables the integrator to troubleshoot problems or add new features remotely.

The bottom line? Having a well-thought-out control system for your entertainment gear can greatly simplify your life by providing a seamless control experience that you just can't get with an off-the-shelf app.

To learn more about home entertainment control solutions, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.