The next solution you can look at for managing your vast AV system is a more programmable solution. This doesn’t mean you need a PhD in remote control codes – it just adds a nice layer of varience to customise the solution to fit your specific needs and requirements. There’s a fair few manufacturers out there, and they all work in slightly different ways. This doesn’t necessarily make one better than the other – but I will try and cover as many features as possible which, combined with a quick web search using some of the criteria below will open up the gates to the other brands out there and allow you to understand what they do.
For the remotes that are focused on communicating with your devices over infared (effectively replacing your existing remote controls) one big feature of the mid to top of the range programmable remotes is IR Learning. Put simply, the little bobble you see at the end of some remotes will usually transmit data to your devices using infared light. With learning IRs, these bobbled ends work in revere. In learning mode you will choose a button you wish to assign a particular device to, point the end of your original remote at the new one and press the corresponding button on your old remote. If it worked, when you use your programmable remote, it’ll emulate what you just told it to do when you press the aformentioned button. Repeat this many times and you’ll soon have all your commands programmed into one remote.
For those that aren’t so keen on the cumbersome task of manual programming their devices into their remote, many solutions also come with downloadable software for your computer. Through this you may be able to download packs of commands or ‘remote codes’ by specifying your various device make and models.
Popular manufacturers that offer this ability are Universal Remote Control, Logitech with the Harmony range of remotes and Hubs and Philips with the Pronto Home Control systems.
If you wish to expand beyond the tradtional infared, some solutions can control devices using Bluetooth or Wifi. This technology has slowly evolved and is now popular on high end control systems and as Smartphone or Tablet based apps. Another variation on this is controlling your devices through the Internet of Things through either the manufacturer’s software or through services such as IFTTT or Zapier.
I would highly reccomend a programmable remote solution to those that may not have bought into a manufacturer’s ecosystem (e.g: An all Panasonic TV, Home Cinema System and Blu-Ray player setup) and may have a mixed setup or somebody that would still prefer the feel of a remote control, but to eliminste the pile of them sat in their living room.
Depending on your patience and technical expertise it pays to do your research into the features of your solution and what would best match your needs. You should then follow up with checking the customer reviews with this in mind (as many of the negative reviews may come from people who didn’t plan ahead or understand what the solution they chose was designed to cater to).
For the price range though, I wouldn’t reccomend a solution like this for a smaller and simplified setup of only 2-3 generic devices and instead, possibly reccomend the use of a universal remote instead.
If basic programmable remotes still isn’t Worth It for your system, in the next post in this series I’m going to talk about the idea of making your own or more proferssional systems that can control your AV through protocols such as RS-232 and more advanced programming.