Remote MessWith every new device comes a remote control, which means you're inevitably ending up with a series of controllers that you need to put somewhere.

There are two ways to solve this kind of problem

  • Simply replacing your infrared remotes with a smartphone or smartwatch application
    • natively if your watch or smartphone has an IR blaster (such as the Samsung gears and S smartphone series). There are many apps around that can help you do this
    • or opting for solutions such as the KlikR SmartWare: smart IR emitters than can be controlled via Bluetooth, or the Broadlink RM hub
  • Or replacing your infrared remotes with more intelligent hub-remote combinations, such as the Logitech Harmony Series
    • these can also support non-infrared (IR) devices such as Bluetooth or wifi controlled media players or even smart lights
    • these typically allow you to configure automated sequences that can make your life a lot easier

Harmony Logitech Remote controls

Having experimented with several solutions, I can highly recommend the Harmony Logitech remote controls, especially when complemented with the Harmony Hub.

Although not the cheapest solution, I think the Harmony solutions are the most user-friendly solutions out on the market. The installation process worked like a charm using only the Harmony smartphone app that automatically recognized the Hub, registered it on my home Wifi network, automatically updated the hub and remote, and then started the device enrollment process in a very user-friendly way.

  • The Harmony solutions not only replace your physical remote controls, but they also offer 'smart automation'. Using the 'activity' concept, you actually teach the remote which devices to activate for a specific action. This means when you push 'watch tv', the control will
    • not only just activate your tv
    • but will also select the right input channel for your set-top box
    • will activate that one as well
    • and might also control a connected soundbar or another HiFi setup, which means that if you press the volume button, it will not direct the TV, but the correct device
  • The Harmony uses a cloud-based configuration platform that can be accessed via the pc or smartphone application
    • that holds the IR codes of thousands of devices so you don't need to learn your remote each individual key using they original remote, but you can actually just select your device and start using it right away. That can come in handy for instance if the original remote is no longer working or available.
    • when you define your devices and activities, they will be stored online, so whenever you need to change the configuration, you can start from your previous configuration and do not need to start over.
    • this also means that if your remote breaks down, you can easily get a new one and download your previous settings
  • Infrared and Bluetooth signal output, no RF support (eg. to control projection screens, ...)
The Harmony Hub

The key component of the solution is the Harmony 'Smart Hub' that not only allows for a seamless installation procedure but also allows for future updates and IP-based controls such as Philips Hue or Lifx LED lighting systems. The hub allows you to start doing whatever you want to do with a single button click that will automatically configure all your devices and even your home to the best settings.

  • the hub itself is an IR emitter, but it also includes 2 additional IR-extenders that plug into the hub itself (about 2m cable length) so it can pilot devices that our behind walls or cabinets.
  • it also serves as the central configuration unit, supporting more than just Infrared (IR) commands, and also as a smartphone app/cloud service gateway. The hub can also integrate with smart lighting (such as LIFX) and can be piloted via Smart Home products such as Google Hub or Amazon Alexa
Harmony Elite

Although you could opt for the Harmony hub only, choosing the mobile companion app on your smartphone/tablet as the standard interface, or use a voice assistant (Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant), The real added value of the Harmony solution lies in the sleek dynamic remote, which has a display adapting to the functions you need for each 'activity'. You can buy the remote and hub in a combo deal with the 'Harmony Elite' offer.

Smart Infrared and RF emitter: Broadlink RM hub

Comparable to the Harmony hub, without the option of adding a physical remote, but supporting & learning RF devices is the Broadlink RM hub. As the Harmony hub, you can define IR & RF commands, or a combination under specific sequences, which you can even connect to IFTT or Amazon Alexa. Concretely, it's the perfect solution for managing a bedroom cinema, lowering the projection screen (RF), starting up the beamer (IR), activating the soundbar (IR), and eventually lighting up an led strip (IR) with a single voice command. Do you forget to switch of the light, beamer, and retract your screen? An Alexa routing can easily take care of that by using the Broadlink RM hub.

Smart battery-operated infrared emitter: Klikr universal IR emitters

Almost at the opposite side of the Harmony concept with the centralized smart hub we find the decentralized Klikr IR emitters. They definitely are at a lower cost but can be a practical extension for specific use cases. 

  • battery operated (CR3032), which makes them fully mobile and can be used on hard to reach places
  • Easy learning via a smartphone app
  • Easy copying of connected Klikrs to other devices
  • only supports devices that can be controlled via Infrared (IR), so no support for Bluetooth, RF or other types of devices
  • no advanced 'activity based actions' that can combine sequential actions (not even on a single device). This means that from a user's perspective, you still have to choose from a number of 'virtual' devices on your smartphone and control them all separately as if you would take the separate 'physical' devices.
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