Ev­ery­thing at the click of one but­ton?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Page Two - By Jen Wa­ters

Gone are the days of one re­mote con­trol for the television, an­other for the DVD player, yet an­other for the sur­round-sound speak­ers, and so forth.

“Uni­ver­sal re­motes bring less clut­ter and fewer bat­ter­ies,” says Matt Swanston, di­rec­tor of busi­ness anal­y­sis at the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics As­so­ci­a­tion in Ar­ling­ton. “It lets you con­trol all the com­po­nents to­gether.”

Last sum­mer’s Adam San­dler film “Click” posed the ques­tion: “What if you had a uni­ver­sal re­motethat­con­trolledy­ou­runi­verse?”

Some peo­ple have taken ad­van­tage of the tech­nol­ogy in a uni­ver­sal re­mote­con­trol,bu­tother­peo­pleare still over­whelmed by the but­tons and­codesin­volved­in­pro­gram­ming one more ap­pa­ra­tus.

Cable com­pa­nies are among the par­ties of­fer­ing uni­ver­sal re­motes, says Lisa Alt­man, Com­cast spokes­woman in Sil­ver Spring, Md.

The com­pany pro­vides a re­mote that­can­con­trolup­tothree­home­en­ter­tain­ment de­vices in ad­di­tion to the dig­i­tal video recorder built into the television ser­vice, she says.

“Havin­goner­e­motemake­si­talot eas­ier and more ef­fi­cient,” Mrs. Alt­man says. “It’s one easy-to-use, hand-held de­vice.”

Com­cast­pro­vides­cus­tomer­swith in­struc­tions in a wel­come kit that in­cludes the nec­es­sary codes for pro­gram­mingth­er­e­mote.Vir­tu­allyany television with a re­mote sig­nal is com­pat­i­ble with Com­cast’s uni­ver­sal­re­mote,Mrs.Alt­mansays.If­cus­tomer­shave­ques­tions,th­ey­can­call cus­tomer ser­vice.

Log­itech’s Har­mony re­motes are com­pat­i­ble­with­justaboutanyprod­uct on the mar­ket, says Nathan Pa­padop­u­los, mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion­s­man­ager­atLog­itechHar­mony Re­mote Con­trols in Fre­mont, Calif.

Log­itech has an on­line data­base that stores the in­for­ma­tion for 175,000 de­vices from 5,000 man­u­fac­tur­ers.

If some­one pur­chases a Log­itech Har­mony re­mote, he ac­cesses the In­ter­net through the soft­ware that comes with the re­mote. Then he tell­s­the­soft­warewhich­com­po­nents hewould­like­touse­with­ther­e­mote. The re­mote is hooked to the com­puter through a uni­ver­sal se­rial bus (USB) cable.

Onecon­trol,cost­ing$100to$500, can re­place up to 15 re­motes.

“It’safair­ly­complex­thing­weare ac­com­plish­ing here,” Mr. Pa­padop­u­los says. “We are mak­ing it as sim- ple as pos­si­ble for peo­ple.”

The older the prod­ucts, the more likely the data­base is to have the in­for­ma­tion­need­ed­to­pro­gramther­e­mote,hesays.Ifanew­pro­duct­can’t be found on­line, the Log­itech Har­mony re­mote can learn the sig­nal needed for the com­mand.

“Ifit’snotinthe­database,takethe orig­i­nal re­mote and point it at the bot­tom of the Har­mony re­mote and push a few but­tons,” Mr. Pa­padop­u­los says. “We take those com­mands and build the sig­nal needed.”

Af­ter a Log­itech Har­mony re­mote is pro­grammed cor­rectly, a one-but­ton com­mand can turn on what­everde­vicethep­er­son­wantsto use, to watch a movie or lis­ten to mu­sic, he says. The re­mote knows the “state” of all the de­vices in the setup.

“Peo­ple are re­ally frus­trated with all the re­motes they have,” Mr. Pa­padop­u­los says. “It causes clut­ter, and it’s too com­plex to op­er­ate. Not only do you give the baby sit­ter a long list of howto care for the kids, but a long list to ex­plain how to con­trol the re­mote.”

For those who are too in­tim­i­dated to pro­gram the re­mote con­trol them­selves, a pro­fes­sional in­staller can do the job, says Hank Eisen­grein, na­tional sales man­ager for cus­tom pro­fes­sional prod­ucts at Uni­ver­sal Re­mote Con­trol Inc. in Har­ri­son, N.Y.

Most of the com­pany’s re­motes that cost more than $400 need to be pro­grammed by a pro­fes­sional in­stallerthroughaper­son­al­com­puter, Mr. Eisen­grein says. The re­motes range in cost from $150 to $1,000. The top-of-the-line re­mote con­trols 255 de­vices inside or out­side the house.

The­com­pany’sles­s­ex­pen­siver­e­motes are pro­grammed through an ex­ten­sive­database­ofin­frared­com­mands that are listed in the in­struc­tion book, he says. If de­vices are not listed in the in­struc­tion book, in­fraredsig­nalscanbedown­load­edby plac­ing the re­motes head to head. Usu­ally home­own­ers can pro­gram th­ese re­motes by them­selves.

A pro­fes­sional in­staller, though, mightcre­atesce­ne­set­tings,in­which lights are dimmed and mu­sic is turned on a cer­tain level. A scene can be cre­ated for when a per­son comeshome­from­worko­r­for­falling asleep.

“Peo­ple think about re­mote con­trols just for the TV,” Mr. Eisen­grein says. “You can have mo­tor­ized cur­tains or mo­tor­ized pro­jec­tion screens. In some so­phis­ti­cated in­stal­la­tions, you might use mo­tor­ized pop-up lifts for TVs from a piece of furniture.”

In ad­di­tion to in­frared trans­mis­sion of sig­nals that are op­er­ated through line of sight, uni­ver­sal re­mote con­trols can op­er­ate through ra­dio-fre­quency trans­mis­sion, Mr. Eisen­grein­says.There­fore,the­con­trol equip­ment could be hid­den in cus­tom cab­i­nets or a closet.

If peo­ple can get a uni­ver­sal re­mote con­trol to op­er­ate more than one de­vice, it makes them happy, says Phillip Swann, pres­i­dent of TV Pre­dic­tions.com in North Beach, Md.

“The mul­ti­tude of re­mote con­trol­sisami­cro­cos­moftech­nol­o­gyin the coun­try,” Mr. Swann says. “The more you get, the more con­fused and com­pli­cated your life can be­come. Some­thing as sim­ple as flip­pingchan­nel­son­aTV­can­sud­denly be­come an al­ge­bra exam.”

He says he doesn’t think that the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple will make the ef­fort to pro­gram uni­ver­sal re­motes.

“There is a rea­son there are 16 or 17 re­motes on some­one’s cof­fee ta­ble,” Mr. Swann says. “[Peo­ple] are too in­tim­i­dated to pro­gram them into a uni­ver­sal re­mote con­trol. The mis­taken im­pres­sion peo­ple have of Amer­i­cans is that they are tech-savvy. We are any­thing but tech-savvy.”

Fur­ther,most­com­pa­nies­standto makealotof­money­fortheirunique tech­nolo­gies, he says, and they don’t nec­es­sar­ily want con­sumers to use a uni­ver­sal re­mote con­trol.

“They­want their prod­uct in your hands, un­less they come up with their own uni­ver­sal re­mote,” Mr. Swann says. “Gen­er­ally speak­ing, they­would­likey­outousether­e­mote that comes with the prod­uct.”

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