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Beacon Converts Phone To Universal Remote

David Gilbert

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Beacon Converts Phone To Universal Remote

Universal remote controls are something we all want but only if they work and are easy to use. In recent years we have seen standalone products such as the Logitech Harmony series and the the Genius Remote. We have also seen adaptors which turn your smartphones into universal remotes such as the Flpr, Redeye and L5. All of these required a dongle to be inserted into your phone to work but now Griffin Technology has launched one which requires no dongle or cables.

While the Beacon system doesn’t need you to insert anything into your phone, it does require a unit to sit somewhere in your living room, which cleverly converts your phone’s Bluetooth signal into the infrared commands your TV, stereo, PVRs etc. would be expecting. Griffin has teamed up with software developer Dijit to create a universal remote app which easily pairs your smartphone with Beacon and in turn allows you to control a range of A/V devices.

Once you have downloaded Dijit’s Universal Remote app, it pairs with Beacon and allows you to control devices via Dijit’s Programming Guide. It will allow you to change channels, volume, input, program your PVR, and lots more. Griffin are selling the Beacon system on the basis that you don’t require “bulky cases or dongles, no messy wires or cables.” But unless the thing actually works, a lack of dongles won’t be much of an advantage.

In order to make sure it will work with your A/V systems, the Dijit app uses a constantly updated device code library for your TV, set-top box, sound system and media players. For components not yet included in Dijit's library, the app also includes an integrated learning feature. The Beacon will be available for £54.99 from May of this year.

gonzorv

January 14, 2011, 2:52 pm

Gear4 have similar device called Unity Remote which came out late last year.


http://www.gear4.com/showcase-...


Am quite interested in getting one of these as a replacement for my old Harmony. Unfortunately (much like Harmony devices) finding out specifics of the IR database and multimachine control prior to purchase isn't very easy.

Kaurisol

January 14, 2011, 4:20 pm

There are some phones that have infrared built in, and for whom only an app is required. There is an app for the Nokia N900....

CodeMonkey

January 14, 2011, 5:06 pm

@gonzorv





To be fair to Logitech, I found their online Harmony supported devices database pretty easily when I investigated before buying one 2 or so years ago..


http://www.logitech.com/en-gb/... - device compatibility link

Retset

January 17, 2011, 2:31 am

Sounds good. Only disadvantage is that when I am not at home, there is no remote for the family. For that reason alone .. I'm out.

Ataripower

January 17, 2011, 3:03 am

I have the Gear4 Unity Remote which sounds like exactly the same thing and is already available. It works well on the iphone, and ipad with a great application interface and database of commands. This is late to this particular party!

PGrGr

January 17, 2011, 2:35 pm

I checked out that gear4 website, gonvorz. Great if you have an iphone. For better or for worse, I have an Android phone, so whichever device gets an decent Android app out first gets my business. Interesting to see that gear4 makes no mention of Android, even of the "coming soon" variety.





I also looked at buying a dedicated Logitech universal remote. Whilst they seem to be able to do the basic job of controlling a number of devices with one unit, I read a number of reviews which shed doubt on the ability to programme the remote to successfully sequence events. For example, being able to program one button which when pressed, would select the correct TV input to "AV receiver", turn on the AV receiver and select the input of that device to the "Blu-ray player".





The remotes which I looked at seemed expensive for a fairly limited functionality.





It's also disappointing that there seems to be no possibility of two-way communication between the devices you are controlling and the remote. For example, the sequence described above would have to be different if the TV or the AV receiver were switched off to start with, but there's no way for the remote to "know" that.





Furthermore, trying to universalise a remote solution which can also control a PS3 (as a disc player) creates even more problems. There are a number of devices which convert an IR signal from a universal remote to a Bluetooth signal for the PS3, but I can't find any apps for directly controlling the PS3 from a phone. Something technical to do with different Bluetooth profiles, I gather. It just seems ridiculous to have one gadget to convert commands from my phone from Bluetooth to IR for all the other devices, to then have another to convert the commands back to Bluetooth for the PS3. Maybe I will just stick to my current three remotes!





As an aside, I have noticed that apps used to come out first on the iphone before being ported to Android and other platforms, which is understandable due to the historic popularity of the iphone. This is starting to change a little, but the priority of app development seems to be lagging behind the relative market shares of Android versus everything else. I guess this will change if Android continues to increase in popularity.

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