Phone Home

Control Your TV From Your Phone

Life just gets easier and easier. Forty years ago, the remote control was another person in the room you could tell to change the TV channel. Of course, since then, complex hand-held remote controls have become commonplace. From TVs to garage doors to ceiling fans, virtually any electric device can be controlled this way, and the latest remote control is quickly becoming the one to rule them all.Since early 2009, smartphones have had the ability to do so much more than make calls, text and take pictures. Home-automation engineers recognized the potential early for the iPhone’s capability to command electronic components that are remotely controlled, according to Home Entertainment magazine.Droid technology arrived in late 2009, says Rob Veth, store manager at Mid-America Wireless, and with it came an open-source option for phone users to create applications. More recently, tablet computers such as the iPad have joined smartphones, and applications to control everything from the TV to heating and air conditioning to security are widely available for these formats through iTunes (iPhone), Android Market (Droid) or third-party providers.

“Because people are cutting the cord at home and not using their land lines anymore, they indeed are carrying their phones,” says Anne Moore, owner and manager at D&M Sound. “We are certainly finding that an iPhone or an Android app as a remote control for electronics is a selling feature to people.”

One of the most popular apps for the smartphone or tablet is as a remote control for a TV or satellite, she adds. These phone apps don’t require any special installation, and many are free downloads.

The concept of a smart home, however, is still less common because of the expense involved in converting an existing home. Remote technology at the home level can control everything from the media center and lighting to the air conditioning and security.

In new homes or remodels, it’s really cutting-edge technology, Moore says. “It’s what we call ‘true convergence,’ the converging of IP technology with traditional consumer electronics and whole-house control. Smart homes have really been extremely difficult or extraordinarily expensive to do in the past. The more this type of technology comes along, the easier it will be to do in the future.”

Smart technology is not cheap. If you want to control complete entertainment systems, security, HVAC, lighting and more, the cost can easily exceed five figures.

In situations where you are working with existing components, Moore says, it is important to keep in mind the age of your equipment, whether it can communicate two-way and is IP-based. If your TV, for example, is more than 2 years old, it might not be compatible. In a remodel or new construction, installers coordinate setup of multicomponent systems to ensure that each piece is compatible with the technology and is communicating with the central control unit.

The perks that come with this technology can be substantial and convenient. It is now possible to check security camera feeds, adjust room temperatures, turn lights on and off or turn on the TV from virtually anywhere in the world, or even from bed when you’re too tired to check if you set the alarm.

And losing the remote has become a thing of the past … well, almost.

Short of not losing your phone, Moore recommends using a strong password that is only used for the smart home system. If you do lose your phone or tablet, have a backup device. Once lost, you would not be able to control your system until you get another device, and you might find yourself wishing you had stuck the original remote control to the TV down in the couch cushions for safe keeping.

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