Remotes 101 – How Do IR Remotes Actually Work?
Remotes: the mysterious devices that are always disappearing. Find out how they actually work and how you can simplify your life by getting rid of them.
If you’re below a certain age, you won’t remember the days of walking over to a device to turn it on and off. Record players needed users to flip an LP over to access the songs on the other side. And a button on the TV was the only way to change the channel.
The growth of consumer tech has also led to an explosion in the number of remote controls. Each one has its own bewildering array of buttons, many of which you may never use.
That’s if you can even find the remote. They have a tendency to fall between sofa cushions or become lost among magazines.
Research has found that TV watchers can spend over 4 and a half hours a week just looking for lost remotes.
But have you ever wondered how infrared (IR) remotes work?
Let’s find out what it is they do and how you can fix the problem of multiple controllers littering your home.
How do IR Remotes work?
When you push the button on the remote, it sets in motion a chain of commands. The button touches the contact inside the handset and completes the circuit on the circuit board.
The integrated circuit inside the remote senses the completed circuit and sends a command to the LED on your remote. If you were to stare directly at the front of your remote, that’s the part you would see flashing when you press the buttons.
The receiver on your TV, media streamer, or other device decodes the light pulses from the LED into a command like play, pause, or stop, and your device executes the command causing your current show or song to start or stop playing.
That’s as long as nothing blocks the light beam, like furniture or people. IR devices often only respond to a specific IR light wavelength to avoid interference from other sources of IR light.
Your IR-compatible devices all use the same basic process. And it’s a safe technology because it only beams light between the transmitter and the receiver.
No radiation or electromagnetic forces are involved. That’s good news if someone in your home has a pacemaker.
But the More Devices You Have, the More Remotes You Need
US households have approximately 24 electronic devices each, many of them with their own IR remotes. That’s before you consider heating or lighting systems.
How can you keep up with all of those remotes?
Phillips introduced a universal remote as early as 1985, under their Magnavox brand. The idea was simple; allow users to control multiple devices from a single remote.
Universal remotes now vary in design. Minimal versions only focus on selectors for the channel and volume, along with a power button. Others are more complex, allowing you to program a range of settings for your devices.
Some remotes can even work with games consoles, which often use Bluetooth rather than IR between the console and its handsets.
But they can still take time to program. Using one remote for everything has its own learning curve.
If your smartphone has an on-board IR blaster, you can use it as an infrared remote. In less technical terms, the technology lets you “blast” information to whichever IR device you want to control – right from your phone.
You’ll be able to replace your array of remotes with a single app. Our SURE Universal Remote app uses the IR blaster on your phone to control the IR devices in your home using your phone’s touchscreen.
And if your phone doesn’t have on-board IR – like iPhones and many mid-range Android phones – a simple WiFi to IR converter will let you have full functionality.
Our app will save you from having to learn different interfaces for different gadgets. You only need a single remote and unlike a universal remote, you almost always know where your phone is. We add new devices whenever they become available, so the app stays up to date – no more worrying about incompatibility.
Over to you – do you use multiple remotes or would you like to switch to just one?