3 Options for Automating your TV Console/Home Entertainment

First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy 2013. Apologies for the lack of topics for the past two weeks as I’ve gone for a holiday and now I back with more Zwave devices 🙂

But let’s regress to the topic. Indeed, Zwave is one of the cheapest alternatives to control your lights, thermostat and curtains etc. However, what should we use for controlling your TV, DVD players, home entertainment system besides the good old remote controllers?

As we all know, these devices are controlled by IR (Infrared) and being IR, there is a whole array of options available. In this post, I shall focus on solutions that work on iOS and Android devices and more importantly, work hand in hand with your Zwave devices.

1. iRule (http://www.iruleathome.com/)

During my initial search for home automation solution, I’ve considered controlling everything (including lights) with IR and I stumbled upon iRule. With iRule, you are able to use iRule Builder to build a custom user interface in your iOS and Android devices. For the hardware, you’ll minimally require to purchase Global Cache iTach IP2IR, WF2IR or GC100-6. Basically the iRule custom interface will send command via LAN to these devices and they will blast IR signals to your control your TV and home entertainment system, etc. It is able to learn IR commands from your traditional remote control. To control your lights, you may want to purchase another Automation Module for Leviton.

I ended up dropping this approach as a pure IR solution requires line of sight for every device. If it’s between the IR blaster to the TV console, it’s fine but it is not feasible for light switches. Yes, you may be able to use automation module for Leviton but Leviton (correct me if I’m wrong) doesn’t seem to offer switches with UK voltages.

2. Redeye (http://thinkflood.com/)

Redeye is another product that I came across during my initial research. I’m actually referring to Redeye Pro hardware for the reason that the pro version have other ports, which potentially allows you to connect to other devices for controlling lights etc. Similar to the iRule solution, it also allow IR learning and has a software that allows you to build custom iOS interface via drag and drop.

I did not take up this option as it seems like there isn’t any out of the box solution that allows me to interface and control the lights as well. However, for purely automating your home entertainment theatre, this seems to be a professional solution. And it looks good stacking it on top of your amplifier.

3. SQ Blaster Plus (http://www.squareconnect.com)

When I first read about SQ Blaster, it appears to have exactly the same features as iRule and Redeye Pro; allows easy customization of UI on iOS (not on Android), which sends commands via wifi to an IR blaster to control your TV console. A quick glance on the product info doesn’t reveal anything superior until I read more about the software SQ Remote HD.

Two out of the box features caught my attention:

Full MiOS home control integration : SQ Remote HD will also allow you to control your MiOS home control system (such as the Vera system from MiCasaVerde) directly from your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. No more messing with web interfaces. So if you have a MiOS system, your home control is in your pocket and on your iPad.

Macros: Program a series of commands for setting up your activities and then activate them with a single button touch. If you are using a MiOS home control system you can also add scenes to your macros. Hit one button to bring on the TV, switch on the sound system, fire up the blue-ray player, bring down the window shades and dim the lights.

What do these features mean to us? Well, besides controlling your TV Console from a nice UI, you can also control your lights within the same UI. If you are already using Vera as Z-Wave controller, the integration between Vera and SQ Blaster is out of the box. Just by configuring your MiOs credential in SQ RemoteHD, you will be able to add buttons that control the your Z-wave devices seamlessly. The ability to login to MiOs also allows users to use SQ Remote HD to activate scenes or turn off the lights via 3G/LTE if they had forgotten to do so before they leave home.

The macro feature is the one that swept me off my feet. It means users can program a “Leave Home” button that turns off the TV, the sound system, the cable box and then activate the “Leave Home” scene that is already configured in your Vera to switch off everything else! Imagine the modular commands you can design and batch together based on your habits.

That’s how I ended up with Vera 2 and SQ Blaster Plus as the main hardware for my home automation. However, there are some annoyance to take note for Singaporeans, specifically in learning Starhub remote IR commands with SQ Blaster. You will encounter more oddities if you use a IR distribution system in your TV console. I will cover them in my next post 🙂




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