Simplified route to smart homes with RF4CE hides complexity in a single remote

April 09, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
After luminaires with individual IP address, the next step towards really smart homes could be anything that enables a two-way communication link between electricity consumer and user. A significant contribution towards this end could be a smart remote control. NXP has one - a demonstrator that uses ZigBee and a wireless controller.

What if you only needed a single compact remote control for all the appliances in your home – a “smart” remote control which displays current settings, and tells you if an appliance is consuming too much power or needs maintenance? NXP Semiconductors has introduced a smart remote control demonstrator, featuring the JN5161 wireless microcontroller using ZigBee RF4CE, as well as a capacitive touchscreen that can be used to control and display information about multiple home appliances. For applications ranging from home entertainment to lighting and residential air conditioning systems, the demonstrator shows how bi-directional communication can transform the remote control into a truly “smart” device that can also help consumers monitor and manage their total energy consumption in real time.

NXP's smart remote control demonstrator shows:

· Bi-directional communication and operation outside the line of sight using ZigBee RF4CE. Many device manufacturers are turning to RF4CE as an alternative to traditional infrared (IR) technologies, which require consumers to point the remote control at an exact target from relatively short distances. ZigBee RF4CE enables remote controls to operate reliably from long distances – even around corners or through walls – without relying on line of sight. With its graphical LCD display, the NXP smart remote control demo also shows the wide range of information that can be communicated from the appliance back to the remote control. For a home entertainment system, this might include information about different channels, specific content, volume and other settings. For residential or commercial air conditioning systems, this could include temperature and humidity levels, power consumption history, and any problems with components that require maintenance.

· Straightforward long-distance operation. The smart remote control enables long-distance operation in indoor environments – from 20 metres away, even through walls – while consuming only one-tenth the power of Wi-Fi, without unnecessary complexity or the need for a separate router. The reference design can be easily implemented using RF4CE or any