We recently had a client that was getting frustrated with her aging Home Automation system in Manhattan Beach. We didn’t install the original Home Automation system in the house, but we has been servicing it for her for a couple of years now. She is a bit “Technology-challenged” so she often struggles with getting Audio/Video devices to work the way she wants them to. At our last appointment, she told us she didn’t want to bother with the Home Automation system anymore as one of her friends told her to get an “IR repeater” to control her equipment and she would be much better off. We told her, “well, you have 4x zones of audio, 2x 5.1 Home Theater Systems and a Smart Lighting system and there was really no way to control all that with an IR repeater.” Again as she was technology challenged, she was a bit frustrated by this and asked us to put in the IR repeater system anyway. It was at this point we thought it was worth discussing what an IR repeater system does and does not do to make it more clear for everyone on what their control options are for Audio/Video gear.
HOW DOES AN IR REPEATER SYSTEM WORK?
First off, a little background on IR. IR is short for “infra-red” and refers to small light pulses that are used to send basic commands to electronics like TVs, blu-ray players, Receivers, Roku’s etc. Just about every A/V device sold to the public these days has the ability to accept and understand IR commands. Many of these same devices are shipped with their own IR based remote control which when pointed at the device sends IR commands to it and the device reacts accordingly. Simple right? Well, now what happens when you don’t have your A/V equipment that you are trying to control right in front of you to point the remote at? One of the main weaknesses of sending IR commands out of a manufacturer shipped remote is that the device will only get the command if it is within site of the remote. If the device is out of site in another room, no IR commands will be received and the device will not be controlled. This is where Universal Remotes and Home Automation systems come in to play as they can communicate through walls to devices in other rooms so those devices will still respond to the commands they are given. The downside of course is that these Remotes and Automation systems are more costly to purchase and maintain.
An IR repeater system is a good hybrid solution as it will capture an IR signal sent to its IR receiver and route it to a remote location. At the remote location it will then repeat the IR signal through an IR splitter and all IR emitters attached to the splitter. The IR emitters are then attached to the front of each of your devices at locations where those devices can receive the incoming IR signal from their factory remote. As such, and IR repeater system solves the problem of trying to use a manufacturer issued remote with the devices you want to control in another location.
WHAT DOES AN IR REPEATER SYSTEM NOT DO?
As we mentioned earlier, Universal Remotes and Home Automation systems are able to communicate through walls to equipment located in remote locations so they are a good solution when you have a central rack, closet or room where all these devices are located. However, Universal Remotes and Home Automation systems also have a lot of custom programming inside them which routes IR signals to only certain devices in a certain order and performs lots of other coordinated tasks that were programmed into it by the AV integrator hired to install the system. An IR repeater system is a “dumb” device by comparison as it does none of this. There is no programming whatsoever in an IR repeater system– all it goes it repeat IR signals it is given. How does this affect control of your system? An example might help explain…
EXAMPLE – Universal Remote vs. IR Repeater
Let’s say you have a modest home theater system with a TV, Audio /Video Receiver & 6 speakers and an Apple TV. With a Universal remote, you would hit the “Watch Apple TV” button and the remote would send out a series of commands to turn on the TV and AVR, switch to the right inputs on both, send the menu command to the Apple TV and then get ready to navigate the apple TV menu. With an IR repeater system, your steps to do the same would be the following: (1) Grab the TV remote, hit the power button and input button until you get to the right input for the AVR and put the remote down (2) Grab the AVR remote, hit the power button and input button to switch to the Apple TV input on the AVR and set the remote down (3) Grab the Apple TV remote and use it to navigate to the App you want to watch on the Apple TV. Sound the same as having no control system at all? That’s because it is the same– IR repeater systems do no more than repeat.
Thus, if you thought you could buy an IR repeater system to replace what a Universal Remote or Home Automation system does and avoid the expensive upfront cost and service calls, unfortunately you cannot. At least, not for now. There is some progress made in this area as devices are now shipping with remotes that communicate via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, eliminating device location issues. These same remotes can also control some other devices other than the one they were shipped with. However, these manufacturer made remotes still cannot turn on 3-4 devices and switch their inputs automatically just yet, leaving them short of replacing Universal Remote and Home Automation systems in there entirety.
We hope you are have found this information useful. If you have any further questions on this topic or need your existing Universal Remote or Home Automation system serviced, please contact us at 855-832-4775 or find us on the web at www.technospeakco.com.
At Technospeak, we take the “Tech-y” out of Technology, leaving you with the knowledge you need to enjoy your electronics.