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Technology Showcase: Handheld Device Integration

Aug 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Remote controls enter a new phase.

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ReQuest iQ running on a Nokia N800

ReQuest iQ running on a Nokia N800

Some commercially available handheld control devices take a slightly different approach on the user interface with a larger GUI and fewer hardware buttons. These rely on more sophisticated programming, usually through proprietary software, but they offer a more highly customizable interface. The manufacturers typically offer a set of downloadable templates to make the programming simpler and quicker. A typical example using RF as the transmission medium is the Crestron MT-1000C MiniTouch. The 3.8in. active matrix display is programmable using Crestron's VisionTools Pro-e GUI design software, and the touchscreen is surrounded by several hard buttons including a five-way thumbpad. As was the case with previous Crestron touchscreen models, the MT-1000C can also be programmed with 8-bit and 16-bit audio .wav files to function as personalized voice prompts, button clicks, and other audible feedback. With a 320×240-pixel, 16-bit display, the unit provides one-way communication on an RF frequency of 418MHz — teaming with the CNRFGWA-416 gateway, which is hardwired into a Cresnet network to communicate with the AV system central processor such as Crestron's MP2e. This RF control link typically provides a range of 50ft. to 100ft. The MT-1000C can also be used with the MC2W integrated wireless control system, and for infrared control, it is used with C2N-IRGW-IG IR Gateway or CNXRMIRD IR receiver. A Lithium-ion battery provides power, and it can fully recharge in about 4 hours while the unit is in service. As is also typical with these units, after a period of inactivity, the MT-1000C MiniTouch will enter a sleep mode to save power.

Another twist on the transmission scheme is offered by Denon with its RC7000CI infrared handheld remote. This device can use IR to communicate with the RC-7001RCI base station — which converts the IR signal it receives to RF and sends it on to the AV system, enabling two-way communication and extending the range beyond line-of-sight limitations up to 295ft. The remote is PC-programmable for a higher degree of customization, contains upgradeable firmware, and may use a USB connection to download IR codes when adding new equipment. The RC7001RCI units may also be daisy-chained to extend the infrared reception distance in 98ft. increments.

The Logitech Squeezebox Duet uses the 802.11g Wi-Fi option for transmission as a computer-integrated system consisting of the base unit and the remote. This pair capitalizes on music streaming and allows users to integrate their own digital music collection with online music services wirelessly or on a wired home network. The base unit has analog RCA connections for a stereo amplifier or receiver and an RJ-45 port for the wired home-network hookup. There is a single button on the front of the base unit to manually sync it to the network during setup. Optical and coaxial digital outputs allow connection to pretty much any music system. The Duet is a prime example of computer-audio streaming integration. The remote provides a 2.4in. color display, scroll wheel, and navigation buttons. The remote uses a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery that is charged while the handheld unit is in the charging station. The remote includes a number of interesting interfaces. Among these are an SD slot behind the battery compartment, a 3.5mm headphone jack, the IR transmitter, and a small loudspeaker for audio-control feedback sounds. The controller and receiver are firmware upgradeable. The controller is also backward-compatible with earlier models so it can be integrated with an existing system.

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