The high cost of large-scale home automation is out of reach for most Australians. But programmable all-in-one remote controls from companies such as Logitech, Harmony, Marantz and Philips are making it possible to control, and even automate, multiple devices from a central source.
Marketing director for home entertainment distributor, QualiFi, Ralph Grundl, said programmable multi-device remotes were compatible with most units featuring line-of-sight infrared control technology.
"They can replace and centralise any existing remote controls for everything from home entertainment systems to curtains and air-conditioners," he said.
Retailing for between $300 and $2299, most of the units need professional programming and integration smarts before they will operate effectively across a range of devices. This provides resellers with added service opportunities on each sale.
"Because different brands use different codes, each remote control needs to be taught how to speak to the devices in the home," Grundl said. "Some resellers will spend a great deal of time programming a device for one home, then find they can use the same program with a few tweaks for many customers.
"To provide a premium service, resellers can also program in a series of macros so a single button can set off several different operations at once. The customer might simply press the DVD button for instance and the home entertainment system automatically switches to all the right channels, the shutters go down and the lighting dims."
While most all-in-one remote control units operate in conjunction with infrared controls, thus requiring line-of-sight to be effective, Grundl said some could be modified to operate using radio frequency technology.
"With these devices, resellers have the opportunity to make it as easy as possible to use," he said. "When a customer walks into a store they hand them a single device and get them to experience the controls for themselves."
And while the $1000 mark seemed expensive for a remote control device, Grundl said alternatives were pricier still.
"Because they are able to be programmed, these devices will operate in the same way as really high-end systems that start at about $5000," he said. "Customers are getting value for money," he said.