RF remote control nears tipping point

05 January 2011

Nordic Semiconductor Chief Executive Officer, Svenn-Tore Larsen
Nordic Semiconductor Chief Executive Officer, Svenn-Tore Larsen

Age-related failings in traditional IR remote control technology are restrictive, says CEO.

Nordic Semiconductor Chief Executive Officer, Svenn-Tore Larsen, comments that age-related failings in traditional IR remote control technology are preventing end users from navigating modern digital media services and content libraries with ease and simplicity, which isn't helping their success.

However, these problems are solved by modern RF technology that delivers the performance and features consumers require at a mass-market price point.

Svenn-Tore Larsen, says that the adoption of RF remote control technology in place of traditional IR is approaching a tipping point because RF now offers the performance and features demanded by consumers at pricing levels acceptable to the mass market.

"While nobody’s claiming that an RF remote control is ever going to be lower cost than an IR unit any time soon, one-button-one-operation, line-of-sight-access-only IR will simply become so frustrating that end users will be happy to pay the small premium necessary to access the enhanced navigation and control features supported by two-way (bi-directional) RF technology."

This includes the use of touchpads, scroll wheels, touchscreens, and LCD displays that can display, for example, 'live' playing status info and album artwork, as well as non-directional through-wall operation.

"These ease-of-use advantages are driving RF remote control technology into the mainstream by raising consumer awareness of what's possible and making IR remote controls look increasingly dated and unappealing in comparison," continues Larsen. "In addition, the price of RF remote controls continues to fall and is approaching a point whereby RF controllers are becoming attractive to consumer electronics manufacturers for routine bundling with their products."

Several research studies have also independently arrived at the same conclusion. Strategy Analytics, says that early adopters of advanced Internet TV services (such as Apple TV, Hulu, PlayStation Network video, Netflix on Xbox Live, and AT&T U-Verse) are demanding improved controllers, and that when questioned, consumers expressed a preference for simple, pointing wand controllers for navigating their way around Internet-connected TVs.

In addition, consumer electronics companies such as Philips are now offering RF remote control platforms to OEM manufacturers of digital media devices such as music players, TVs, and PCs, and a growing number of universal RF and IR remotes are being launched.

And the Apple iPhone, iPod touch and/or iPad are now being used by a number of CE manufacturers as a remote control using (typically free) downloadable apps to provide the user interface.

"The RF remote control market will be served by a combination of proprietary and standards-based solutions dependent on the needs of the end application," concludes Larsen. "Nordic Semiconductor is well positioned to provide both types of remote control with its nRF24LE1/Gazell proprietary products and forthcoming Bluetooth low energy wireless technology solutions. Furthermore, the proven 2.4GHz wireless connectivity technology Nordic pioneered for PC peripherals (wireless mice, keyboards and joysticks) is exactly the same technology required for next generation RF remote controls."

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