QWERTY controller uses RF connectivity

26 September 2011

Philips Dual Touch IF/RF remote control features simple controls on one side and a full QWERTY keypad on the reverse
Philips Dual Touch IF/RF remote control features simple controls on one side and a full QWERTY keypad on the reverse

A QWERTY keypad-equipped Philips DUAL IR/RF remote control uses Nordic RF wireless connectivity.

Philips Home Control has selected Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF24LE1 system-on-chip 2.4GHz ULP transceivers for advanced RF remote control for connected products.

DUAL is designed for use by consumer electronics manufacturers of emerging ‘connected’ products such as Smart TV, Over The Top (Internet) boxes, and Hybrid set-top boxes (STB). The DUAL platform comprises everything required for CE manufacturers to develop a customised IR/RF remote control with minimum design overhead, and includes controller handset, compact USB dongle, and demonstration software that runs on a PC.

DUAL is equipped with a full QWERTY-keypad on one side, and on the other, touchpad or optical sensor controls for alternate input methods allowing manufacturers to implement free cursor, gesturing, and moving highlight mechanisms. Philips Home Control says this makes browsing a better experience than traditional RF remote controls with directional keys.

Traditional remote controls struggle to meet the demands of modern consumers due to limited bandwidth and ‘one-button-one-operation’ interfaces. RF provides sufficient bandwidth for advanced navigation interfaces – such as scroll wheels, touch screens, and track balls – and bi-directional communication required when negotiating the complex user interfaces and menus typical of modern media devices. In addition, the QWERTY keypad is useful for browsing the Internet on the latest generation of Smart TVs and other connected products.

RF eliminates the need for IR's line-of-sight access, allowing devices to be controlled in the presence of obstacles and even interior walls (up to a range of 15m and assuming wall construction materials do not excessively attenuate the RF signals). DUAL remote control also incorporates IR remote control functionality so that users can operate legacy entertainment devices.

In operation, the DUAL remote handset utilises a Nordic nRF24LE1 SoC 2.4GHz ULP transceiver running a modified version of Nordic Gazell RF protocol software. An nRF24LU1+ System-on-SoC 2.4GHz ULP transceiver and USB 2.0 compliant device controller, incorporated into a compact USB dongle, plugs into the host device (the product to be controlled) to form the other node of the wireless link. The Nordic RF technology enables a bi-directional communication link with sufficient bandwidth for rapid screen refresh and seamless navigation.

The nRF24LE1 integrates a proven nRF24L01+ transceiver core, enhanced 8051 microcontroller, 16kbytes of on-chip flash and 1kbytes of SRAM into a single-chip solution. The chip boasts a 2Mbps on-air data rate combined with ultra low power (ULP) operation and advanced power management. The nRF24LU1+ integrates a USB 2.0 compliant device controller, 8 bit application microcontroller, and nRF24L01+ compatible 2.4GHz RF transceiver. Gazell RF protocol software provides features for advanced navigation, remote data transfers, and advanced pairing schemes while handling up to five remote devices at the same time. In addition, Gazell is a frequency agile protocol that is highly immune to interference from other 2.4GHz radio sources.

“Our main design objective was to provide a simple remote control interface with touch or motion gesture and just a few buttons so that users can interact with the host user interface in a comfortable head up, lean back manner,” says Che Mun Kiat, Senior Manager, Product Management, with Philips Home Control. “And when there is a need to type in some key words - for example, to search for something on the Internet - the user can flip over the remote and use the QWERTY keypad. We needed to use RF technology to achieve these design objectives and chose Nordic RF connectivity because it is extremely power efficient and co-exists well with Wi-Fi which is fast becoming a standard fitment in modern media appliances.

“The reception of DUAL family has been very encouraging,” adds Mun Kiat. “This is the right product at the right time and we plan to build on this potential by using leading RF solutions including Nordic chips in other Philips Home Control RF remote controls in the future.”

Ståle Ytterdal, Director Sales & Marketing – Asia, Nordic Semiconductor, adds: “Nordic’s nRF24LE1/nRF24LU1+/Gazell combination – which has been used in millions of wireless desktop peripherals – is a proven solution for next generation of remote controls. We’re pleased that Philips Home Control has followed this trend by selecting Nordic technology for DUAL. The nRF24LE1 and Gazell is a comprehensive ‘silicon solution’, meeting the performance and cost demands for remote control of connected products.”

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