2001-04-01 – Infra-red home automation

Here’s the latest idea:
Infra-red control cards for the PC. Nice user interface program, and a PnP PCI card, or perhaps a box that goes on top of the PC and plugs into the serial or parallel port. Point your remote and press capture, and it will sample it, just like many of the clever systems currently do for stealing alarm codes and “learning” remotes. With an on-line database system, akin to the CCDB database, it would be easy to try looking up the codes, based solely on the bit patterns. Download a new set, and gain a new remote for the tele, and then build a setup for your TV, stereo, video, etc. and even use it to talk to other PC’s with the same card, or other (IrDA, etc.) systems. With a simple scripting language, this would be great, as you could simulate an IR mouse, buy IR dimmers for your room so the lights are computer controlled, etc. Why wait for Bluetooth, and then buy a new video? Can’t program the video? in a hurry? Just tell your PC to “press” record in 24 minutes time, pop in a tape, then go to the pub! If you bought a cheap IR controlled construction kit, it could run robots, and even be used to open and close the curtains, whilst turning the lights on at dusk! The number of IR controlled devices is growing rapidly, even the little Furby electronic pets are IR sensitive. Lego Mindstorms is too, so the possibilities are endless!

Having looked into this area a little, it is clear that various people have tried to commercialise this type of thing, but it seems no-one makes them anymore. Perhaps the time is right for a re-launch? After all, most homes now have a computer of some sort. Just the ones with Linux would present a big enough market for a start, and once you had a USB or parallel cable version, it should be easy enough to get some market penetration. Offering the assorted bits and pieces in a kit would be a good way to go. I suspect, however, most people would buy it simply because it could turn the TV on at a given time…

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