The answer to everyone's question: What to do with too many remotes?
The creator of SureMote wants users to ditch all their remotes and use their smartphone app instead.
How many remotes does it take to watch TV these days?
From air conditioners to garage doors to the all-encompassing entertainment center, remotes were seemingly everywhere. It became overwhelming to try to keep track of all the clickers needed to operate each household device.
At the home of Viktor Ariel, CEO of Israeli-based Tekoia, things were getting out of hand. "My wife told me to get rid of all the remote controls," Ariel told From The Grapevine. Then, she said, "'If you're so smart, then do something about this mess.'"
From that marital request, the Smart Universal Remote, or SureMote, was born.
Ariel founded Tekoia in 2011, a few years after selling his previous company, cell phone camera maker TransChip, to Samsung. He found universal remotes too complicated and expensive, so he turned to the smartphone in his pocket. "My cell phone is always with me, so why not do the remote control in the cell phone?" he said. "You have all the means of communication and a customizable interface, so we did it. My whole family is using it at home."
SureMote was released to Android users in August and has been downloaded about 85,000 times since its release. SureMote can control any device that uses a remote, unlike similar apps that just control WiFi or Bluetooth-based devices like smart TVs and home automation hardware like the Nest thermostat. SureMote's capabilities also include devices that use tried-and-true infra-red (IR) remotes, like your 10-year-old DVD player, or that air conditioner you bought a few years ago.
Integrating the app into so many household devices, new and old, is complex. "The same Phillips TV in the U.S. and China will have different IR codes," said Ariel, noting that Tekoia had to merge three different databases of IR device codes in order to even get close to a comprehensive number of devices. User feedback is filling in whatever blanks remain, and they've been able to cover most major IR-based devices.
SureMote screen shot. (Photo: Courtesy of Tekoia)
Ariel hopes he can release a version for Apple devices early in 2015. The delay, he said, is due to IR capability: while Android phones have an "IR blaster" – the same thing that allows a TiVo to control a cable box, for example – Apple phones don't. In the upcoming Apple version, SureMote will work with WiFi and Bluetooth devices and will also work with IR devices via a WiFi-to-IR adapter.
Getting all of this to work is a feat in and of itself, considering different Android phones have different features and chipsets, and different brands have different versions of Android installed. Also, it will take some time to ensure seamless functionality between Wifi, Bluetooth, IR and home automation devices such as Nest, Wink and Harmony. These difficulties are familiar to Ariel, given his experience creating what he calls the "industry standard" phone camera technology at TransChip.
Currently, an ad-supported version of SureMote is a free download; an ad-free version is about $5 per year, which means you won't have to break the bank to acquire the app.
At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January, Ariel hopes to introduce more complete compatibility with smart TVs and an entry into the home automation market. While he geared the earlier versions of SureMote to more technical early adopters, he said, "The goal eventually is to create a remote anyone can use" via simple, customized panels "to make it easy for my grandma."
"My personal experience is that, as we get more and more electronics around us, I shudder," he said. "On the other hand, if you have an interface through your cell phone that you can customize and you're accustomed to, then it may improve our interaction with the machines around us."
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