Why are Cable Companies Adopting ZigBee RF4CE for consumer electronics – remote controls, TVs and Set Top Boxes?
Author: Cees Links, GreenPeak
The new generation of remote controls provides more than some additional convenience for the consumer: it bolsters the position of cable operators into our home and provides them with an avenue for new services. If cable companies want to survive – they have to innovate. ZigBee RF4CE is an important path to their prosperity and growth!
Cable companies are in a tough battle. They are fighting to keep their customers when many are deciding “to cut the cord” and rely on the Internet for their entertainment needs. Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, – all provide quality content delivered via the internet. In addition, cable TV providers need to control expenses and make it more affordable to provide their services against growing competition from satellite, local broadcast and especially, Internet connections.
Sony and other TV makers are currently rolling out RF4CE TVs. Comcast, EchoStar and other major entertainment and service providers have been testing RF4CE remotes and set top boxes, and are scheduled to start rolling them out to their customers in the near future.
If the cable companies want to avoid losing subscribers to the Internet, they need to give their customers something new – engaging new features and capabilities. This new generation of RF4CE remotes does just that, providing customers with improved ease of use and interactivity – two way communication between the remote control and the set top box.
By using small, low power display screens on the RF4CE remote control, the cable company can leverage the RF4CE’s interactivity and enable the cable company and the networks to talk to the customer and for the customer to respond. This can include programming reminders, advertisements, infotainment, voting and polls, as well as TV based gaming. For example, no longer limited to controlling the TV and media devices, Sony’s new RF4CE remotes can read credit cards and accept payments. In addition, this interactivity opens up a diverse range of features for home automation – such as using the set top box and the remote control to set and monitor security, energy management, HVAC controls, lights, etc.
Standard IR (infrared) remotes need to be used close to the set top box – not in another room. People often prefer to hide the cable box away inside a cabinet. IR does not go through wood. Sometimes IR will not even penetrate the glass covering on home entertainment furniture. IR also is subject to interference from sunlight and from certain types of lights – including those used to backlight flat screen TVs. RF empowers the cable subscriber with the power to control their content from anywhere in the home.
RF4CE helps control service costs.
RF4CE set top boxes and remote controls help cable companies control costs – especially the expenses of answering the phone to help a cable customer set up their TV and set-top box, sending out new remotes that are not working, and to help slash the need for sending out a repair technician to show them how to do it. Truck rolls are a major expense that cable companies are trying to control.
Many complaint calls are in regard to the remote control for the cable company’s set top box. The home user can’t get it to work with the supplied set top box, they can’t program it to work with their other TVs and video devices, or they can’t figure out how to change or recharge the batteries.
Programming the remotes to work with other devices, especially newer home media devices, is a major nuisance. The user has a choice of trying to find the codes online, searching through the instruction manuals, or as is most commonly the case, calling the cable company’s service center to complain.
Once they do get the right series of codes, they often need to input a series of numbers and see if it works. If it doesn’t work, they need to input another series. And so on and so forth. It’s cumbersome!
RF4CE – because it is radio based and interactive, makes the remote control programming much simpler. On a regular basis, cable companies update the software in their set-top boxes. This includes databases for a wide range of home electronics devices – TV sets, video players, multi-function devices, etc. By using RF4CE, this updated code base is then downloaded into the remote and makes it simpler to make the connection from remote to device. The user simply has to enter the brand name and type of device, push a button on the remote and the remote will automatically cycle through the applicable codes, until it finds one that works.
RF4CE also help with the battery problem. As RF4CE is an ultra low power radio technology, a single battery, hardwired into the circuit board, can power the remote for longer than the life of the system. Because the battery is hard wired in, remote control designers no longer have to worry about battery compartments and lids. By eliminating the need for easily breakable battery compartment lids, remotes will no longer have to be kept together by duct tape or rubber bands. The cable company will not have to send out replacement remotes.
So, the new generation of remote controls provides more than some additional convenience for the consumer: it bolsters the position of cable operators into our home and provides them with an avenue for new services. If cable companies want to survive – they have to innovate. ZigBee RF4CE is an important path to their prosperity and growth!
Cees Links is a pioneer of the wireless LAN industry, a visionary leader bringing the world of mobile computing and continuous networking together. With his leadership, the first wireless LANs were developed which ultimately became house-hold technology integrated into the PC’s and notebooks we all use today. His group also pioneered the development of access points, home networking routers and hotspot base stations, all widely used today.
GreenPeak (http://www.greenpeak.com) is a fabless semiconductor company and is a leader in ultra low power wireless and battery-free communication technology for consumer electronics and wireless sense and control applications. This revolutionary technology, based on the IEEE 802.15.4/ZigBee wireless networking standard, utilizes energy harvesting to facilitate battery-free operation in a totally wireless environment, without the need for either communications or power connectivity.