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Remote control platform complements RF with traditional IR capabilities

Wed, 09/22/2010 - 10:37am
Nordic Semiconductor ASA today announces that German custom A/V (audio/visual) development specialist, Audivo, has specified Nordic nRF24LE1 2.4GHz Systems-on-Chip (SoC) and Gazell RF software protocol to provide the bi-directional RF link in its universal RF remote controller, dubbed the M-Remote.

Universal controllers have the ability to operate consumer electronics (CE) appliances from different manufacturers eliminating the need for multiple dedicated remote controls. Until now, however, mass-market universal controllers have typically only employed traditional IR (infrared) technology.

The M-Remote OEM platform offers both RF and IR and targets consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers of the latest networked A/V devices such as streaming music servers, Internet radios and wireless multimedia centers. These appliances demand more advanced user interfaces than traditional push-button, one-way IR technology can support. RF offers the high-bandwidth, bi-directional wireless connectivity required to support more advanced user interface mechanisms such as scroll wheels, touch-screens, and track-balls.

These are all designed to make it easier and more intuitive for end users to access and enjoy their digital content and services. This includes the ability to browse large libraries of stored music or long lists of Internet radio stations, or have continuous ('live') playing status info (including that usually shown on a front panel but often too small or far away for users to be able to see) and graphics (e.g. album artwork) displayed directly on a remote's display. In addition, RF eliminates the need for IR's line-of-sight access, allowing devices to be controlled through objects and even interior walls (usually up to a range of about 15m and assuming wall building materials do not excessively attenuate RF signals). (See “About RF remote control” below.)

In operation, a Nordic nRF24LE1 (see "About the nRF24LE1" below) located in the universal M-Remote communicates with a second nRF24LE1-based module embedded into the A/V networked streaming device using the Nordic Gazell software protocol. The Nordic nRF24LE1 utilizes a proven Nordic nRF24L01+ transceiver core and features an up to 2Mbps on-air data rate combined with ultra low power (ULP) operation and advanced power management. The Gazell RF protocol provides features for advanced navigation, background data transfers (e.g. of larger files such as album artwork), and advanced pairing schemes, while being able to handle 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 such as Bluetooth wireless technology and Wi-Fi.

To conserve power, the M-Remote will typically enter an ultra-low power (22µA) standby sleep mode when not in use (after 30s in default mode, or between ten and 90s if set by the user). This, however, is all hidden from the end user by the use of an inbuilt motion sensor that means if the remote is picked up it activates a rapid power up (including the display) in 200ms ready to respond immediately to any user input request. The M-Remote is able to offer over a week of operation before battery recharge.

The fully customizable M-Remote is a complete solution including the remote control handset with integrated rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, charging cradle, host A/V device RF module, IR transmitter for standard devices (optional), API source codes (making it very easy to integrate the M-Remote platform into any modern A/V device), product design support, development kit, automatic pairing, and an optional touch (scroll) wheel. A full touchscreen could also be integrated if required, and multi-room (zone) control is also supported.

“After considering several wireless technology potential options – including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi – we identified Nordic’s proven proprietary 2.4GHz solution - with its field-proven Gazell software protocol, fast startup time, ultra low power consumption, and competitive CE-targeted pricing – as the most suitable wireless connectivity technology for our remote control application,” comments Erich Boehm, Managing Director of Audivo.

"We were not RF experts, but by using the Nordic nRF24LE1 with Gazell protocol, the development process was made very straightforward and we were able to focus on our core competence of the overall system and higher level application-only software design while adding little to our overall BOM (bill of materials) and accelerating time-to-market,” says Boehm. “This was critical for us if we were to allow our potential customers enough time to employ our M-Remote platform in products scheduled for release by Christmas this year."

“It is extremely encouraging to see our celebrated nRF24LE1 [see tinyurl.com/2w39ozq] and Gazell RF software protocol employed in such a ground-breaking RF/IR universal remote control," comments Geir Langeland, Nordic Semiconductor's Director of Sales & Marketing. "Although RF represents the future of remote control technology, IR is very successful and will remain popular for some time; Audivo’s M-Remote will bridge the gap between these technologies for CE manufacturers that want to attract customers with the convenience of a single universal remote.”

For more detailed information – please visit the Nordic website product page at: www.tinyurl.com/5lmcv .

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