The concept of the “cloud” as an online personal and corporate space is a fairly recent one. There is one company that has been quietly going about its business for many years, leveraging the benefits of cloud-based data to support a product category not usually associated with sophisticated online interfaces. That company is Logitech, and the product is their range of Harmony universal remote controls.
Let’s take one step back and remember where universal controls started. Back in the day, a universal remote came with a nice long printed list of potential brands and models along with a code that you could enter, and you’d cross your fingers that the model you owned was on that list. Or, even more old school, you’d align the actual remote and the universal so that the infra-red signal passed from one to the other to “teach” the universal remote the pattern.
Then as companies realised that hard wiring their remotes with all the brands and models was just not feasible, some interesting methods to update the universal controls appeared. One particular process involved ringing a number provided, quoting the brand and model of the product you wanted your universal to control, and they would send a signal down the phone line, sounding similar to a fax connection. You would have to hold the remote up to the phone speaker, and it would receive the code. Sounds primitive by today’s standards, doesn’t it?
Of course, the Harmony remote range can be explained in terms of how many components you want to control, the ability to set up macros for multiple actions with one press and so on, and it’s important to know that so you can determine which remote in the range might be right for you.
What makes the hardware so successful is the vision of the company to create and maintain a global database of all popular brands of every type of remotely controlled device, and the associated control codes for every possible command. Logitech have loaded over 200,000 devices and millions of individual control buttons stemming from these remotes.
This is where it gets real interesting. As the owner of a Harmony remote, you access the online interface through a software window, and setup your personal profile, entering the models of the devices you have, and how you usually use them – Blu Ray with the surround sound system on, Digital TV with just the TV speakers, for example. Logitech then send that information to your connected remote control, and instantly you have an up-to-date universal remote.
This is a great example of the cloud playing a definitive role in making life that little bit easier in the lounge room. If you upgrade any of your devices, just update your profile and synch your Harmony remote. If you lose your Harmony (I’ve learned this is not hard with two kids under the age of 3) or decide to upgrade for more control, you can get a new remote and replace the data. Your cloud-based profile is always accessible by you to easily make those changes.
When we produced the video below for Bing Lee, I saw the software and user interface as driving the hardware range. If you already own a Harmony remote, you may not realise you’re already playing in the cloud. And that’s a great take-away from this – the cloud is not a destination, but a solution that can adapt and evolve as you and your needs do.
Here’s our video explaining the Harmony system and current range. Do you use a universal remote control, and what have your experiences been like?