CES 2009: Goodbye infrared remote controls, hello RF handsets that let you keep your kit in the cupboard
Away from the hype and hubbub of the CES halls, we found a small Dutch company with a tiny chipset that's going to make a big difference to your home entertainment life - by transforming the size and capabilities of the humble remote control handset.
Silicon specialist Greenpeak has developed a set of reference designs for a new generation of radio-frequency (RF) remote controls and modules, which - unlike current line-of-sight infrared (IR) designs - will allow you to keep all your kit tucked away out of sight, leaving only your TV and speakers on display.
RF remotes will work faster than IR ones too, plus have a range of 30m - allowing you to control, for example, devices in other rooms to stream music (or just to turn up your main system when you're listening in the garden...)
Backed by the big names in CE
And this isn't some proprietary move: the designs are based on the new RF4CE (radio frequency for consumer electronics) standard to be released next month, and are 2.4GHz, IEEE 802.15.4 compliant.
RF4CE is already backed by Sony, Samsung, Philips and Panasonic, with more manufacturers expected to jump on board in the next year.
Greenpeak's VP of business development, Frans Frielink, predicts the first RF remotes featuring his company's chipsets will be available by the end of this year, with many CES 2010 product launches involving RF remotes.
Batteries ARE included - and will never need changing
The good news doesn't end there. As well as being a low-cost chipset (enabling widespread adoption by the big CE names for a wide range of kit), the Greenpeak design draws very little power.
In fact, the company claims the remotes will be able to run for up to 50 years - well beyond the likely lifetime of the accompanying product - on the single watch-type battery integrated into the design.
As well as the eco-friendly implications - Greenpeak estimates that standard remote controls currently eat their way through 6 billion batteries a year - this also spells the end for bulky remotes with battery doors that snap off when you drop the handset (we've all been there...).
We'll bring you more news on RF4CE developments as they arise, and will also be keeping a keen eye on Greenpeak's next power-saving plans, which involve energy-harvesting (from light, motion and plants!) that can ban batteries for good.