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Design next-gen home networks powered by RF4CE

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ZigBee? RF4CE? set-top boxes?

The next-generation home network is touted to significantly alter how we will interact with our home entertainment systems, as well as our home's security, energy, health monitoring and environmental systems.

Many technology watchers have predicted the arrival of the automated smart home and that home owners will seek out and install the latest, coolest gizmos that will make a house truly smart. Well, it is not going to happen that way.

This new network will be powered by ZigBee RF4CE, a low-power, low-data-rate version of Wi-Fi. It is the choice of the world's cable companies and service providers as the way to introduce new services and applications to the home. Cable companies have realized that is not enough to provide high-quality video and web connectivity. If they want to engage their customers and keep them as subscribers in a web connected world, they already have the total infrastructure in place to provide a wide range of other services.

It is the cable companies of the world who are launching the new smart homes centered around the ubiquitous set-top boxnot the TV makers, not the home after market or security device providers.

At CES 2012, Comcast, one of the largest service providers in the world said it is moving to ZigBee RF4CE with their new Xfinity set-top boxes and remotes.

"We are moving to support ZigBee RF4CE standards-based remote controls and set-tops because they improve the user experience for navigating all our services in the home, while allowing us to make the transition to RF technology in a very cost effective way," said Ted Grauch, Vice President, Video Premise Equipment for Comcast.

Comcast is not alone. Every other service provider in the world is also testing and planning on moving to RF4CE for their set-top boxes and remotes. In addition, several of the world's leading consumer electronics and home entertainment manufacturers are planning on using RF4CE. In Japan, Sony is already using RF4CE in their televisions and remote controls to enable viewers to easily purchase items they see on their TVs.

Within a few years, maybe five, how everyone communicates with their home entertainment and monitoring/control systems will change.

RF4CE benefits
The first roll-outs of ZigBee RF4CE powered remote controls and set-top boxes will provide benefits for the consumer as well as for the cable company. Consumer benefits include the ability to control the TV set and set-top box from anywhere in the house. As ZigBee RF4CE uses 2.4GHz radio frequencies, consumers will no longer need to aim and shoot their remote control at a small infrared (IR) target sensor on their TV set, Blu-ray player or set-top box.

Even better, this means that set-top boxes no longer need to be located near TV or entertainment systems. Many cable providers have already introduced systems that wirelessly send the video signal from the set-top box to the TV, further freeing the set-top box from the TV set's neighborhood.

In addition to providing exciting usability features for consumers, RF4CE offers numerous cost saving benefits for the service provider. For example, one of the common customer service complaints that cable companies receive is regarding problems with the remote control. Answering and resolving the calls is very expensive for cable companies.

The home user can't get the remote to work or they cannot figure out to program it to allow the remote to control other entertainment devices.

Because it is based on the open RF4CE standard, the new RF remote control is more reliable and has greater range than the old school IR remotes. As RF4CE is also an extreme low-power technology, future remotes will no longer require replaceable or rechargeable batteries to operate.

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