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AIFA gains upper hand in turning infrared appliances smart

AIFA gains upper hand in turning infrared appliances smart
In a sleek shape similar to UFO and small enough to be placed in the palm, i-Ctrl acts as a remote and connects to the Wi-Fi at the same time, allowing users to control infrared appliances using their Internet-enabled smartphones.

More and more devices are getting connected to the Internet in the new age of IoT. Like smartphones, home appliances including TVs, air conditioners and ceiling lights are all about to get connected to become “smart.”

The change won’t happen overnight, however. Most appliances in existence today are not Wi-Fi-enabled to be connected. Often times the devices communicate with the outside world through infrared signals, which allow them to be controlled from a remote.

Remote control manufacturer AIFA Technology has leveraged its know-how to come up with an innovation. Its new product i-Ctrl connects infrared appliances to the Internet. In a sleek shape similar to UFO and small enough to be placed in the palm, i-Ctrl acts as a remote and connects to the Wi-Fi at the same time, allowing users to control infrared appliances using their Internet-enabled smartphones.

All the transmission signals from the remote can be called upon and stored in your phone. The i-Ctrl app has the buttons found on a remote, so now the phone can function as a remote.

AIFA’s strength lies in its background as an original equipment manufacturer that has made remote controls for more than 20 years. It is one of the few companies in the world that are capable of making their own remote ICs, according to AIFA general manager Ni Wen-lu.

Connects to all infrared appliances

Thanks to AIFA’s remote control expertise, i-Ctrl can talk to TVs, set-top boxes, DVD players, stereos, air conditioners, fans, ceiling lights, etc. that are controllable through infrared remotes across various brands. The company claims its database has infrared signals from 95% of the appliance makers in the world. In other words, if you have a home appliance that is controllable from a remote, the chance is high that i-Ctrl can control it.

Also, more functionalities found on a remote, whether it is for TV, air conditioner, etc., can be copied to i-Ctrl’s app interface. i-Ctrl may have the upper hand in this regard, compared with similar products on the market.

i-Ctrl has the edge especially in its ability to “learn” air conditioner remote signals that it previously did not recognize. A remote’s transmission signal changes for each temperature degree adjustment, and AIFA has a patented technology to match the transmission accordingly.

Secure cloud

Ni Wen-lu,
General Manager,
AIFA Technology 

Also, extensive software development work was involved to create i-Ctrl. More specifically, software coding is necessary in five components: infrared database; Wi-Fi firmware and modules; iOS app; Android app; and cloud software.

i-Ctrl stands out in cloud security, as strong encryption and decryption mechanisms have been installed. The security mechanisms match the U.S. National Security Agency standard, Ni said, adding that this is necessary as numerous hacker attacks occur on a daily basis.

Because AIFA’s cloud links with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa platforms, users will be able to voice-control their home appliances that are connected to i-Ctrl, through smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo.

An easier way to smart life

i-Ctrl offers a relatively cost-effective way for people who want to experience smart home.

Lately many appliance brands have embedded Wi-Fi modules into their products to turn them smart or get connected to the Internet. Although the module costs little, a premium price is attached to these Wi-Fi-enabled products, Ni said. A Wi-Fi-enabled air conditioners in India and Japan, for example, are priced US$300 higher than their infrared counterparts. While the added module cost gets one appliance connected, i-Ctrl gets many appliances connected.

It is worth noting that there are older infrared appliances that simply cannot be upgraded through Wi-Fi modules. i-Ctrl can solve the problem. “With i-Ctrl, you don’t need to upgrade, you can use your existing home appliances,” Ni said.

Like controllers or smart gateways, i-Ctrl has the scheduling and scene functions, to turn on or off appliances at a pre-set time automatically, and to turn on or off multiple home appliances simultaneously.

The utility and convenience that i-Ctrl can bring is clear. When you want to turn on the TV, air conditioner, etc., you no longer need to fetch the remote first. Just take out the phone and control the appliances from there.

Also, some families have dozens of remote controls at home for different appliances. With i-Ctrl, users will no longer need to switch between remotes, as the smartphone can now serve as a universal remote. The elderly users may find this utility especially helpful.

i-Ctrl is likely to have broad appeal in today’s world that is still saturated with infrared appliances, which probably total tens of billions in number. i-Ctrl can potentially turn them all into smart appliances.

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