iPhone as wifi remote: Logitech Harmony vs. Global Cache iTach vs. Insteon IRLinc vs. ?? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 12-04-2013, 07:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi All,

 

I'm new here so I apologize if someone has already covered this - if so I can't find anything.

 

At any rate, my setup is fairly normal - TV in living room, receivers in a closet.  Right now my cable box, AppleTV and Roku are by the TV.  Other than the fact that my receivers are fairly old I don't think my setup is too relevant.

 

I would like a simple system to control my equipment throughout the house using my iPhone and/or iPad over wifi (requirement).  Additionally, it would be nice for visitors to control everything (e.g. a house sitter when I'm on vacation) - who may or may not have an iPhone/iPad/Android device (low importance).  It would be great to have the option of adding a wired wall-mounted keypad, but I think that would be a different kind of implementation...

 

So far the only options I've discovered are Logitech Harmony, Global Cache iTach, and Insteon IRLinc.

 

I'd love any input.  Following is what I've come up with after researching these devices.  Please let me know if I've captured anything incorrectly, or if you have something to add (or if you think this pretty much sums up everything).

 

Logitech Harmony:

This looks like it could be the easiest to set up.  Additionally a guest could use the Logitech remote, but only over IR, correct?  This seems like a good easily implemented solution.  As far as I can tell the only drawbacks would be that only iOS/Android devices can control it over wifi (so I can't turn on my audio from my desktop, right?).  Additionally it can't control other devices or integrate into a home automation system (which I don't have (right now)).

Pro: easy to set up, native iOS/Android app

Con: no integration, no desktop control, no control of non-ir devices, only 2 IR output jacks

 

Global Cache iTach:

This appears to be a good solution too.  I also like that it's produced by a smaller company (help out the little guy - right!).  I don't know if it's made in the USA (which would be a bonus too).  Anyway, I'm concerned that the set up will not be as easy as the Logitech Harmony (and perhaps somewhat difficult).  Their website says "Connect any device to any network instantly", but as best I can tell I'll need to use their iLearn software to learn/play IR codes.  It's not clear at all exactly how that works.  I've seen references to their cloud based database of IR commands, but again details are not clear.  Additionally, Mac support seems sketchy at best.  There is 3rd party software developed by someone in a foreign country - I don't know how reliable that would be.  I could however use Parallels/VirtualBox to overcome that limitation (assuming no connection type issues).  It doesn't appear that Global Cache has an iPhone app, but apparently there are apps that will communicate with the iTach (correct?).  The iTach runs a web server, but it's not clear whether or not the I could load a webpage for controlling the device - anyone know?  Can this device integrate into a home automation system?

Pro: control from any web enabled device??, more IR output jacks, smaller company, more configurable?, integrate into a home automation system?

Con: ease of installation, no native iOS/Android app

 

Insteon IRLinc:

This looks like an interesting solution.  It integrates with the Insteon home automation system, but as far as I can tell that would be the only advantage - right?  It would be nice to have a wall mounted key pad with a single button to press for turning on music in a room...  (I know Russound, Niles, etc - but another conversation all together.)  This device appears to have poor documentation, difficult installation, no native iOS/Android app - right?  It would be nice to set up a "scene" - turn on AV equipment, turn on lights at specified level, etc.

Pro: integrates into a home automation system

Con: lots

 

Are there any other simple solutions I'm missing?

 

Regardless of my choice can I use a long cable and mount an IR blaster to control devices not in the closet with the receiver?  That is, receiver/iTach in closet, TV/etc in living room.  Would the Harmony work with a split emitter in one jack and an IR blaster in the other?

 

Right now I'm leaning towards the Logitech Harmony.  I would just replace it in the future if I want to upgrade to a home automation system...

 

Any input is greatly appreciated!

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post #2 of 9 Old 12-04-2013, 08:14 AM
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You seem to have several misconceptions.

All your devices are ultimately IR, so any remote solution is going to work essentially the same in the end. The difference is how the remote communicates with it's IR gateway device. Some Harmony's like the One are only IR and have no gateway device. Others like the Ultimate are RF, and link to a Hub which then blasts IR to your devices. Some options, like iRule can also control some devices directly via wifi, without going through a gateway. I think your Apple TV is the only device that might be capable of this. Otherwise, IR will still work just as well. With Harmony, the remote itself also sends IR, so no blasters are required for your line-of-sight devices, only your hidden ones. With Global Cache, all IR comes from its blasters, so some long cable runs may be required in that case.

The iTach is not a thing. It's a name of a family of Global Cache IR gateway devices. iRule would be the remote app that you use. It's more flexible than Harmony programming wise. All your devices will already be in its database, so no learning will be required.

If you have any Insteon devices, you'll need an IRLinc regardless of what remote solution you choose.

You appear to have a very simple system. If I were you, I'd give the Ultimate a try. It can also handle your future home automation system. If you want to do some more advanced stuff once you gain some more knowledge and experience, then upgrade to iRule (Global Cache) later. iRule is not for novices and requires a lot of skill and effort to set up.

Since you only have one hidden device, even a cheap harmony like the 650 plus a cheap IR repeater will work fine, especially since you are prepared to do some IR cable runs anyway.

Hope that helps.
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post #3 of 9 Old 12-04-2013, 03:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi mdavej,

 

Thanks for the quick reply.

 

I should have been more specific when discussing products.

 

For Logitech I meant the Harmony Ultimate Hub.  It has an iOS app (and IR remote), but apparently no web based interface allowing other devices to control (like a desktop/laptop).

 

For Global Cache I meant the iTach WF2IR.

 

For Insteon I meant the IRLinc transmitter, not receiver.  

 

I have 2 receivers and several sources, speakers through out my house in 3 zones.  That information probably would have made it more clear about what I'm trying to do.  None of my A/V equipment is network enabled so iRule would still need something like the WF2IR to send the IR signals.  I'm looking a wifi (i.e. local network) based system that allows control from all over my house (and outside).  Only the remote needs to be wifi - the base/system/hub/controller could be ethernet connected.  An iOS app is mandatory, additionally a web-interface would be great.

 

I suppose I could have just asked "Are there any good alternatives to the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Hub" but I thought details/perspective would make a difference.

 

Do you know if iRule would connect to the WF2IR and other network enabled components at the same time?  If so then I suppose iRule/iTach would be great because if/when I get new network connected components I could add them to the iRule interface, right?

 

Do you know if iRule connects any other IR "hubs"?

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post #4 of 9 Old 12-04-2013, 04:25 PM
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I'm no iRule expert, but my understanding is that it will control other network enabled devices directly. I also think Global Cache is the only IP-to-IR device it can interface with. Sounds like iRule my be a better solution given this additional info.

EDIT: Per post below, miCasa probably works as well.
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post #5 of 9 Old 12-05-2013, 05:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atlantajon View Post



Do you know if iRule would connect to the WF2IR and other network enabled components at the same time?  If so then I suppose iRule/iTach would be great because if/when I get new network connected components I could add them to the iRule interface, right?

Do you know if iRule connects any other IR "hubs"?

Yes to both of the above!

I am using iRule with a bunch of IR gear in addition to 3 IP controllable devices. I have a Global Cache GC-100 connected to my network (wired) that handles IR commands as a 'gateway', and each individual IP device (both wired and via wifi) is also an individual gateway. Very seamless integration of various devices and customer service/support is top notch! It is a fantastic solution, and iRule even allows a trial period so you can check it all out.

I have seen codes in the iRule database for miCasa gateways, and a few others but don't have experience there yet (Vera lite coming soon).

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post #6 of 9 Old 12-05-2013, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi BrokenCrank,

 

Thanks!

 

-jon

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post #7 of 9 Old 12-05-2013, 03:54 PM
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Hey Jon, I have a little experience with the technologies you're highlighting. Here's my .02 on your situation.

 

I have an Insteon-based home automation system controlled by an ISY-994 (from Universal Devices) which controls a few lights and listens to a few sensors in my house. I also have the wired Ethernet to IR gateway from Global Cache to control the IR devices in my setup. Some of my gear can respond directly to over-Ethernet commands (Denon receiver and the Blu-Ray player) and some of it has to be controlled via IR (from the GC or the original remote). Oddly enough, there is no capability to control Apple TV via Ethernet except through Apple's Remote app (which is quite good but not really the "one app" solution one might like).

 

I chose Roomie Remote as the app for home entertainment control. It has a very straightforward programming model, works great with the Global Cache kit, and supports a ton of IR codes. I found Roomie easier to program, update, and use than the Logitech 650 I also have (note that I haven't used their Hub - so I can't comment on it). I looked at the iRule product but went with Roomie. As I understand it, iRule needs to have a computer running at all times to work. I hear iRule's great but that was a show stopper for me.

 

Roomie can also issue Insteon commands to the ISY-994. I've set some of my Roomie activities up to dim lights when I start a movie or game. I also built a lighting control screen in Roomie. And I wasted an a couple of hours to build a button that pauses the show in progress and brings up the lights when I want to go upstairs and get a snack ;).

 

I also was able to program the ISY-994 to accomplish a simple task via wall switch. I can double-tap an Insteon-enabled wall switch upstairs and it turns off all the lights and the TV downstairs. But be forewarned that getting the ISY to talk to the Global Cache with the right IR codes is not for the faint of heart. But it doesn't sound like that's where you are right now anyways.

 

Roomie doesn't support Android and doesn't have a desktop counterpart (although there may be desktop apps that talk to the Global Cache, I don't know). They do offer a desktop widget that's supposed to sync all your Roomie instances but it hasn't worked very well for me at all. Instead I use Roomie's Dropbox sync and am perfectly happy with it. Global Cache does support a browser interface but, based on my experience with the wired Ethernet-to-IR version, the browser interface simply lets you change some aspects of how the GC gateway works. For example, you can use the browser interface to change the IR type for each of the output ports based on the type of emitter you need to use.

 

Finally, be aware that you may need add-ons to make it all operate as you want. Roomie has various add ons, the ISY needed a "Network" module to issue commands to the GC, and I ended up buying an IR receiver adapter that allows the GC to repeat IR signals from an IR receiver outside the cabinet (so you don't need to run one emitter for the GC signals and another to repeat IR signals from your existing remotes).

 

Good luck!

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post #8 of 9 Old 12-06-2013, 03:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scottalucas View Post


Oddly enough, there is no capability to control Apple TV via Ethernet except through Apple's Remote app (which is quite good but not really the "one app" solution one might like).

As I understand it, iRule needs to have a computer running at all times to work. I hear iRule's great but that was a show stopper for me.

Just an FYI and clarification: There is no requirement to have a computer running for iRule to function. The only time you need a computer/internet connection is when using the iRule 'Builder' to set up or make changes to your panels. The app runs on your tablet or phone which connects via wifi to your LAN....computer is not part of the signal chain for control (although as I understand it, some people are controlling their HTPCs via iRule!).

I believe that iRule has IR codes for Apple TV and as you are controlling other devices via IR (WF2IR) this too can be a non issue.

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post #9 of 9 Old 12-06-2013, 10:15 AM
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Thanks for the iRule clarification, I should look at it again (love to tinker with this stuff...). While I've found that Roomie's phone/tablet-based interface builder works just fine, I like the idea of a computer-based interface builder.

 

I solved my Apple TV problem the same way as you, just slapped an emitter on the ATV and used the IR codes in Roomie. It works just fine, although sometimes I've struggled with unintended double key presses. I don't know if the problem is Roomie, the GC, or the Apple TV. Maybe I'll take a crack at it this weekend. :)

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