As great as the smartphone is, it's not always the perfect tool, especially in the smart home. Once you start piling up numerous smart devices and the tangled mess of apps that goes with them, the smartphone becomes ... kind of dumb. Apps like Wink can help streamline that clutter, but French startup Sevenhugs believes the solution lies in better hardware. It ditches the smartphone completely in favor of a remote that finds the sweet spot between old fashioned clicker and touch-based mobile.
A universal Wi-Fi remote for the smart home age, the Sevenhugs Smart Remote offers multi-device control from a sleek, simple touchscreen interface. The remote control comes with three connected outlets, which provide a triangulated location inside the home, identifying where the remote is pointing.
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After the Smart Remote system recognizes the device you're aiming at, it changes the remote's touchscreen interface to match that device and give you wireless control. There's no need to load an app or even switch between devices on the remote. Point it at your Sonos speakers, for instance, and you'll get a simple menu with volume and track controls.
To add a new smart home device to the Smart Remote system, Sevenhugs says that you first pair the device with the app then bring the remote to the device and set the location. After that, the remote recognizes the device whenever it's pointed at it.
Sevenhugs also notes that the remote-registered device location doesn't have to be its physical location. For instance, if you want to control an upstairs Nest thermostat from the downstairs living room, you can set the remote to control the Nest menu when you point it at the living room fireplace or window. In this way, you can control a device in another room or on another floor by pointing at an alternative object or in the general direction of the device, instead of directly at it.
Sevenhugs is still developing the Smart Remote and hopes to get it to market for under US$200 later this year, with preorders planned for the first quarter. The system will include the remote, three sockets and a charging base. It currently works with the Nest thermostat, Philips Hue lights and Sonos speakers, and Sevenhugs' says its open SDK gives the system the potential to work with virtually any smart device.
Compared with master apps that control all your smart home devices, the Smart Remote has some obvious pros and cons. If you have numerous devices spread all over a large house or bunched up relatively close together, it seems like the set-up and operation of the point-and-click system might be a little tedious. In other homes, though, simply pointing should prove quicker and easier than loading up an app, entering passwords, etc. We like how the Smart Remote brings some of the simplicity of the basic remote control into the smart home, letting you plop down on the couch and easily control various devices without multiple apps or hard remotes.The video below is a fun look at the advantages the Smart Remote has over an app-loaded smartphone.