SAN JOSE, Calif. – Cable TV provider Comcast and Zigbee chip designer GreenPeak Technologies will co-develop a software profile for remote controls using the RF4CE protocol. The profile will be available for other cable-TV providers to use said the companies as part of an announcement at CES that Comcast will adopt RF4CE in remote controls for its Xfinity TV service.
The move was a first blow in what is expected to be an ongoing battle for the future of the remote at CES and beyond. Zigbee proponents such as GreenPeak are dueling with Bluetooth backers and proprietary technologies to bring radio technology to remotes to deliver new apps that require a two-way link with higher data rates than current infrared links. RF also opens the door to non-line-of-sight uses and longer battery life for remotes.
The new Comcast RF remote control uses a hybrid ZigBee RF4CE/infrared controller from GreenPeak (Utrecht, the Netherlands). Comcast will use the remotes with its Xcalibur products currently available in Augusta, Georgia, as well as some legacy set-tops. It plans to expand availability in 2012.
"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 of video premise equipment for Comcast speaking in a press statement.
"Factors such as increased storage of media content anywhere in the home and growing Internet connectivity in home entertainment devices are further driving the transition from IR to RF technologies," says Lisa Arrowsmith, senior connectivity analyst at IMS Research, speaking in the press statement. "Low-power wireless technologies, such as ZigBee RF4CE, support advanced functions from QWERTY keyboards to enabling media searching and social networking, to connecting 3-DTVs to active-shutter 3-DTV glasses," she added.
The Consumer Electronics Association is developing standards for using Bluetooth to link TVs with 3-D glasses. See our CES news Web site for full coverage of the event.