A remote control is an input device that can be used to control a piece of electronic equipment located away from the user. Remote controls are used in a huge range of consumer electronic devices. Common remote control applications include television sets, box fans, audio equipment, and some types of specialty lighting.

For engineers and product developers that are looking to bring an electronic device to market, remote control design can be vital to the eventual success of the product. Remote controls become the primary interface devices for electronic equipment. Thus, proper design and attention to keypads and labeling will cut down on user dissatisfaction.

Why Develop Remote Controls?

Remote controls add to the cost of your product, but are a feature in high demand by purchasing consumers. For devices with display screens (such as televisions and monitors), the remote control functionality is virtually mandatory, allowing consumers to mount the screens where they would otherwise be inaccessible during use. Many other devices, from ceiling fans to space heaters, use remote controls in order to extend functionality and provide convenience for users.

Remote controls add value to consumer devices that is much greater than their cost to produce. Consumers view remote controls as time-saving devices. Remote controls can provide an avenue for additional revenue for device manufacturers who want to sell the remote controls separately as a value-added accessory.

Remote Control Protocols

Remote control protocols are the different communication methods that are used to pass signals between the remote control and a receiver on the primary electronic device. Remote control protocols vary depending on the range of the device, as well as the potential for interference in the signal by other electronic devices and background noise.
The most common type of remote control utilizes consumer infrared protocols to create a line-of-sight transmission to a device. This type of remote control, used in devices like televisions, uses inexpensive micro-controllers or encoder chips to control A/V devices from a distance. Consumer IR is used in scenarios where the user of the remote control will be in the same room as the device, and they are less sensitive to background interference than devices that rely on radio signals.

For many industrial applications, especially industrial remotes that might require two-way conversation between device and remote, radio control systems are a good choice. Radio control systems operate in a frequency band that is dictated different regulatory bodies (such as the FCC). They use complex encoders and receivers to transmit information. Radio receivers allow the remote controls to receive some type of feedback from their device. They are ideal in commercial applications where the users might not be able to visually confirm that the inputs were received by the controlled device. Radio remotes are more expensive to produce than infrared remotes, but provide a greater range of functionality.

Finally, some consumer devices utilize wireless signals either as their primary protocol or in addition to other protocols. Wireless remotes piggyback on existing wireless networks, or they create adhoc wireless connections between two devices. Wireless remotes can provide the same “enhanced” functionality that radio remotes can provide. This capability is due to the two-way data transmission, but they are heavily influenced by background interference and are commonly used only in video-game consoles, some televisions, and other audio/visual equipment for residential application.

Remote Control Keypads

Silicone Dynamics is one of the main producers of silicone keypads in the country. Many silicone keypads are used in commercial devices and in consumer electronics. In the average home-theater, a typical consumer may have anywhere between four and six different remote controls. The majority of these remotes use some type of silicone keypad. Silicone Dynamics believes that the consumer-electronics world is suffering from a degree of complexity that is too high for most consumers. Remote controls should be produced with a minimal degree of complexity. Every button on your keypad should be well labeled and should be self-explanatory, with a minimal amount of input type (number, letter, on/off, etc.) on each controller.

Silicone keypads are ideal for consumer electronics and industrial applications. This is because they are suitable for a wide range of environmental conditions and they can be very cost-effective to produce. You have a great deal of flexibility in your designs.

Designing Silicone Keypads for Remote Controls

Silicone Dynamics has a great guide for producing silicone keypads for remote controls and other consumer electronic device. Designers should be concerned both with the design of the keypad as well as the labeling of the keys and the design of the bezel that will go around them. Go to this page to request a free quote for your next device.