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Taking Control Part 1 – Logitech Harmony 1100


I have a theory…

It seems to me that we, as the technology innovators of our households, would have a much easier time justifying the purchase of new toys for our Integrated Homes, if we did just one very simple thing:

Make the technology we implement accessible and easy to use for our spouses!

Think about it.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been talking to a friend or customer about their Home Theater integration with systems like Windows Home Server and have their spouse roll their eyes and say something along the lines of “I don’t even know how to turn any of that on, let alone use it!”  Sound familiar?

In my own personal life I’ve seen a miracle happen!  I’ve seen my fiancé go from complete disinterest in my nice little system I’ve put together here at home, to being able to work the entire system herself!  Now that, my friends, is progress.  Why?  Because now all of this technology has gone from being a huge financial sinkhole of my “toys”, to being something that she uses quite often, and very proficiently I might add!

The question that may still be lingering in your minds is “What is this piece of modern technology that can create such a miracle in my own life?”

The answer? A really good Universal Remote!

Is this you?

Yes, it really IS that simple.  If you can create the ability for your spouse to actually use the technology you’ve worked so hard to implement, chances are she will!

Over the next couple weeks we will be mixing in some reviews of various control devices starting with the more entry level remotes priced for the vast majority of the people out there and moving up the hierarchal path to the truly professional type controllers usually reserved for the more involved of Integrated Systems out there that branch out into controlling your homes’ lighting, blinds, and more.  Again, the reason we start out with the more entry level type controller is because it is our mission to show the “common man” that it is possible to create a System Integrated Home right now, that these types of systems are not reserved for the affluent only.

With that being said, the first remote we’d like to review is the Logitech Harmony 1100 Advanced Universal Remote.  While the Harmony lines’ most expensive remote at $399, Logitech Harmony remotes start from $49 for the very basic version.  We wanted to cover the Harmony 1100 to give you an idea of what you can really do with this line of remotes and it’s important to remember that while the higher end remotes offer more in the way of graphics and having touch screens, the entire line draws upon a database of over 225,000 devices. There’s a very good chance that whatever you have in the way of equipment, the Harmony remote you choose has the ability to control it.  Also keep in mind that while we cover the 1100, the process of creating programmable icons (or buttons depending on the remote) remains relatively the same.

Remember, eliminating remote controls and the number of buttons that need to be pressed to play a DVD is the goal!  Make her happy in this and you may have an easier time in procuring more toys…ahem…”Family Home Entertainment Equipment”.

***Home Systems Integration (HSI) cannot be held responsible if you are still not allowed to spend money on new toys even after you’ve made it easier to control them!  Some people are just luckier than others!*** 😉

The Logitech Harmony 1100

This device looks more like the kind of control device you will find in the big boy’s homes.  Not created for single handed use, this device is all about using the touch screen and the programmable buttons on it.  You have the ability to choose what icons appear on the 3.5” backlit screen (allowing you to view in the dark and not memorize where buttons are) and program what those icons do.  This RF wireless remote (meaning you don’t have to point at the devices when trying to select something) comes with a charging cradle which it rests in while not in use.

To program a Logitech Harmony you will need a computer or laptop connected to the internet, and have the Logitech Harmony Remote Software installed.  Once this is accomplished and you’ve connected your Harmony Remote to the USB cable, you can start the task of getting this device doing your bidding.  The first task is to begin adding the devices you want to control to include your:

  • HDTV
  • Surround Sound Receiver
  • Blu-ray / DVD player
  • Cable or Satellite box
  • TiVo
  • HTPC (yes, you can control many Media Center functions with this remote)
  • Game Console (add in the Logitech Harmony Adaptor for Playstation 3 [$59.99] and gain full control over your PS3 Blu-Ray playback and more!)

And to take things a bit further out of the Home Theater:

  • Lighting Control
  • Climate Control
  • Other Home Appliances

Like we said: over 225,000 devices from over 5,000 brands!  Yeah…it can control just about anything you throw at it these days.

After you’ve added all of your devices, the software will actually ask you questions about how your devices are connected, how you want to control them, the order you want things turned on, etc.  With that information, you are then able to set up “Activities”, which are basically macros of commands that will turn on and adjust your inputs to facilitate whatever activity you want to perform.  The end result is a screen with icons that say things like:

  • Watch Blu-ray
  • Play PS3
  • Windows Media
  • Watch Comcast

…and whatever else fits your lifestyle and will make life easier on your significant other when they want to watch a recorded program but can’t figure out what remote to use!  Heck, even if you’re currently single, I’m sure the benefits of going to a single remote that with the push of one icon (or button) will adjust all of  your equipment to the correct settings really takes very little convincing as to the worth.

I’ve been using the Harmony 550 for over a year now and absolutely love it!  While it does have a LCD screen with text, it doesn’t have the pictures and touch screen like the Harmony 1100 does and the functionality and setup is nearly exactly the same.  If I was to buy a new remote today, it would definitely be the Harmony 1100!

Anyone else have a Harmony series remote?  What about your experience with other brands, what should we review next?  Jump in the forums and give us your own review or ask any technical questions you might have here or leave a comment (or both!).  😉  Community remember?  Perhaps it all starts with your comment…

Stay tuned for our next segment on the Control4 system soon!

About the Author

Tom AbellPut simply, Tom loves technology! Having been involved in the IT world since leaving the US Navy Submarine Force in 1992, Tom has moved his way up to the top as an IT Systems Engineering. But having spent some time in the Home Automation industry early in his career, he’s never been able to shake his love for creating integrated Home Technology environments and has been running HTPCs and Windows Home Servers for years. With 17 years of IT Systems Engineering experience, Tom's recent OIF 08-09 deployment has rekindled his love for the Connected Home Industry and hence, the website. We hope you like the site, please share it with your friends and follow us on your favorite Social Networks! Read more about Tom on the "About Us" page.View all posts by Tom Abell

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Setup & Integration of Home Technology: Home Theater - Home Server - HTPC - Home Networks