If you are a fan of smart home solutions, then you likely look for every possible way to automate your daily life with whatever smart home setup you have installed. From light switches, to outlets, to windows, to AC, and to door locks. So many devices and functions can be included within a smart home ecosystem.
But, what about all of the random electronic devices throughout the home? Some devices like TVs will connect to your network and even allow you to control them directly via some of these smart home solutions. However, not all of them offer this functionality. Many of these devices only work over a remote control in your hand. This doesn’t have to be the end though, as many of these devices can still be added to your network.
The trick is using an IR blaster (or multiple blasters for various rooms) that can be included in your smart home setup. One we will focus on today is a simple IR blaster that is both affordable and incredibly easy to use. The link in the last sentence will take you to a listing on Amazon where it is usually less than $20 and pairs with an app called Smart Life (by Tuya).
Tuya is a Chinese company that has a very strong following behind it. The company’s Smart Life app offers compatibility for hundreds of various devices that can be connected to it, including the above-mentioned/linked IR blaster (and others). Everything is based in the cloud, so it will need an internet connection like many smart home solutions, and the app can generally be integrated with many other systems or hubs. Some examples of these supported integrations include the SmartThings hub, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Wink hub, and even Home Assistant (a self-hostable solution for smart home setups),
Setting up an IR blaster is relatively easy too. You simply plug it in, hold the button on the bottom until the front LED starts to blink, pair it with the Smart Life app, and then begin adding devices to be controlled. Devices need to be within a visual distance like how a normal remote control would work. The app walks you through adding each of your devices by searching the type of device, then the brand of device, and then testing various buttons to make sure it has the right remote codes sorted out. That device will then be added to your Smart Life app as an additional device. Then, it can be controlled via the Smart Life app, Amazon/Google speakers, IFTTT, or your smart home hub (as long as you have a hub that supports Tuya integration as mentioned before).
Walla! You have now added all of your IR devices to your network to be controlled via smart home devices and hubs.
If you have multiple rooms you’d like to include, then you’d need an IR blaster for each room. As mentioned, the blaster has to be able to “see” the device (or more like, the device needs to see the IR blast from the IR blaster). Thankfully, like the one we linked to above, many of them have a 360-degree blast, so it doesn’t always have to be pointing in a specific direction.
There are a number of us here that have these IR blasters at home and we even have a few at the office. We find them to work much better than options like Logitech’s Harmony Hub since you aren’t limited by the number of devices you can add like Logitech’s remotes are (which is odd since Logitech’s devices are far more expensive and bulkier than these little IR blasters). Also, the Logitech Harmony series is now discontinued anyway.
One example, one of our demo rooms here that is used for various A/V benchmarks has a blaster in it. This allows us to control everything in the room that doesn’t natively support smart home features. From the projection screen dropping from the roof to the projector, TV, audio system, various LED lights/effects, and more. We have multiple scenes in that room that are controlled by Home Assistant, Alexa, or SmartThings. A few words (or a button press) and the entire room is transforming along with all the native smart home devices within the room (switches, outlets, Xbox, PC, etc) to whichever mode we need it in.
Another example is a colleague that has a blaster in their bedroom at home. It controls the fan on the roof, a tower, a small speaker bar, and a non-smart TV that has a Chromecast plugged into the back. They integrated it with a Google Assistant speaker to interact with various routines like “goodnight” or “good morning”. For example, when they say good morning, the lights slowly climb on, the fans turn off, the TV turns on along with the speaker. Their Google speaker will read them the weather and current day’s reminders or appointments, and then send the local news or weather to the TV.
There are many things you can do with an IR blaster as long as you have devices that can be controlled by a normal IR remote control. If the brand/device isn’t listed in the app, you can teach these little IR blasters commands by pointing the device’s remote at it as you add new custom buttons. They are incredibly powerful little devices for how small and simple they are.
The only thing you can’t do is control RF (radio frequency) devices. Then again, there are IR blasters that can ALSO control RF devices as well. However, some of the ones we have come across are still being improved on (limited device support) or require a proprietary app. An example of this is one by Broadlink, which requires the Broadlink app. We haven’t tested the Broadlink app just yet, so we cannot vouch for how compatible it is with other systems/hubs.