In this article I’m going to outline the key features you need to look for if you’re going to buy the best network adapter for infrared devices for your home.
Why you might need a network adapter for infrared devices
Network adapters for infrared devices allow you to connect equipment that would normally be operated via an infrared remote control to your computer network so that you can control it using a computer, tablet or smartphone. As a result you can control your equipment from almost anywhere (even if it is hidden away from sight) and reduce (or eliminate completely) the number of remote controls cluttering up your home.
The ‘anatomy’ of a network adapter for infrared devices
Network adapters for infrared devices generally consist of two main elements:
- One or more infra-red emitters – which transmit the same signal as your your remote control would to the device(s) you want to control.
- Some electronics – which connect to your computer network and receive instructions from your chosen control device (e.g. computer, tablet or smartphone) and transmit those instructions to the infra-red emitter(s).
The key features to look for when choosing a network adapter for infrared devices
Do you want to control your devices via a wired or wireless network?
Network adapters are typically designed to work with either a wired computer network or a wireless computer network (not both).
How many devices do you want to want to control?
The number, and type, of infra-red emitters that can be accommodated by a network adapter dictates how many infrared devices it can control.
A ‘spot’ emitter can control one infrared device and a ‘blaster’ emitter can control as many devices as are within its range and line-of-sight. Depending on the number of devices you want to control you need to choose a network adapter with enough emitters.
Are you happy to identify the location of the infra-red receiver on each of your devices individually?
Using one or more ‘spot’ emitters means that you have to find the location of the infra-red receiver on each of your devices. This is usually straight-forward but some devices (Sky boxes in particular) can require quite a bit of trial and error as the infra-red receiver is not easy to identify.
Using one or more ‘blaster’ emitters means that you do not have to find the location of the infra-red receiver on each of your devices, you can simply place the emitter in front of your equipment and it will control everything within its range and line-of-sight.
Do you only want to control infrared devices?
Network adapters are available which can control equipment using infrared, a serial (RS232) interface or a contact closure switch. More advanced network adapters can control equipment using two or more of these methods or be adapted to use whichever method is preferred.
How do you want to power your network adapter for infrared devices?
Most network adapters for infrared devices are supplied with mains power adapters, but some can be powered from an available USB port (or a USB power adapter) or via power over ethernet (PoE) on wired computer networks.