Logitech Harmony Link turns iPad into universal remote

Wishing you could use your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch as a universal remote control in the living room? On Tuesday Logitech announced the Harmony Link, a $100 device that sits next to your TV, communicates with your iOS device via Wi-Fi, and can control up to eight pieces of hardware—TVs, DVRs, Blu-ray players, AV receivers, media streamers, and so on—using a custom app.

With its Harmony remote line, Logitech has made it relatively easy to set up (using your Mac and an extensive database of devices) and use a single remote to control all of your media devices. The company is looking to extend the same functionality it offers in those standalone remotes to users of iOS devices.

The Harmony Link connects to your wireless network in order to interact with your iOS device, and takes what you select on your iPad or iPhone and translates it to IR commands to control your various entertainment devices. (There’s also a separate IR blaster in the box that you can use if your devices are inside a media cabinet, say.) Logitech boasts more than 5000 brands and 225,000 devices in its database, making it very likely your hardware is supported.

As with the standalone Harmony remotes, the Harmony Link and iOS app support activities, or macros that carry out multiple commands with a single tap. For example, a ‘Watch TV’ activity could turn on your TV, set it to the proper input, turn on your DVR, power up your AV receiver and set it to the proper input, and then leave you with control of the functions you’ve selected for those various devices.

In addition to the remote control features, when run on an iPad the app offers a personalized schedule of favorite shows, channels, and genres. Metadata such as show synopses, movie overviews, and images are provided by digital entertainment technology company Rovi. On the iPhone and iPod touch, the TV discovery and navigation experience is less functional due to the smaller screen size.

There are many other add-ons for iOS devices to turn them into universal remote controls for your home entertainment system, and even standalone hardware for the same purpose. But they all have limitations and can be difficult to configure. Logitech hopes to make the experience easier and more enjoyable with the Harmony Link.

Logitech expects to ship the $100 Harmony Link in October. The free Harmony Link App supports the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch will be available for download from the iTunes Store (there’ll be an Android app as well.)

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