Video Accessories Misc

iRule Home Automation System Review - Controller Application


Setup of the iRule Home Automation System Review - Controller Application

Setting up an iRule system is fairly easy. Their website has extensive tutorials on how to install gateways, create handsets and get everything going. If you need help with gateways, Global Cache's website also offers extensive support. iRule also has a user forum that is actively patrolled by employees and most questions are answered within a few hours. iRule obviously takes great pride in the high quality of their customer support.

I started out by building my screens in Builder. iRule offers a huge library of panels and graphics so you can use them as is or modify them to suit your system. Although I used their graphics for the buttons and backgrounds, I created my own layouts from scratch. Everything is visual with a drag-and-drop interface; no coding required. Once you've placed an object, you can edit its properties. Creating macros is as simple as dropping multiple commands onto a single button. Delays are automatically added for you and can be set in tenths of a second. The device database provided by iRule is quite large and includes just about everything you could possibly want to control. In addition to IR codes, there are IP and RS-232 databases for products that have that feature. For example, I was able to control my Integra DHC-80.1 via IP rather than IR. This allowed me to use feedbacks, which is iRule's term for two-way communication. I placed objects on my theater control screen that told me the current volume setting and surround mode.

The second step is to connect your components to a gateway. There are several choices here, both in the type of gateway and the method of connection to your gear. First I installed an iTach WF2IR. With its built-in radio, this gateway can connect to your network without an Ethernet cable. In practice, I found the WF2IR a bit fussy to work with. By default, it's set up to make an ad hoc connection which means you need a Windows laptop to access its setup page through an IP address. It took me a few tries but I managed to get it configured correctly. When I tried the other two products with their RJ45 jacks, they were much easier to install. I was still able to use them wirelessly thanks to a Cisco WET-610N wireless bridge. I've used these bridges for years and they've always proven reliable. Because I had multiple networked boxes in my rack, I used a D-Link gigabit switch to connect everything to the bridge. This is the easiest way to add iRule gateways to your system.

Once I had the gateway on the network, I assigned my different devices to the three IR outputs. You can daisy-chain multiple components or use a splitter to connect more than three if you wish. The device assignments are made in the iRule app, which I ran from a 3rd generation iPad. I used IR for everything. Some components, like my TV don't have a rear-panel IR input so I used a stick-on emitter over the front receiver for control. Since my AVR, disc player and cable box have the inputs, I used stereo mini-headphone cables to connect them to the gateway. For the Apple TV, I used an included blaster which can hit multiple devices at once if placed correctly. At one point, I had a single blaster controlling the Apple TV, Oppo Blu-ray player, and the cable box without difficulty.

A feature I was very excited to try was the iTunes module. This is an add-on you can download into Builder for an additional $25. It gives you complete access to your iTunes library right from your remote. It's similar to Apples Remote app only far more refined. Creating a screen for it is simply a matter of dragging the module into your panel and surrounding it with any other buttons you wish for controlling your TV or audio system. Then you set it up as another gateway in the iRule app. Check out the photo in the next section to see how it looks.

The last step is to sync your new screens to the iPad, or whatever you're using as a handset. This takes about a minute, and then you're ready to rock!