I won't be buying this--as much as I'd like to control my devices from phone--until
a) wi-fi support. Bluetooth won't cut it
b) Android and iOS supported by one beacon. Got iPads and Xoom tablets and droid phones and iPhones and iTouches in this house. Anything that can't do both is making half my devices useless.
c) ac power. batteries are so eco-unfriendly and a pain. take a $10k entertainment system and have it fail on a $1.99 worth of batteries... costs $5 to add a dc plug
d) always on. having to get up and push a button, so my remote works makes absolutely no sense
e) infra red dongles. Got a lot of components and no desire to put the beacon IN FRONT of them. It should be hidden in the cabinet with the components and there is no way to get one beacon in the direct line of sight of all the components stacked up in there. With dongles and a little adhesive, IR can be brought straight to the device.
Well, let me know when you figure it out.
I've been using Dijit and Griffin's Beacon for several months now. Between the two, you get a very compelling universal remote control with outstanding content discovery and social mechanisms for the money. However, the current model Beacon leaves me wondering if the way it works is 100% perfect for my use case. If I were to build the next Beacon (or another Beacon sold along side the current models) here's the way I would do it and why.
Note: I'm certain Dijit will continue iterating their software, offering up new features and abilities as time passes, and Griffin will continue with firmware updates. I don't want to focus much on things that can be done through software; I'm thinking solely about the Beacon hardware here.
1. Beacon on AC Power Please!
As a father of two young children, I've learned that nearly every baby product sold takes batteries. I've even considered outright buying a battery company to save moneny powering the million electronic toys around the house. While I am already conditioned to watch for deals on AA cells, I'd rather not have another device that sucks up four cells at once (and I've found that as much as I use it, I go through batteries at a decent clip).
Yes I can use rechargeables, but it never fails that the batteries need to be recharged right when I want to use it.
I understand why batteries is appealing to some. With Dijit Rooms, you can simply grab the Beacon and take it with you around the house to control stuff in multiple locations. That's a lot easier than having to pull a wall wart and plug it back in on the other end.
The thing is, I don't really move it around. There's pretty much one place I watch TV, and that's where the Beacon sits. I'd much prefer the Beacon never slept and simply stayed plugged in all the time. There's another reason, too.
2. Ditch Bluetooth for IP addressing
I've been using Bluetooth devices ever since I got my Ericsson T-68 back in late 2001 (here's a picture of it in my gadget collection). What have I learned in that time? Bluetooth is great for device to device communication on the go, but it's finnicky and not always reliable. Now, thanks to Bluetooth, I can't use an Android phone and iPod Touch on the same Beacon.
So why is it that Beacon, a product in my home all day, is making a dedicated link to my device with a personal area network when both devices could be talking over my actual home network if Beacon had built in Wi-Fi?
Here are the advantages IP would bring to Beacon:
- Universal device access - Regardless of the platform Dijit heads to, IP communication is pretty universal across devices. An IP Beacon ensures that devices today and tomorrow will be able to talk to it.
- Always at the ready - Thanks to the nifty AC plug, Beacon could sit on my wireless network all day, waiting to receive packets, never going to sleep. Power consumption for an idle Wi-Fi device isn't bad, so power usage would be minimal.
- Better for multi-user households - Moving to IP would elminate the need to directly connect a device to it, allowing all users access at once. It could cause some interesting remote control battles on the sofa, but it would elminate the constant connecting and disconnecting Bluetooth requires.
- Better for mulit-room households - Right now you can have more than one Beacon, but it gets messy disconnecting from one and connecting to another, particularly if you have several devices. On an IP system there could be a Beacon in every room, and as you change rooms in Dijit, it could direct IR commands to a different Beacon seemlessly.
- Household hijinks - When my sister and I were young, my parents got us each a 13" Magnavox TV set for our rooms. They were different colors, but to my delight the remote controls were identical. Ah, the fun I had sliding the tip of the remote under the crack of her door and changing the channel or playing with the volume. With IP based Beacons, you can share in the great fun I had as a kid, but now you can drive your spouse or kids crazy from another room!
3. Dedicated IR windows
The Beacon looks cool, but when I go to teach it commands I sure wish it had a dedicated IR learning window. Not only do I think it would improve the learning experience, but I would no longer have to flip it upside down to see which side I fire at.
At the very least, can you print marks on the top so I don't have to look at the bottom?
4. Smaller size
It's not that Beacon is big, but dropping battery support could make it smaller. Not having to make space to cram four AA batteries in there could certainly mean a smaller footprint.
5. Easy to press button
Even without Beacon ever going to sleep, there should continue to be a button to do things like power it off or reset it. However, I'd much prefer a simple to press, visible button over slapping my hand down on top of the unit. I may be in the minority here, but that's what I would prefer.
That's My Vision, What's Yours?
So there you have it, my dream for the next Beacon hardware product. I still see value in a battery powered Bluetooth model, particularly for those who take Beacon to other locations or don't have a home Wi-Fi network (if they still exist). There's nothing stopping Griffin from offering both solutions for different types of users, even though I think most would gravitate to the Beacon: Matt Edition.
What about you? Do you agree with my thoughts about how the next Beacon should work? If you were to design the next Beacon device, what would it be like? Share your vision in the comments below.
I won't be buying this--as much as I'd like to control my devices from phone--until
I own the Beacon and find that battery life is my #1 issue. Frankly, had I known that this thing would use up batteries within 2 weeks - even when I am not at home, I would not have purchased the unit. An AC adapter option from the factory is the only way to go.
The WiFi suggestion is a great one and would solve my #2 issue which is having to push the Beacon button to activate my connection when I walk into the room. It is hardly convenient nor automated to have to take that step to start using the remote.
As someone who just discovered dijit/beacon and is looking into it and considering the purchase, this was really helpful and informative. I have to agree with most everything that's been stated - give me AC (and always-on), and wi-fi - let ONE beacon work with my iOS AND Android devices. If there's truly a need for a button (press & hold to reset?) then I prefer the elegance of invisibility - pushing down on the bubble is cool.
I agree with all your points The following is more a comment on the Dijit app, rather than the Beacon, but I would like to see:
Keyboard and mouse on the Dijit app, I use my mac-mini hooked up a lot to my TV, this feature would be handy.
More filtering options with the TV guide, I'd like to be able to make custom lists of channels rather than just favorite shows.
I'll also comment that I'm wondering if the Beacon is somewhat of a "short-term" product since more and more electronics are becoming network enabled. I can see the Beacon becoming obsolete quickly if all our devices are on a LAN controlled through IP. I wonder if Griffin recognizes this and is reluctant to release an updated beacon.
Couldn't agree more with these recommendations - I WANT to love my Beacon device but it just isn't quite there. Suggestion #2, in particular, would be huge - most homes have multiple users, each with their own mobile devices. Being tethered to one device via Bluetooth is a killer.
P.S. - Why have all the comments been deleted here?! Hope mine survives...
IR Blaster port to add the ability to keep the beacon in the A/V closet and feed the IR blaster to the Room with the TV in it. :)
oh yea and the A/C power and WiFi are a must if you plan on really competing with the Harmony Link.
The Android (and iPhone) app need to be "skinnable" and able to install "profiles" for the entire command set of each unique device, rather than either a small sub-set of commands and then the task of "learning" and creating generic looking buttons for the more obscure commands. There's NO reason why this can't look exactly like my Denon AVR-3806's remote control, down to the physical buttons versus the transitional film portion. I want this to BE the remote, not just "act like it". There are examples of such created both by Denon themselves and by a third party, so why can't you create an interface that can then be "flashed" or "uploaded" with the profile for each specific device? Truth is, there isn't. The Beacon is only a receptor and transmitter. It takes the individual command codes from the Dijit software via WIFI and then converts them to an IR flash sequence. The software can send essentially ANY command to the Beacon, and it will simply repeat it in IR. So I want a remote control that looks like the top and bottom portions of my remote, and either swipe right and left, or scroll up and down to access the two sections. I'm sure that with a re-write of the Dijit software, the present Beacon (V1) can do this now.
Don't want to sound unoriginal or lazy, bu I want to add my voice to this thread: I agree with pretty much every idea brouhht up here! As a recent owner (3 weeks), I'm considering returning the unit. Batteries are drained quickly (supposed to last 2 months, really, Griffin?), reconnection takes too long, and is sometimes faulty, "quick" switching between two devices (Bluetooth limitation) is less than ideal -- I would rather have many devices simultaneously, don't ask me if this is technically feasible... And yes, mouse and meyboard emulation within dijit app would be awesome for my setup (living room mac mini).
Great post here! Excellent list of new features. Definitely Wi-Fi and AC power. Btw has anyone figured out how to configure the iPhone or iPad so that it does not lose the Bluetooth connection when Beacon goes to sleep? Do I really have to press Beacon first, then reconnect before I can switch the channel? ?Not usable that way!