[Update: “Physical Web” is a Google initiative, which UEI does not subscribe to; however, the concepts behind UEI's implementation are similar to those of Google's.]
Universal Electronics Inc. (Nasdaq: UEIC), a leading provider of universal remote controls for TV and set-top box manufacturers, is working on a new “Nevo Home” app, which appears to blend automatic device discovery with home-automation controls. The app is the next evolution of UEI's efforts around the “Physical Web” (discussed below) to essentially allow users to “Walk up and use anything.”
Nevo Home — possibly unveiled at CES 2017? — looks to be the next iteration of UEI’s MyNevo app, a service that enables auto-discovery of HDMI- and IP-connected devices through UEI’s QuickSet Cloud platform. Today, MyNevo cannot be used to directly control the connected devices; however, users can obtain information about each device, and find links to more details as needed.
Devices and their characteristics can be stored and shared for a number of useful purposes. On a basic level, for example, users can easily grab the make and model of their TV or set-top box in order to obtain tech support.
In the bigger picture, the data could be provided to an integrator, who can then determine which control system might work best for the set-up.
Better yet, the whole process can be automated: MyNevo discovers devices, matches them to a database of command sets (UEI has them all!), and shares those command sets with a third-party controller, like a remote control or … the soon-to-be-announced Nevo Home.
UEI's QuickSet Cloud
Comcast is the first company to implement this service, with its new X1 Voice Remote from UEI. Thanks to QuickSet Cloud, the X1 cable box can transmit connected-device data to the UEI cloud, which then returns the appropriate command sets for those devices. The X1 remote, in turn, can operate the products without the user ever having to look up a model number or test IR commands.
“X1 will now immediately detect the model of the television they are using and program the remote to control things like TV power, volume and input,” according to the December 2016 press release announcing the service (worth the read). “Within seconds, X1 will display an on-screen message that the remote is ready to go.”
That appears to be the premise of Nevo Home, but so far all we really know is that the current MyNevo app lets users “determine your devices' compatibility with an upcoming app from nevo labs: ‘nevo home’.”
The ‘Physical Web’: UEI Has Data, History, Customers on its Side
UEI could be the one to pull this off. TVs and other A/V gear can be the trickiest things to configure and control, given the myriad ways they connect (HDMI, Bluetooth, IR, ZigBee RF4CE, IP, coax …) and the number of functions to be controlled (on/off, volume, mute, programming guide navigation, channel selection, inputs, outputs …).
But UEI has been at this game for 30 years, and has arguably the most comprehensive database of device command sets, not to mention an enviable customer base that includes the who’s who of A/V – Comcast, EchoStar, TiVo, DirecTV and Sony, to name a few.
UEI’s QuickSet technology is embedded in over 400 million devices, including STBs, TVs, game consoles, smartphones and tablets, according to the company: “Built with a range of patent-protected, data-driven intelligent engines and backed by the world’s most robust database of device control codes, QuickSet enables the necessary ‘handshake’ for automated configuration and control of nearly any wired, wireless, and now IP-connected, home entertainment device.”
As part of all this, UEI has collected tons of data on how devices work – their so-called communications signatures – to enable “predictive discovery” of connected gear.
At the end of the day, these efforts will help the company “bridge the gap between the realities of the connected devices in the home and the vision of Physical Web.”
The Physical Web is a concept of universal discovery by which “a smart object broadcasts relevant URLs that any nearby device can receive.”
In other words, “Walk up and use anything.”
The Home Automation Angle
While UEI historically has focused on A/V control, the company acquired Ecolink in 2015 to build out a home-automation ecosystem for its OEM customers. Ecolink makes Z-Wave devices pro-oriented security sensors, including door/window sensors, flood/freeze detectors, automated light switches, the FireFighter, a listening device that makes dumb smoke detectors smart.
At CES, the company will “showcase its portfolio of wireless home controllers designed for some of the world’s largest consumer HVAC brands,” according to a pre-show release.
We imagine that Nevo Home will somehow incorporate these intelligent devices, but also third-party solutions such as Philips Hue lighting, as shown in the MyNevo sample app screens.