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Home Automation vs Control Systems vs Universal Remote Control

Confused over smart home automation? Don’t worry, we’ll give you the breakdown from the basics, to the cutting edge.

I often find that many customers are confused not just about Home Automation (what is it and what can it do), but how it differs from so many other solutions in the marketplace such as universal remote controls and control systems. There is a huge difference and often finding which solution best serves you can be confusing at the best of times.

So what is the difference? In some ways it can be hard to describe (even for those of us in the industry). Hopefully the following describes all these systems in a more easily understood method:

Universal Remote Control



Simply put, these are devices that basically do away with having several remote controls (generally for your TV, Blu Ray player etc) and are based on a single room control only (ie: audio and visual products in that room only). Traditionally they came as a familiar handheld remote (like what your TV comes with) but can also now be app based (ie: control via your iPhone or Android device).

App based control provides what we call a GUI (graphical user interface) as opposed to hard buttons on a remote. Simply put, a GUI is buttons on a touchscreen at this level.

In the main, most are easy to set up as a DIY project but the better ones will require help from a Custom Integrator. The main benefit here is turning all your remotes in one room into one remote control. The one device mirrors what your multiple remote controls can do, but that is all. In this case each controller as well is independent from the others if you have Universal Remotes in several rooms. They are standalone controllers.

For many years this was the leading edge of technology but now more commonly has given way to more sophisticated solutions.

Control Systems


These are the next level up from a Universal Remote Control. Control Systems go beyond just controlling audio and visual.

This is where you enter the field where you can start to control other elements such as lighting and security (amongst others). The benefit here is to expand beyond just audio and visual. These systems can either be a more familiar remote control, touchscreen or use app based control.

Often these systems will allow multiple room control of devices via one controller. They also will talk back to a central location which provides this advantage.

Many of the major international technology brands are moving into this zone in the next 12 months. Again, they generally replicate what the original controllers can do but under one device. In some cases they can provide event scenarios (such as lighting scenarios) but generally are restricted in what they can do here.

Home Automation

This used to be “out of bounds” for most people due to cost. However in the past 3 – 4 years, Home Automation has become more affordable. Basically home automation is at the top of the tree in what it can do. It does everything that a Universal Remote Control does and a Control System but goes well beyond that.

Home Automation moves from you having to press a button for each individual task to a button push that creates a sequence of events, some which can be quite creative.

The concept of Home Automation is to make life with technology products easier.

For example, Home Automation can be seen in a scenario where you are coming home. You press the button on your garage remote to open the garage door, which then disarms the alarm, which then (as that specific button is personalised for you) turns on certain lights in the home, turns on your favourite music and even can send an email or sms to your partner letting them know you are home.

Home Automation systems are far more capable in that they can control pretty much any electronic device – security, audio and visual, lighting, door locks, gate controls, blinds,awnings, retic, cooling and heating and well beyond. In reality, Home Automation is about fitting technology into your lifestyle, not the other way around. This is a big difference. The better Home Automation systems will also grow with you and as technology grows so the return on investment is stronger.

So which one do you go for?

That is the hard question. Home Automation devices (the better ones) will cover you for all scenarios. Good solutions can start at the basic level of being a Universal Remote Control and then grow with you as your needs or budget grows, or when technology moves forward. If you can afford to start at this level even for a one room solution, longer term you will be much better off.

The best way to determine what is best for you are to talk to a knowledgeable Custom Integrator or a Consultant who can help to understand your needs and show what is possible then find the solution that fits. With any system your installer is just as important as your system of choice. Great systems installed by a bad installer will be bad system.

Finally not all systems are equal. You have to remember you “pay for what you get”. I find generally if a system is considerably cheaper and claims to do all that a more expensive system can do and sometimes more, it would raise questions in my mind.

Here is a video that shows what Home Automation can do for you:

Guest Article: Peter Shilkin

Peter Shilkin has been in the audio visual and consumer electronics industry for over 15 years and has previously worked for companies such as Panasonic and Optus. Prior to that he has had various roles in the FMCG market giving him a unique insight and approach to business. In more recent years, Peter created his own organisation Universal AV to provide an avenue for manufacturers and distributors to improve their relationships with retailers, custom integrators and dealers in the Audio, Visual and Automation industries.

Whilst Universal AV is a business, Peter’s love of this industry, passion for the products and technology, varied experience background and desire to help clients deliver brilliant solutions has led to Universal AV partnering with the best in the industry from all facets. At the end of the day, Peter’s philosophy is “no matter what your budget is, or what they are trying to achieve, my job is to ensure you get the best result using the best products and ultimately love what was done…also it should be an enjoyable experience”.