What is IP control?

How would you like to control your home theater with your voice? How about using any smartphone? What if all the TVs in your bar could be controlled with a single iPad?

Of course a few years ago all that would have sounded like science fiction. Today it’s commonplace. Average folks have added smart assistants to their lives. Little black boxes connect to our home networks, and they do more than just control our TVs. They control the temperature, set the oven so it’s ready when we come home, and turn the lights on and off when we go through a room.

IP control is the key

All of this magic is possible thanks to IP control. IP control is the framework that makes it all happen. It’s not so magical after all, once you look past the amazing way that all your stuff works together. IP control uses some very simple technologies that have been part of the internet and home networks for years. Let’s take a look.

IP Addressing

The key to making your things work together is that they’re all connected to your local network. In most cases they don’t have to be connected to the actual internet unless you want to control your devices from outside the home. In a bar, for example, all the TVs need to be connected to the network but they don’t need to be connected to the internet.

Every device connected to a modern network gets an IP address, which is a set of numbers that identify it. Each device gets its own address and nothing else on the network can have it.

Device Naming

Most devices on networks also have a simple name that makes them easy to identify. Often times this is the manufacturer name plus part of the serial number, so you can have more than one device of the same type. So, a DIRECTV receiver might have a simple name like DIRECTV-003410.

Device naming is used during the “discovery” phase, where a control device like an Echo Dot is looking around for things to control.

HTTP

HTTP is the protocol that supplies web pages to you. It’s a simple way for information to get passed back and forth in a way that humans can understand it. Computers can talk to each other very quickly with strings of numbers, but very few people can really understand what that means, unless you’re this guy:

Most of us need words or pictures to understand the computer code in front of us. Even though IP control takes place without you seeing it, most of it is very easy to understand by humans. For example, a typical command to change a channel on a DIRECTV remote might be:

http://192.168.1.104:80/tv/tune?major=5

While that may seem a little confusing, at least if I tell you it changes the receiver to channel 5 you might say, “yeah I get that.” It’s a lot easier to understand than just a random string of numbers.

Javascript

Javascript is a part of HTML, the language of web sites. Programmers use it to build long strings of commands together. The same request in Javascript might look like this:

{
“status”: {
“code”: 500,
“commandResult”: 1,
“msg”: ” Request conflict.”,
“query”: “/tv/tune?major=5”
}

The best part is you don’t need to be a programmer

That’s right, programmers can write these funky codes and your devices can talk using them. A device like an Echo Dot listens for your voice,  sends the recording through all sorts of computer software, and when you say, “Alexa, change to channel 5” it sends one of the commands above to your receiver. The same thing happens if you use the remote control built into the DIRECTV app for tablets and smartphones.

Why is IP control better?

For decades, we all controlled our devices with infrared remotes. These were a big improvement over hollering at your kid to get up and change the channel, but infrared remotes aren’t perfect. You have to point the remote perfectly, it doesn’t work if there’s something in front of the device, and things like fluorescent lights can interfere with them.

RF-based remotes are better, because you have more range and they work through walls and doors but they’re not very smart. If you want to be smart, you need IP control. You need to be able to send these complex commands and have them work.

IP control not only works through walls and doors but it could actually work anywhere on the planet if you wanted. In fact you could literally be on the international space station and control the lights in your home if you wanted to. IP control is cool, it’s smart, and it works.

If you’ve been thinking about getting into IP control, take a look at the excellent selection of smart home products available now at Solid Signal!