The idea of using an iPhone or iPod touch as a universal remote has been tossed around for years, but it’s always required either a finicky external dongle or an extravagantly expensive home automation rig. Instead, we’ve been treated to a host of single-device remote apps for everything from FiOS, DirecTV, Comcast, and Dish Network DVRs to the Apple TV to the Boxee Box to… well, you name it. A little company called Peel has a dramatically different idea, though — it’s launching the Peel Universal Control system, which is designed to take your iPhone or iPod touch head-to-head with universal remote heavyweights like Logitech’s Harmony system.
The company is made up of a bunch of former Apple engineers, and their solution is extremely novel: instead of attaching a dongle to the iPhone itself, they’re controlling your A/V rack using a pear-sized (and Yves Behar-designed) wireless IR blaster that’s supposed to live quietly on your coffee table. The blaster (called the Peel Fruit) connects over ZigBee to a tiny network adapter (the Peel Cable, also designed by Behar) that attaches directly to an open Ethernet port on your WiFi router — a two-part hardware setup that seems fussy, but is designed to obviate the need for software configuration during installation, and allows the IR blaster to run for nine months on a single C battery.