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Exposed: The inner workings of Canada's best (and most fun) new technologies.

How stuff works : The inner workings of Canada's best (and most fun) new technologies.

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Thrilled with your collection of high-tech gadgets but dismayed by the plethora of accompanying remote controls? Look no further than the Harmony Advanced Universal Remote. Developed by Canadians Justin Henry and Glen Harris, the next-generation universal remote can control everything from your television to your air conditioner, all synchronized via a straightforward web-based process.

For each device the Harmony controls, the remote stores a different infrared code. (It can control up to 15 components.) The Harmony sends out pre-coded signals in sequence and knows how long to send each signal for, which is key. With other remotes, signals pile up, rendering them useless.

The story so far

Brought to life in 2001 by tiny Intrigue Technologies of Mississauga, Ont., the Harmony remote has seen its star rise since Intrigue was bought for US$29 million by Logitech International, a Switzerland-based company in May 2004. Logitech, known for its well-designed, high quality computer mice, has the marketing and distribution heft required to take the Harmony remote to the next level, from niche product for technophiles to mainstream must-have. According to Tricia Parks, president of market research firm Parks Associates in Dallas, the U.S. market for advanced remote controls will be about US$425 million in 2005, with predicted annual future growth in double digits.

What's involved?

Other manufacturers make advanced remote controls, but Logitech's Harmony — which retails for between $149.95 and $249.95 — is the only one with a simplified, do-it-yourself web-programming component. Setting it up involves answering a series of questions online, such as “To watch TV, what input or channel does your stereo receiver need to be on?” with possible answers ranging from Video 3 to Dat to 5.1CH/DVD. Seem too difficult? Call Logitech's seven-days-a-week toll-free phone support. Don't fret if you've got an ancient gadget with co-ordinates that don't appear on Harmony's website. The Harmony is a “learning” remote. It can read and emulate signals beamed from existing remotes. Just point the clunky appliance's old remote at the Harmony, shoot the signals at it and, presto, the Harmony “knows” what to do.