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more effort required from the user than would be if a remote control were used to switch on a

television from standby. The television must ‘continue to be operable solely from a sofa’!

Also specified was the need for the user to have a method to override the TV Saver, so that when
the television was switched onto standby the devices would not all be switched off. This was
important as all devices, including the television, are switched on and off together, and the user
may wish to record using a VCR or DVD recorder without the television switched on.

Two main approaches to solving the design problem were developed. Both involved creating a
multi-way extension lead connected to a controlling box and making use of a latching relay to
switch on and off all the sockets of the extension lead. Both approaches used programmable
microcontrollers, although these were programmed in different ways to reflect the different
approaches. Different circuitry was also required for the different approaches. The difficulty then
lay in how to determine when the HES could be safely switched off without either damaging the
equipment or inconveniencing the user, and also when the HES must be switched back on again.

The first approach involved programming the microcontroller to learn and store the digital infrared
signal emitted from the television remote control’s on/off button. The TV Saver then recognised
this signal whenever it was received in future. On receiving the signal it responded by switching on
or off the HES depending on its current state.

However, there was a major problem with the first approach. There would always be the possibility
that the television would receive and respond to the signal, but that the TV Saver would not (for
example, if the signal was blocked by an obstacle in front of the controlling box). This would place
the television and the rest of the HES out of synchrony with the TV Saver and would therefore
need to be reset, causing an inconvenience to the user and violating the design specification. The
second approach solved this problem and has been adopted as the preferred solution.

The Selected Approach

The selected approach works by measuring the power usage of the television instead of relying on
storing and recognising the television remote control’s on/off signal. Therefore, when the television
goes onto standby, the TV Saver senses the reduced power usage of the television. When the
television has remained on standby for a short time (currently set at five minutes) the TV Saver
switches off the HES. The time delay is necessary to allow the user to continue to operate the
other devices in the HES after the television is switched off (for example, to rewind and eject a
video). If the TV Saver receives any infrared remote control signal (see below) during this time
delay, this is interpreted as continued use of the HES and the timer resets itself.

In this method the TV Saver contains an infrared receiver, and the microcontroller is also
programmed to switch on the HES on receiving a signal from any remote control. The television
then comes onto standby and since the user is still holding down the on/off button on the remote
control the television comes fully on. The additional time for which the user must hold down the
button is no more than one second, so there is no long delay between the television coming onto
standby and switching fully on.

When this approach was initially tested, the TV Saver unexpectedly switched on
the sockets to the HES every few minutes. This was found to be caused by false
output signals from the infrared receiver. To solve this problem, the microcontroller
program was modified such that several pulses must be received from the infrared
receiver in a set period of time before the TV Saver turns on the HES.

The TV Saver has been designed and built with two override buttons – ‘Temporary’ and
‘Permanent’ – and a seven-segment display in the controlling box (see photos). Both override
buttons prevent the TV Saver from switching off the sockets to the HES even when the TV is on
standby. This feature was specified in the design specification to enable the user to record a
television programme whilst the television is not fully on. The microcontroller has been
programmed so that the TV Saver may be overridden for up to nine hours, with the remaining
number of hours displayed on the seven-segment display. The override is set by holding down the

TV Saver – Solving the Standby Problem 2


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Product Description
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Product Details
Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounce s (Vie w shipping rate s and policie s)
Shipping: C urre ntly, ite m can be shippe d only within the U.S.
A SIN: B0010383XM
Item model number: BBSBUSA
A verage Customer Review: (7 custom e r re vie ws)
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Customer Reviews
7 Reviews
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http://www.pocket-lint.co.uk/reviews/review.phtml/3234

...cont.
At a glance
upscaling levels on your DVD player, you won't
have those features by default, but they can be What is it?
programmed in manually. Universal remote

There is also a clever macro mode, so you can Good


set-up shortcuts for particular sequences of Single off button, solid remote, huge number of
button presses, perhaps to change your TV and devices supported
amp to watch a DVD, or similar. You can also
upgrade the remote codes via the Internet by Bad
entering the system and searching for your The big selling point could be replicated buy the
device: it is all very simple. flick of a socket switch

So where does the Energy Saver come in? Well, Verdict


in the box you also get the remote controlled plug, The reality is, perhaps, that you want a universal
which you can put into a wall socket before a remote, rather than a remote controlled socket,
multi-way extension. Then you simply press the but if this reduces the number of devices you
green button on the remote, the plug switches off, have on standby, then so much the better
and all your devices are off. Effectively, it reduces
all your standby devices down to one - the plug. Price £39.99
The box boasts this might save you up to £37 a Our score Your score
year, save 90% of used energy in standby
modes, meaning you can breathe a green sign of
sweet relief. Alternatively, you could walk over to
the wall and switch off the socket, thereby saving
7/10 ?/10
yourself 100% of used energy in standby modes.

There is a little quirk in that the green button itself


doesn't turn off the plug, but pressing the button
turns the channel changer into an on and off
selection for the plug. This means that you can
then allocate the numbers to additional plugs, so
if your AV rig feeds from more than one power
source, you can still use the same remote and
turn off two sockets for example.

A word of warning though: it is worth checking


how your devices work, as some TVs lose their
clock, some set-top boxes download upgrades
during "off peak" hours and so on. If you regularly
use your TV as an alarm clock, then remember
that if you turn it off, it won't come on, and you'll
be late for work (ahem).

VERDICT
An interesting concept, and a universal remote

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