Techfirm Inc, a Japan-based firm developing software for mobile phones, etc, started to develop a system that enables to use smartphones as universal remotes for multiple home electric appliances such as TVs and air conditioners.

The system, which will be developed in collaboration with Keio University, will be targeted at elderly people confined to bed and seriously disabled people.

Many of the existing input devices for severely disabled people have been developed by combining multiple devices depending on the degree of disability. As a result, the cost and time for development have tended to increase.

"We considered it possible to build an inexpensive input device by using the standard features of smartphones such as touch panels, sensors and microphones," Techfirm said.

Even people who have difficulty in moving body parts other than their fingers are expected to find it possible to use a smartphone as a remote.

The system consists of a smartphone and an infrared communication module, and the infrared signals emitted from the remote of each home electric appliance are pre-registered in the system. As a result, it can be used as a universal remote that can be used for various home electric appliances. Techfirm and Keio University are planning to test a prototype of the system in the near future.

The system is being developed with help from the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Tsukigase Rehabilitation Center and the Department of Science and Technology of Keio University.