TV makers and providers take a shine to solar-powered remotes

After Samsung earlier this year unveiled a solar-powered remote control for some of its TV models, eco-friendly interest spiked among providers and manufacturers.

Samsung showed off its new solar remote for its lineup of 4K and 8K QLED TVs at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. The device—which maintains the same design but adds a solar cell on the back—could save 20 million AAA batteries from winding up in landfills, according to the company.

Now, Remote Solution is partnering with Nowi to develop another new solar-powered TV remote control geared toward operators. The companies have developed a reference design built on Google’s Android TV specifications using Nowi’s energy harvesting Power Management IC.

“Nowi is excited to see the adoption of our energy harvesting technology in TV remote controls. The NH2 PMIC’s uniquely low-cost, small and simple implementation is a strong fit in TV remotes. As such, we believe our partnership with Remote Solution will be a further catalyst in the adoption of green technology by TV vendors and set top box providers,” said Nowi CEO Simon van der Jagt in a statement.

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Christopher Juliano, CCO and vice president of strategic partnerships at Nowi, said the new project with Remote Solution is based on an existing portfolio product for operators. It includes Nowi’s chipset along with solar cell and a rechargeable battery. He said the company put the solar panel on the back of this remote to expedite the design process but that Remote Solution is also working on custom designs with the solar panel on the front of the remote.

Juliano said the advantage of placing the cell on the front of the remote is that better accommodates typical user behavior. “Having it on the front [means] you don’t have to change your behavior. You just set it down like you would a normal [remote].”

Importantly for TV manufacturing, which is a notoriously low-margin business, adding the Nowi energy harvesting PMIC to a remote isn’t overly cost prohibitive. Nowi purposefully built its design and chipset to be a low-cost implementation and Juliano said that the new remotes it is working on are “extremely inexpensive.”

Juliano said the Nowi had pre-existing solar remote projects before Samsung’s announcement but that, while it could be coincidental, there has definitely been a spike in interest among providers and manufacturers in the past four to five months. He added that consumers can expect to see more solar-powered remote options hit the market later this year.