Control your projects with IR Remote Controls!

When you build electronics projects for the desert you always need some kind of basic controls. For LED projects you might want brightness controls, for example, or buttons which switch between various preset visual programs.

The trouble is that it’s very hard to come up with a reliable way to have pushbuttons and knobs which can survive with all the dust.

Last year I found two options which worked pretty well. The first option I used for DMX-controlled lighting. I used three main components:

  • a Wifi / DMX bridge; there are various options for this but I was using all ADJ lights so I got their AirStream DMX Bridge.
  • This went in a large SockitBox. Never heard of the SockitBox? It’s my favorite thing for electronics in the desert. It has enough room in it for a power strip and a nice solid clip-on plastic lid with a rubber gasket that sealed it nicely. There are little gaps, with their own rubber seals, that you can use to feed in a few outdoor-rated cables. By the way, I used SockitBoxes of every size wherever there were power strips or extension cords in our camp.
This is a large SockitBox.
  • Then I controlled the DMX system using software on an iPad, which itself was enclosed in a very tough outdoor / waterproof case.

This solution was a good start. But for my custom electronics projects, I was worried about exposing anything to anything. So I put my circuit boards into IP66 rated, sealed cases like this Polycase SK series:

A Polycase case

Polycase has a whole system of knockouts and connectors you can use to get power cables in and out, and the cases come in all different sizes. I’m going to design my future circuit boards to fit perfectly in one of these cases.

Now, notice that there is an option with the SK cases to get a clear cover. The magic of that is that you can now use an infrared remote control for all your control needs. Just solder a little IR receiver, like the Vishay TSOP34438 (reviewed) (about $1), onto your circuit board:

Now you can use any kind of IR remote control, most of which are hermetically sealed and all of which cost about $2. If you search for “44 key LED controller” on Aliexpress you’ll find tons of remote controls that look like this:

These have a cheapo plastic membrane which means dust doesn’t get in, and you have a bunch of usefully-labeled buttons to control just about any aspect of your LED project.