How to Control a TV Using Wi-Fi

By Ashley Poland

Whether you bought a TV before they were smart or chose an inexpensive model, rest assured: You can enjoy the benefits of Wi-Fi controls with even the simplest digital television. Stream media to your TV from apps or a local media collection by adding a control device. With specific apps, your mobile device becomes a remote control that transmits commands over a Wi-Fi connection.

Content-Control Boxes

To control content over Wi-Fi with a remote device such as your computer or smartphone, look into a set-top box that has built-in Wi-Fi streaming capabilities. Two examples of this are the Apple TV and Google's Chromecast. The Apple TV is for dedicated iTunes and iOS users; it uses proprietary AirPlay technology to stream content from Apple devices over Wi-Fi. The Chromecast is device-agnostic. It only requires a browser or mobile device with the Chromecast app installed. It also works over Wi-Fi to stream music and other media to your television.

Home Theater Computer

Consider a home theater PC if you want to make your TV do anything your computer can, such as stream video and play games. A computer can fit easily into many entertainment center setups and doesn't need specialized software for easy use. With an app like Unified Remote, you can pair your smartphone to the computer to control every aspect of the computer's use. Unified Remote works over your home Wi-Fi network, so line of sight is not necessary, like it would be with a standard IR remote.

TV Remote Apps and Receivers

Most television remotes use an IR signal to control the television. This technology is simple, but has certain limitations -- most notably, that the remote operates only on line-of-sight to the television. If you do not have a TV with Wi-Fi connectivity, you can use IR technology to your advantage. Hardware devices like the Peel connect to your television and receive remote signals transmitted over Wi-Fi by way of the proprietary app. Another solution is a device like the Zmart, which offers an IR dongle that fits into the headphone jack of your smartphone and transmits IR signals just like a universal remote control.

Potential Issues

Remote Wi-Fi control of your television offers many benefits. You don't need line of sight to manage the television, and you can control several devices from one spot. However, it doesn't come without problems. Setting up a remote that uses Wi-Fi can take some time and network proficiency, and not every app supports every device. The remote will not work if your device or television disconnects from the Wi-Fi network or if the network goes down. When using a mobile device as a remote, the constant use of the bright screen may drain the battery.