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Norton, MA
USA

Coat Remotes

Projects

Various electronics, programming, welding, mods and other non-automotive projects.

Coat Remotes

Joe Angell

circa 2001

My old trench coat was loaded with pockets, one for each device I carried.  A logical extension of that was to wire in some keyfobs and other remotes into the coat as well.

I had four things that I wanted to control:

  • Honda Accord keyless entry (two buttons)
  • Garage Door opener (one button)
  • X10 Lights (on/off for two lights, four buttons total)
  • iPod playback controls (five buttons)

DESIGN AND THE REMOTES

I decided that the simplest implementation was to remove the remotes from their original housings and mount them in a project box.  I rewired the remotes so that the cylindrical garage door opener battery and a single button cell were located under the battery door on the project box.  The button cell powered both the X10 and car alarm remotes.  The remotes were somewhat crudely screwed into stand-offs mounted on the box, which is why you can see screws sticking out of the back of the box.

On the edge of the box mounted LEDs for the original lights from the X10 and Honda remotes (the garage door opener didn't have an LED), and affixed labels for each.  A headphone-style jack was used to connect the headphones to the iPod remote, with the other end of the remote's headphone-style cable running out the bottom of the side along with the ribbon cable.

WIRING AND INSTALLATION

I sacrificed an IDE ribbon cable to connect the remotes to the buttons in the coat.  The cable's wires were soldered to the pins on the buttons in the remotes themselves, which in turn were soldered to the buttons on the coat's control panel.

The remote box stat in a pocket specifically set aside for it.  The ribbon cable ran to a cloth flap, behind which lay a strip of velcro with the buttons sewn into it.  This was also hidden inside the coat, as was the ribbon cable itself -- everything was covered by velcro'ed flaps of cloth.  Velcro also meant that it was easy to remove everything as well.

A labeled control panel marked the buttons on the outside of the jacket.  This was drawn in a Lightwave 3D, and printed out on a dark cloth iron-on, carefully cut out and ironed on to the outside of the coat such that the marked buttons overlapped the actual buttons on the inside of the coat.  Since the actual button strip was velcro'ed into place, it was easy to shift it around to align it properly.

The button strip (top) that sits inside the coat, under the ironed-on label (bottom).

The controls and remotes exposed.

Everything packaged up and concealed.

The remote control box, closed (top) and open (bottom).  

DAILY USE

Once installed, I would fairly routinely use this to open the garage door and unlock the car doors.  I didn't tend to use the iPod or X10 controls too much, but they worked just fine when I did need them.

The remotes were easiest to use when sitting down or standing still, as it was necessary to press the panel against your leg to apply enough force to trigger the buttons.  Even so, it did save some trouble with fiddling with keys that you forgot were in your pocket while carrying two bags of groceries to the locked car.

I've also worn this coat through airport security.  I'd just run the entire coat through the X-ray machine.  I've been asked about it once or twice, but usually they just look at it, see it's not dangerous and let it through.  I've never been detained or anything like that for having this project on me.

LEGACY

This coat has long since been retired.  For a while I wore a pocket-adorned AbbyShot Stampede Duster, but the significant other wasn't a big fan of that, so now I tend to go duster-less.  The need for carrying a large number of devices decreased significantly with the advent of the smartphone as well, and as it becomes more of a universal remote control the need for a custom solution like this is also waning.