Not many phones have infrared these days (although there are some), so using a phone as a remote for most existing boxes isn't so straight forward. But smartphones do have WiFi and Bluetooth, meaning it's possible to at least indirectly communicate with televisions and set-top boxes. But despite promised of Bluetooth-enabled STB's, it's looking likely that ZigBee could be the wireless standard for such things going forward.
But, to the best of my knowledge, there are no mainstream smartphones or tablets with built in ZigBee support, although there are rumors that Samsung and HTC will be introducing ZibBee-enabled devices soon. If such devices hit the market, it would mean that smartphones could be used to directly control such things as ZibBee enabled set-top boxes, locks, and light bulbs without the need for a gateway. (Even Nest's Learning Thermostat is ZigBee-enabled, meaning it could become part of the home's ZigBee mesh network, and potentially act as a ZibBee-to-WiFi gateway.)
So, it's interesting to note the increased interest in the relatively new category of the smart home phone, a smart device dedicated to being the remote control for all things in the home. Television & temperature. Lighting and laundry. The concept has been around for years and has been addressed in piecemeal ways so far. But now the pieces are really coming together.
So, who'll be in control? Device vendors, cable operators, security companies, energy companies, Google? Get ready for the rush toward remote opportunities.
There could be possibilities in remotes.