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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 09:12 GMT
Smart homes on trial
Car dashboard, Onstar
System lets you call up your house from your car
Alfred Hermida

In the future, you may never have to worry about forgetting to switch off the lights or locking the front door when you leave home.

You could soon be able to do all this and more from the comfort of your car or via your mobile phone, thanks to the Internet Home Alliance group.

This association of leading electronics and consumer companies have come together to produce a system that lets you control your home from wherever you are.

They are going to test out the technology, called Onstar at Home, in February at 100 homes in the Detroit area in the US.

"The key goal of this pilot is to understand which of the many features that we could offer to the public have value, so that one can consider how this is brought to market," explained Jim Devlin of Invensys, one of the companies involved in the project.

Connecting over the net

The families will try out the system for four months, interacting with their home by phone, web or wireless.

The homeowners will also have cars equipped with voice recognition technology, allowing them to connect to their houses on the move.

They will be able to start a dialogue with the house

Jim Devlin, Invensys
"They will be able to start a dialogue with the house," Mr Devlin told BBC News Online.

The internet forms a key part of the network. Every home involved in the trial will have an always-on broadband connection and every single communication from the homeowner will travel over the net.

Each homeowner will have a private and secure webpage, through which they could program their lights, thermostat and security system.

Remote control

The idea behind the project is to create an internet lifestyle.

If you had an unexpected visitor at home while you were at work, the system would contact you via e-mail, text message or by calling you.

Jim Devlin of Invensys, BBC
Devlin: Every home will be a smart home
"Linked to the network is a smart front door," said Mr Devlin. "So that if you're not there, it will tell you that there's someone at your front door wherever you are in the world."

You could then unlock the front door remotely and let your visitor in.

One of the potential uses for the technology is for home security, so that if the house was broken into, you would notified immediately and web cameras on the property would take an instant snapshot.

"Houses are already moving to online meter-reading; appliances have microprocessors in them," said Mr Devlin. "It is inevitable that every home will be a smart home."

The Internet Home Alliance brings together a group of diverse companies, such as General Motors, Invensys, Panasonic, Hewlett-Packard and ADT Security Services.

"We've created an environment that has brought diverse companies together to produce solutions for the consumer that the individual companies would not have created on their own," said Tony Barra, president of the Internet Home Alliance.

Tim Wallaert of Invensys
Demonstrates the system in action
See also:

08 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Visions of a smart future
21 Jun 00 | Health
Smart house unveiled
02 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
'Wired homes' connect with buyers
11 Jan 00 | Health
High-tech home help
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