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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 07:34 GMT
Digital lifestyle on display
CoolTown vision of the home, BBC
In the future, this could be your living room
Alfred Hermida

It's five o'clock in the morning. The alarm beeps to life and a soft female voice with an American accent comes over the speakers.

"I'm waking you 30 minutes early because heavy rain has developed, delaying traffic to the airport. I changed your shuttle reservation to 5.30. Here's the light rock you requested."

Welcome to the future, as envisioned by Hewlett-Packard in its CoolTown project.

The 7m centre in Wokingham, Berkshire, UK, is designed to showcase a digital lifestyle, with appliances that fulfil our wants and needs.

The web everywhere

CoolTown is divided into zones such as home, office and shopping, designed to simulate a day in the life of the wired urban professional.

CoolTown's Paul Burwood, BBC
Paul Burwood: Everything has a web presence
"The nice thing about this vision is that everything has a web presence - people, places and things," said Paul Burwood, CoolTown's operations director.

"And of course when everything is connected, you can start to do some really useful things for us at home," he told the BBC's Go Digital programme.

Mr Burwood explained how in CoolTown, you would be able to find out exactly when a bus was due to arrive, rather than just turning up at the bus stop and waiting in the rain for five or 10 minutes.

Information on the move

Inside the centre, one of the objects on display is a mirror in a baroque gilt frame which dissolves into a to do list and urgent video e-mails.

CoolTown vision of cars, BBC
Is this what cars in the future will be like?
CoolTown technology uses standard barcodes, radio receivers, infrared and Bluetooth wireless technology to transmit information to handhelds and mobile phones.

Underlying all the elements of CoolTown is the potential of the internet to affect people's lives.

"The important thing with this is that the web becomes the hub," explains Mr Burwood. "So the information is supplied to us where we want it, when we want it, how we want it.

"Sometimes, it might be on a mobile phone, it might be on a handheld computer, or it might be on any public appliance.

"You could walk into a shopping centre and there is a web terminal that you can access your e-mail, your calendar or any other sort of information that you want."

Technologies around the corner

HP is confident that some of these technologies will be available in the next year or two.

CoolTown vision of the office, BBC
Someday, all offices may be like this
"You could see a time when a screen the size of a laptop computer screen could be embedded into the breakfast bar of your kitchen," said Mr Burwood.

"And on a Saturday afternoon, all it does is monitor the football results for you."

The first CoolTown centre was set up in California last year. Smaller versions are planned for throughout the world.

The aim of the project is to make heads of industry aware of emerging technologies and involve them in turning long-term visions into real-life products and services.

CoolTown's Paul Burwood
Potential of the internet to affect people's lives

Click here to go to BBC Berkshire Online
See also:

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11 Jan 00 | Health
High-tech home help
24 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Smart homes on trial
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