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Friday, October 16, 1998 Published at 04:41 GMT 05:41 UK


House of the future

Accademics at the University of Sussex helped develop the house

Science correspondent Sue Nelson: "Automation is the name of the game"
The ultimate labour-saving home has been unveiled.

The smart home - a joint venture by the social charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the University of Sussex - is fitted out with a myriad of gadgets.

The concept of being able to do everything from running a bath to answering the door at the touch of a button on a specially-designed hand set or computer keyboard was originally intended to benefit disabled people.

[ image: Once it's full, you could switch it on from another room]
Once it's full, you could switch it on from another room
But now developers believe that set-up is the shape of things to come for all home owners.

The existing Smart Home - a bungalow in a complex for the elderly at New Earswick, York - cost 5,000 to create.

And project manager Julie Cowans reckons mass production would reduce costs to as little as 1,500 to fit a new or existing house.

The house allows its occupants to open the curtains, turn on the cooker, boil the kettle or start the shower without even leaving an arm chair.

[ image: A flick of a switch would open curtains and run a bath]
A flick of a switch would open curtains and run a bath
And another handy feature of the system is being able to remote activate lights, heating and TV using a mobile phone.

Developers say householders will even be able to programme multiple settings so that with the touch of one 'Good Morning' button, curtains open, the shower warms up and the kettle starts to boil.

Sue Nelson explains how appliances work in the 'smart' home
Similarly, a 'Good Night' button could close the curtains, switch off the TV and activate electric blankets.

The system also allows windows to be opened by remote control and doors to open as the occupant walks towards them.

Ms Cowans said: "Many automated features are taken for granted in our cars and offices.

[ image: Just calling home ... to turn the cooker on]
Just calling home ... to turn the cooker on
"But now they can be fitted in our homes - and not just for the rich," she said.

"Originally, we developed these extras for the home in order to help older people and those with disabilities.

"But now it is clear that everyone will want them. It's the lazy person's dream."

Richard Best, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which specialises in social research, said: "The Smart Home demonstrates that today's technology is sufficiently advanced to enhance the lifestyle of everyone, from the busy executive to the frail older person.

"Mass production is technically possible. We hope that the construction and manufacturing industries will take the opportunity to make homes better for everyone."

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