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Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 12:08 GMT


'Wired homes' connect with buyers

Residents will run their homes at the push of a button

A property developer's estate of "internet homes" has sold out - before the houses are even finished.

The BBC's Sue Nelson: "I can start the downstairs coffee machine from the upstairs bedroom"
The quick sale has been put down to one major selling point - the houses are fitted with the latest technology, making them into "smart homes".

Residents of the houses on the new Laing estate in Watford, Hertfordshire, will have webcams allowing those inside to view any angle outside the house.

As well as providing extra security, the system sets the alarm system, adjusts the heating and switches off the lights.

All the technical operations are run by three computers. They can be performed remotely, from a portable web pad anywhere in the house or from an internet connection elsewhere.

The coffee machine, for instance, could be switched on in the kitchen from the bedroom - or from the office.

[ image: ...from every room on the inside]
...from every room on the inside
And videoconferencing facilities, which enable residents to see live video images of each other while they chat, are also fitted. So if someone is housebound, they do not have to rely only on the telephone to contact friends and family.

Mike Couzens from Cisco Systems said he believes the take-up for such "smart homes" will eventually be huge.

"I think it's going to be like refrigerators," he said. "Early use was quite low but once people had got used to refrigerators they really couldn't do without them".

However, the fact that internet connection is not yet free in the UK could depress potential take-up.

[ image: The home of the future?]
The home of the future?
John Tode of Computer Shopper Magazine said: "The price point will start to come in because this is going to be a very expensive thing to just stick into your house.

"I'm sure it will take professional people to put it in, and if it's connected to the internet it's going to be quite costly to run".

However, the popularity of the new estate could mean that a lot of new homes in the UK become equally as well-connected.

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