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Last Updated: Friday, 9 February 2007, 08:37 GMT
Skills set for 'digital plumbers'
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Britons keen for their homes to be digital playgrounds will soon be able to call on specially-trained tradesmen.

An industry association has drawn up qualifications that recognise trade expertise in the technologies used in home entertainment and automation.

Cheap hardware and larger personal stores of digital media mean many people are looking to pipe movies, pictures and music around their homes.

Educational institutions are already signing up to teach the course.

Cheap as chips

Those who complete the training programme drawn up by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) are allowed to advertise themselves as a certified Digital Home Technology Integrator.

The course aims to help those with expertise in fitting either home automation systems or home cinema and entertainment technology an understanding of how both can work together.

"There's been a market for home automation and a separate market on digital media," said Dr Barry Henley, head of the Technology Innovation Centre at the University of Central England that will be one of the first institutions to teach the course.

"But," he added, "there is a set of skills that bridge across the two things."

Previously home owners may have had to pay different people to install either home automation or entertainment systems.

"The worse thing about that is when something goes wrong and both blokes come in and each one blames the other," he said. "With this you have one backside to kick."

Dr Henley said anyone living in a well automated home would be able to turn the heating up by remote if a cold snap descended or switch the lights on from their holiday hotel to deter burglars from breaking in back home.

The course is recommended for electricians, satellite and cable installers, home security experts and others who have more than a few years experience under their toolbelt.

Mr Henley said home automation and entertainment systems were no longer the province of the wealthy as the technology to route media round homes got cheaper and easier to install.

Cheap chipsets and techniques borrowed from networks that use the IP protocol, more commonly used for the internet, were making such systems straightforward to set up, said Dr Henley.

Instead of every element in a home automation system needing its own wire, IP-based networks allow each one to be addressed with a few packets of data. The bits of data passing across the wires can be signals to light switches to turn on or off or they could be a stream of music or video, he said.

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