IBM Builds Networked Homes with Developer

IBM Monday joined Cisco Systems as one>>
of the few companies pushing forward with plans to help build communities
of networked homes, using computers to give homeowners the ability to
remotely manage everything from heating and air conditioning to security
systems and garage doors..

Cisco unveiled its plans to
build 13,000 “smart homes,”
with Southern California land developer
Playa Vista, in July 2000, but has said little since. Many other companies
have showcased concept homes, including
Microsoft
, and long-gone [email protected] But actual
homes on the market that make use of new technological capabilities are few
and far between.

Undaunted, developer Commonwealth Builders has partnered with IBM in a deal
under which IBM will provide the infrastructure for a new connected
community of 170 homes in Roanoke, Va.

IBM said it will work with Commonwealth Builders to integrate an array of
technology with the new homes, intended to add efficiency to household
functions — from sending emergency alerts to a wide range of devices to
being able to check whether the doors or locked and the stoves are turned
off, with the ability to do those things remotely if necessary. Future
applications may include self-reading utility meters directly linked to
billing services, and appliances that alert owners when they are about to
fail.

The community, known as Village at Tinker Creek, will leverage IBM’s
e-Business to Smart Machines initiative, using embedded technology to
connect devices within the homes to networks. Unlike other visions of the
connected home, Commonwealth Builders is not appealing to the high-end of
the market. Angus McIntyre, product manager for Embedded Solutions at IBM,
told internetnews.com that the homes would be in the $200,000 range.

“These are mainstream houses,” he said. “It’s taking it out to the people.”

In addition to allowing homeowners to network appliances and manage them
remotely, each household will be able to use its connection to get access
to neighborhood information and bulletin boards, local news, shared
calendars, and security and utility management. IBM suggested that benefits
could include more efficient energy use, lower insurance premiums, improved
security and higher resale values. McIntyre noted that the whole package
costs about $3,500 per home.

“Just a few years ago, high-tech homes sounded like something out of the
Jetsons,” said Jonathan Prial, vice president of Business Development and
Sales with IBM’s Pervasive Computing Division. “But with the Village at
Tinker Creek, we’re talking about real, practical technology applications
that help make our lives easier. With the advancement of technology comes
the expectations of greater functionality, and the connected homes at
Tinker Creek are just one example of how IBM’s technology is powering the
larger pervasive computing ecosystem.”


Commonwealth Builders constructed the development from the ground up with
underground fiber optic cabling, and each home will feature Taiwan-based
C.P. Technology’s NetAppliance Residential Services Gateways running IBM’s
WebSphere Everyplace Embedded Software (WEES), WebSphere Portal Express,
and Shanghai-based SVA’s Information iHome Application to manage
interconnected devices including thermostat, harzard and security sensors.


The homes will also be equipped with 802.11b wireless
capabilities.

C.P. Technology’s gateway, built on IBM VisualAge Micro Edition and IBM
Tivoli Device Manager, is pivotal to the community’s networking
capabilities, serving as the bridge between external data networks to
internal home and office networks. IBM said it provides Internet access and
facilitates networking in the home and office as well as easing the
complexity of remote management of home appliances.

SVA’s application provides the home automation, energy management and
security capabilities with a Web-based service that allows homeowners to
control lighting, heating, air conditioning and security systems from
anywhere in the world with Internet access.

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