In spite of partially euphoric market forecasts, marketing results of intelligent house systems in the field of residential buildings and small trades have not been satisfactory at all during the past ten years. Causes and reasons are manifold. Meanwhile, the advancing technologies concerned with computers, the Internet, cellular phone networks, and multimedia devices are beginning to incite the potential market for intelligent systems in the fields of living and working from a very different direction than we have been used to so far.
Intelligent house systems
In accordance with this development, the technical conception of the inHaus centre comprises the creation of integrated platforms - spanning formerly separated maintenance groups, such as heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning - for novel system applications on the basis of open communication standards, like OSGi (Open Service Gateway initiative).
Within this project, the inclusion of all relevant equipment and communication standards is meant to make sure that application functions of intelligent house systems can be tapped to their full potential. Devices, functions, and communication standards of multimedia technologies and conventional building services engineering as well as building automation are connected with each other first and are then connected to the external services of the Internet by means of a home manager- and service-gateway. The integrated inHaus-system solutions are tested technically as well as regarding real usage in the inHaus facility. For this reason, they are tailored to potential target markets, such as housing estates for senior citizens and vacation rentals. Thus, partial solutions and variants do certainly make sense and are practicable depending on the concrete project.
Technologies and services for the networked home can only be successfully designed and introduced, if the people involved - manufacturer, service provider, home owner, craft, and others - join in good time to co-operate on projects such as inHaus Duisburg, in order to experiment, learn and reach the requisite standards.
In the future, there will be no restrictions on the terminal equipment that can be connected to these systems: lighting, heating, thermostats, household appliances, consumer electronics, sensors, actuators, motion detectors, video cameras, communication systems, alarm systems, sprinkler systems, and consumption measurement devices.
However, a home is only really `intelligent' or `smart', if it is not only networked within but also linked to the outside world. In the case of inHaus, the system integrated into the house is enhanced with TeleHome, Deutsche Telekom's secure access and service platform in the Net. The house owner, or a service provider acting in his name, can access his home from outside via the Internet, voice control, or WAP. Problems or alarms from the home can be reported per e-mail, fax, SMS, or a generated voice message.
How does this all work in the inHaus project? When you use your mobile or fixed-network phone, for example, you don't speak to inHaus directly. You actually communicate with a personalised home portal, which is generated on Deutsche Telekom's TeleHome platform. This home portal, which can also be used as a Web or WAP variant, bundles not only information on the status of your home but also other important information. This includes e-mails, voice messages, faxes, local weather and traffic reports, offers from shops nearby, the latest information on the appliances installed in your home, and even a family calendar that can be used by all those who live in your home. You can also use the portal to delegate tasks to inHaus appliances, like a video-tape recorder, or to control the system as a whole, for example `set home to absence': lights off, reduce heating setting, lower blinds. In addition, the platform communicates active status to you personally, or to monitoring companies or suppliers. Status messages could be messages like `everything OK', `broken kitchen window', or `oil tank almost empty'.
The TeleHome platform also guarantees secure access to selected appliances in the home for servicing and other purposes. It assumes responsibility for automatically providing a service offer tailored to your appliances and infrastructure, from MP3 tracks for your MP3 player to software updates for your washing machine.
The TeleHome platform communicates with inHaus via T-DSL. inHaus communicates per mobile network, via the existing electrical cabling or a separate data bus. Example: a gateway will forward data to the video recorder or the heating system, or pass data to the platform for further processing or forwarding. The gateway offers various performance levels and, equipped suitably, implements specific service functions itself, like, for instance, an evaluation of different sensors, which can send a qualified alarm message to the platform if required. The functions that are implemented on the gateway can be downloaded dynamically from the service platform to the gateway, dependent on the appliances that are connected in the home and the functions that are activated.
The Intelligent House Duisburg Innovation Centre, abbreviated `inHaus', is a thematically and organisationally unique and integral concept in the field of product-oriented innovations for a networked life. The basis of the project is the inHaus facility in Duisburg/Germany, which includes a residential home, a workshop, a networked car, and a networked garden.
17 prominent national and international companies, which hold five-year contracts with the Fraunhofer Institute, are involved in this project. The project is supervised by the IMS Duisburg, the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems.
Further information is available at www.inhaus-duisburg.de