Pervasive Home Environments

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For decades, technologists have been promising the ‘intelligent house’. The vision is usually portrayed as a house filled with technology which will do the dweller's bidding and take all domestic drudgery out of their lives. The truly ‘intelligent house’ is still some way off, but the emergence of broadband, availability of faster, smaller and ever cheaper computing equipment and a variety of wired and wireless network technologies are enabling technologies that bring this vision closer to reality. These technology trends lead to the concept that computing and other ‘smart’ devices will become pervasive, fully networked and ‘disappear’ into the infrastructure of the home. People will carry out their tasks unaware of the complexity of the infrastructure that supports their activities in much the same way as people today use mains electricity.

This paper introduces these concepts and discusses the technological challenges to be overcome. We present our vision of the pervasive home environment where inhabitants can focus on tasks rather than the technology: ‘I need to create X and send it to Y’ rather than ‘I need to use this computer and this application which needs access to service A and resource B’. Although this sounds simple, the environment needs to ‘understand’ who ‘I’ is, and who or what ‘Y’ is. Appropriate permissions must be in place and resources allocated, if available. The most appropriate interface for the task and user must be determined.

The pervasive, intelligent home will make available new ways to access and share information. It will herald new services, such as care and support of people in the home, entertainment, educational and security services. The final part of the paper discusses the commercial opportunities and challenges which must be met, not least the need for industry to agree on open standards and interfaces.

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