Australia's first 'Internet home' unveiled

A funky three-storey terrace in the heart of inner Sydney is being showcased as Australia's first entirely Internet-enabled home.

Never again will you need to worry if you've left the iron on or the backdoor unlocked.

Nor need you panic if your plants need watering or worry that thieves will ransack your home, bagging up all your whiz-bang gadgetry whilst you're away for the weekend.

That is, if you ever become the owner of an iHome.

The prototype home set up at 77 Bowman Street, Pyrmont in inner Sydney is a funky three-storey terrace which has become Australia's first entirely Internet-enabled home.

"What began as a two-year concept was compressed into three months because of the enthusiasm partners had for the project," Terry Walsh, MD of Cisco Systems Australia and New Zealand, said at the iHome launch.

iHome, the baby of Cisco Systems and Bovis Lend Lease, has opened its front door to reveal a range of state-of-the-art appliances provided by all 17 partners included in the project.

Fighting for pride of place is permanent broadband Internet access, 42-inch plasma screens, an in-house audio system that pipes MP3 songs throughout the home, videoconferencing facilities and a multi-media editing suite.

What's more, technology from Creston puts control of household appliances (from a series of touch screens or wireless touch pads) at your fingertips.

This includes an electrical and lighting network, Internet connected video cameras, the automatic locking and unlocking of doors, curtains and blind operation and a garden watering system. You can even kick-start the coffee machine so it's percolating when you reach the kitchen.

The Creston system also adjusts to different modes, including a romantic setting that will pull down your blinds, filter music through ceiling speakers and switch on sensual aromatherapy oils.

"A key aspect is it further enhances other Internet services," NSW Minister for Information Technology, Kim Yeadon, said.

For example, if you use Woolworth's online shopping service but are working at the time of delivery, you would hear the doorbell over your office PC. You could open the door and let in the delivery person who could put perishable food in fridge before leaving. Security cameras would monitor exactly what was happening at all times.

From an iHome portal site, that integrates all home-control aspects of the house and Web site 'favorites' into one interface, you can manage your home wherever you are in the world.

It is intended that the new iHome will showcase the benefits and accelerate the supply and demand for broadband within the Australian community.

"iHome is a whole new market and industry and one that will be very attractive to the majority of people - Australians more so than anyone given their historical fascination with technology," Yeadon said.

From the government's point of view it provides the potential and opportunities for Australian businesses to get into an extraordinarily expanding business.

Lend Lease said it is now making the decision about how fast to bring broadband into its development.

"We're already seeing a market shift in customer demand towards 'smart homes' that feature high quality cabling, extra electrical outlets and other features that make it easy to get Internet access, run home computer networks and install advanced home entertainment systems," Bovis Lend Lease's GM, commercial, Ceinwen Kirk, said.

"It's a matter of where the market takes us from here," Ceinwen added.

iHome, with an eggshell value of AU$750,000 and a quarter of a million dollars worth of technology to boot, will be auctioned by Lend Lease in April 2001.

No longer will that "house on the hill" be the same.


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