For several decades now, we've read that our homes will become smart and that we'll have many robotic slaves at our service. But it never worked. A recent European initiative, TEAHA (short for 'The European Application Home Alliance') wants to give another try. And it has enrolled some big industrial partners, such as Telefonica in Spain, to build software to make all our appliances to interoperate seamlessly. Imagine a message on your TV telling you it's time to start the laundry! Will it work? I don't know, but read more...
Let's look at a couple of images before going further. The illustration below describes the issues faced by designers of 'smart' homes (Credit: TEAHA). You'll find a better version in the TEAHA brochure available from the home page (ZIP format leading to a PDF document after extraction, 2 pages, 1.63 MB).
And this diagram shows the clustered architecture adopted by the TEAHA project (Credit: TEAHA)
Now, let's look at an article from IST Results about this project.
Numerous obstacles have hindered wider uptake of smart home systems. In part, this is a result of the multitude of different business actors involved when trying to interconnect home appliances with each other and to the wider world. To date, appliance manufacturers, telecommunications firms, utility companies, software designers and system installers have often taken very different paths toward deploying new technologies in the home.
So what's different this time? Interoperability.
The TEAHA team achieves this interoperability by developing a middleware platform that mediates between different appliances and communication systems. It is based on a software gateway through which information from all the different devices passes, regardless of the network they are using. The platform further provides zero-configuration capability, i.e. appliances are automatically discovered as well as secure communication.
Do you remember Jini? It had a similar purpose: enabling all the devices in your environment to communicate transparently and without human action. Did it work? Not really. So let's wait until December 2006 for extensive tests to be done by TEAHA to see if the European initiative can deliver something tangible.
In the mean time, and if you want more information, you should read a technical paper published by the TEAHA project which describes the TEAHA architecture in general and the secure service discovery process in detail. Here is a link to this paper, "Secure Service Discovery in Home Networks" (PDF format, 19 pages, 136 KB). The second illustration in this post has been extracted from this article, which has been presented at the 2006 IEEE International Conference on Consumer Electronics held in Las Vegas in January 2006.
Sources: IST Results, October 18, 2006; and TEAHA website
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