Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

Summary: This month, in anticipation of the late October ACM Workshop on Hot Topics in Networking, Microsoft has posted its whitepaper on Microsoft Research's HomeOS and "HomeStore," an accompanying app store that researchers are patterning after the iPhone app store.

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In September, I posted some information on a Microsoft Research project known as HomeOS -- an operating system designed to make heterogeneous devices and systems work together more seamlessly.

This month, in anticipation of the late October ACM Workshop on Hot Topics in Networking, Microsoft has posted its whitepaper on HomeOS and the "HomeStore," an accompanying app store that researchers are patterning after the iPhone app store.

HomeOS, as it is described in the October paper, is a centralized home-automation operating system that can handle everything from TVs, to smartphones, to lights. The prototype operating system is built on the .Net Framework and all of the proposed drivers and apps are also .Net-based.

Here's an overview diagram from a Microsoft researcher's HomeOS slide deck:

The new HomeOS paper -- entitled "The Home Needs an Operating System (and an App Store)" -- does not provide details as to what the base-level operating system would be. Some Windows variant? Or maybe it will be based on (or at least interoperable with) the Microsoft Research Menlo mobile operating-system initiative? Or maybe its core will be theSingularity microkernel developed by Microsoft Research? (Singularity already has been contemplated inside Microsoft as a home operating system candidate, noted Charon at Ma-Config.com, who is the one who sent me the link to the newly published HomeOS whitepaper.)

The researchers on the HomeOS project have been doing field visits to homes with automation systems, and have come to some early conclusions. They believe HomeOS' access control needs to incorporate the notion of time, to allow users to restrict access to certain devices at certain times. A HomeOS needs to restrict application access to certain resources, independent of the user who activates the app. It also needs to provide an easy-to-understand security-settings view, the researchers said.

The HomeStore -- "inspired by the iPhone model," according to the white paper -- would be a vehicle for simplifying the distribution of apps and devices connected by the HomeOS. It would also make recommendations and offer quality checks and ratings to users. From the white paper:

"The HomeStore verifies compatibility between homes and applications. Based on users’ desired tasks, it recommends applications that work in their homes. If a home does not have devices required for those tasks, it recommends appropriate devices as well. For instance, if a user wants integrated temperature and window control, the HomeStore can recommend window controllers if there exists an application that combines those window controllers with the user’s existing thermostat. In addition, the HomeStore can performbasic quality checks and support rating and reviewing to help identify poorly engineered applications and devices."

Interestingly, Microsoft is not pushing for a single, Microsoft-controlled HomeStore.

"We do not intend for the HomeStore to become the sole gatekeeper for home applications. Towards this end, we allow for multiple HomeStores, and users can visit the one they trust most.," the researchers noted in the paper.

(That sounds somewhat like the Windows 8 app store model that Microsoft was considering, based on leaked slides. Different OEMs would each have its own app store, rather than there being a single, centrally-run Microsoft app store only.)

It's early days for HomeOS and HomeStore, the researchers noted. The team has set up a test bed with a variety of devices found in today's homes. So far, they've implemented drivers for the DLNA media standard, ZWave home-automation standard, a video camera and a Windows Mobile smartphone, the paper states.

The team also has written three sample applications that make use of multiple devices, including a "sticky media" app that plays music in parts of the house that are lit up, but not other rooms; a two-factor-authentication app that uses audio from smartphones and images from a front-door camera to turn on lights when a user is identified; and a home browser for viewing and controling a user's access to all devices in a home.

Microsoft execs, including Chairman Bill Gates back in the early part of this decade -- have been envisioning a world where .Net coffee pots, bulletin boards and refrigerator magnets would be part of homes where smart devices would communicate and interoperate. It looks like Microsoft hasn't given up on that dream....

Topics: Microsoft, iPhone, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

    Problem is that this is an MS product aimed at the home. MS is not famous for its ease of use interface and even copying the iphone interface will not do the trick.
    prof123
    • RE: Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

      @prof123 Did you even read the article?
      pedroroque
      • No, he didn't read the article

        @pedroroque
        He probably hasn't used a Microsoft product in years.
        rjohn05
      • No, he didn't read the article

        @pedroroque
        He probably hasn't used a Microsoft product in years.
        rjohn05
      • RE: Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

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    • Copy the iPhone Interface? :O

      @prof123 You are kidding aren't you? How does that even compare or relate? You're talking about a mobile OS and a stationary HOME OS Interface. The only thing they are referring to here as relating is an App Market and Microsoft was doing an App Market before CrApple with Xbox Live Store. Even Sony has or had something that more closely relates with the PS3 as a central hub for the Home and their Playstation Store selling Apps before CrApple in 2007!

      CrApple is the biggest thief of ideas on the planet and just lost one of the largest Software Patent judgement to prove it. Eventually they are going to have to pay up that $600+ Million awarded to the plaintiff in Texas Court!

      Ease of Use? haha.... tell that to the 92% of computer users leaving just 8% of CrApple users! ;)
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      • RE: Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

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    • RE: Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

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  • .

    .
    rjohn05
  • Wow! Sounds impressive!

    .
    P. Douglas
  • RE: Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

    Wow, it would be fantastic to be able to make HomeOS apps using .NET.
    Mythos7
  • RE: Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

    I like the idea. I am not 100% sure about the idea of MS not running a central Apps store. I think a centrally monitored app store gives MS more quality control. I would hate for a great idea to not gain traction just because a few junk apps.
    l_tyson
  • RE: Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

    wouldn't Windows Home Server be a natural for this? There are already home automation solutions for WHS using X11...
    mary.branscombe
    • Windows Home Server

      Yes, I'd think so... but I'm doubtful that they're even considering. I guess we'll hear/see if the project advances... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
  • RE: Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

    WinCE?
    bburgess66
  • I have a c-bus house

    And much of the automation that can be achieved beyond lighting requires smart appliances. Dishwashers & Washing machines that can turn themselves on during off-peak power usage. Remotes or feedback systems that are 2way... So that other devices know what is occurring.
    mattmuir
  • RE: Microsoft's HomeStore: Home automation, with an iPhone-inspired twist

    do we know when will the OS roll out ?
    animageofmine1