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Study: Homes getting smarter, although protocols vary

Sun, 11/03/2002 - 7:00pm
Duffy Hayes

We've been promised the emergence of the "smart" home for the past couple of years-our cell phones were going to be able to turn on our lights, hot tubs and ovens with the flick of a switch-but the existence of a variety of protocols has hampered smart home growth into the mass market, according to a new study from InStat/MDR. InStat/MDR is owned by the parent company of CED.

Specifically, the increasing penetration of Internet access and the emergence of home networking gear is making new revenue-generating opportunities available to a variety of providers, including cable and telco service providers, utility companies, security installers, homebuilders and even appliance makers. Why the range in technology providers to the home? Smart home networks today are evolving over a series of networking protocols and topologies-from standardized and proprietary wireless systems, to X10 powerline networks, and to other twisted pair networking topologies, as well.

The InStat study, titled "Smart Home Networks: The Fight for Control," discusses all of these various networking technologies and protocols, and highlights some of the early successes with standardized home automation protocols like X10, LonWorks and CEBus, and previews new technologies like the ZigBee low power wireless automation scheme developed by Philips Semiconductors.

But overall, the study notes some common hurdles to mainstream smart home evolution, specifically mentioning pricing and interoperability as major sticking points to widespread growth and adoption. In the near term, the study says that effort should materialize into the creation of low-cost silicon transceivers and embedded networking solutions, as well as hardware and software that can bridge disparate technologies and enable interoperability among systems. Once the market has low priced gear and general interoperability, service providers will more easily be able to fold automation and networking services into their current operations with far less effort than is possible today, the study says.

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