18 October 2006

EU project to make the smart home more user-friendly

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“Smart homes have been talked about for decades, but beyond a few concept houses and a few gadget-happy homeowners, little has been achieved in making them a bricks-and-mortar reality,” reports the EU’s IST Results website. “The TEAHA project team plans to enable all of us to call our house and tell it to start the laundry, fill the bath or crank up the heating.”

“Until now the business model has not been clear, there have been too many different standards, and too many technologies that are not interoperable. And, most importantly, people did not see these systems as being user friendly – they were generally viewed as too complex to use and maintain for the benefits they offered,” explains project coordinator Enrique Menduiña of Telefónica I+D in Spain.

“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.”

“The IST-funded project TEAHA brought companies from all those sectors together. The outcome, according to Menduiña, will be the first open smart-home platform to allow any home-device – using any technology and made by any manufacturer – to interoperate seamlessly with the Teaha system.”

Despite the nice talk about user-friendliness, the solution to achieve this ‘seamless interoperability’ seems entirely technology based, and no mention is made of any type of research exploring what users actually want and need. John Thackara formulated a critique last year about the tech first approach in EU research and innovation. This tech driven EU research project claiming to make our lives easier seems to be confirming that analysis.

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