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Taking control – smartly and remotely

Imagine a system that could make sense of the growing number of what often seem to be incompatible systems found in today’s homes and give you a new level of control over things like how warm your rooms are or whether your dishwasher is leaking – and do so remotely. This is the possibility opened up by the Nokia Home Control Center, due to become commercially available towards the end of 2009.
Nokia Corporation

Although today’s homes are full of smart technology and built-in intelligence, no solution has yet been launched that is both interoperable with a wide range of home systems and easy to control. Nokia has seen the opportunity this gap in the market offers and is well on the way to developing a new-generation solution to provide the link and the control that has so far been missing.

Known as the Nokia Home Control Center, the new system is based on the open Linux platform and will enable residents to take control of their home and develop a technology-neutral smart environment that can be controlled through a unified user interface via their mobile phone. In doing so, the Nokia Home Control Center promises to provide the basis for a new generation of household energy management systems, security, and smart home solutions.

The Nokia Home Control Center is being developed to bring a new level of functionality to modern living.

Easier

The Nokia Home Control Center will enable users to control numerous aspects of their home via their mobile device or PC remotely, even when travelling abroad. Areas include monitoring and controlling electricity usage and heating, switching devices on and off, and detecting when a house is broken into.

Using the system to control switches linked to electric heaters and respond to temperature sensors inside and outside a house, for example, could enable someone to optimise the use – and energy consumption – of their summer cottage. The system could be set to keep the inside temperature 3 °C above the outside temperature and always above zero automatically whenever users are away, for instance, to prevent the build-up of damp or condensation and the possibility of pipes bursting in a cold snap.

After an extended period away, the system could be used to boost the temperature to warm things up and then maintain the ambient temperature at the right level so that you will immediately feel at home again when you step over the threshold.

Safer

A small control unit and an easy-to-use interface lie at the heart of the system.
The Nokia Home Control Center can easily be extended with the use of motion detectors, surveillance cameras, and door and window sensors to create a simple security application. With the addition of further switches, it could also control outside lighting for increased comfort and security.

Users will have the added benefit of being able to check on what triggers an alarm via their mobile phone before the alarm is forwarded to a security company. This has the potential to reduce the number of false alarms and increase the efficiency of security service providers, while reducing security costs for householders and giving them much greater flexibility in terms of how they want their security handled.

Installing and linking sensors into the system will make it possible to alert users to things like doors unexpectedly opening or water leakages occurring, both of which can result in costly financial losses. A temperature sensor in a freezer can send an alert to a mobile phone if the temperature rises above acceptable limits, and a combined motion detector and camera can send a photograph of anything suspicious.

An open solution

The Nokia Home Control Center platform has been designed from the start to make it easy to integrate a wide range of home automation protocols, including common technologies, such as Z-Wave, ZigBee, 1-wire, and ECOP, and proprietary ones.

Third parties will be able to develop their own solutions and services on top of the platform, expanding it as needed to support new services and new areas of home automation. To help ensure that this happens, Nokia has launched a partner programme structured around five key application areas: security, energy efficiency, wellness, construction, real estate, and smart home solutions. Companies that have already signed up include Danfoss, Delta Dore, Ensto, Meishar Immediate Community (MIC), RWE, and Zensys, amongst others.

For more information, visit the dedicated Nokia Home Control Center site at www.nokia.com/smarthome.

> Hannu Markus
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)