The Digital Home of the Future

  • Posted on: 22 March 2010
  • By: Patrick Oliphant

Within the last three or more years the idea of living a digital life style or having a connected home has come closer to being a reality than it has for the last ten. With organizations such as DLNA and UPnP working to establish standards the industry has come leaps and bounds. As things are at the moment the solutions are there for us to access our home from anywhere and at anytime. There is a huge push in technology development that is accelerating the implementation of the digital home areas that I see are: media streaming, home automation, embedded technology (android, system-on-chip), connectivity and always on internet.
furture home

Another change that is visible is the amount of companies that are offering digital home solutions. Cisco bought Linksys as a route into the connected home market. Google has partnered with British Gas and Alertme to allow British consumers to monitor their home energy usage online, A Similar service is launch in the US by Microsoft, called Microsoft-Hohm, it allow users to track the amount of energy they use in their home. Countries all over the world are switching to their television transmission from analogue to digital. In the US and UK some areas have already been switched and dates set for others.

Media Steaming
I would say this is the fastest growing area within the digital home market. Also there is a change in how we access our entertainment content. This is being fed by the growing content on the on the internet and suppliers providing the service. We can subscribe to independent content sellers such as Amazon Video on Demand, Netflix, Pandora, Rovi, Picasa, Vudu, channels of internet radios, Rhapsody and many more. We have Sony and Samsung who are also offering content to their customers. The products that are being offered get better every day. These not only allow us to play music and videos but also to interact socially on the internet through Twitter, Flickr and Facebook.

Home Automation and Energy Management
Home automation has been around for a long time but the technology has now become main stream and is now part of the digital home idea; so not only engineers and those that are technology savvy are doing it. The technology is now smarter and easier to implement and use. This area is also being driven by the desire to save energy, money and being aware of our CO2 foot print. Alliances such as ZigBee are active in this area, establishing standards so that products being developed are of a certain standard so that it can communicate within a connected environment. As I write there are smart energy management solutions being develop that help you to measure and management the amount of energy you use in your home. It even go a bit further by passing this information back to your energy supplier through what is known as smart grid.

Data Storage
In time past the use of the word data-storage or network attach storage was used by IT people with reference to business data. Today these words are used in relation to domestic data-storage. Today, homes are storing enough digital data that is similar to the size of a medium size business. With the growth in on-demand content and the speed and convenience of the internet home media storage has become common place. Homes are now buying data storage that are in terabytes, yes because it is cheap but also there is a need for more space. There are also solutions for homes to expand their storage need out of the home and into the cloud (a new concept of storing your data somewhere on the web) for backup and for friends and family to access.

Embedded Technology
Today the digital home/connected home shows many example of this and it is only the beginning. Chip manufactures are working hard to embed application in their chips. Also there is the idea of System-on-a-chip, an architecture according to Intel that will take us into “Consumer Electronic 3.0” this is where most of our digital experience will merge. Where is does not matter if you are using your television of your PC it will not make a difference.

Recently I have seen many steps in this direction. MIPS announced the release of the world first set-top box with Android embedded. They have also developed partnerships with other connected device manufacturer and software developers to port the Android platform to the home appliance. Adobe is leading on the Open Screen Project with ST-Ericsson and STMicroelectronics as chip technology partners. The aim is to make Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR available on the ST-Ericsson mobile chip platform and on STMicroelectronics set-top box and digital Television chips. Yahoo have also partnered with MIPS Technologies for them to embed the Yahoo TV Widgets into the MIPS connected home device platform.©

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