Dec 4, 2008

Tech - Nokia Will Let Mobile Devices Access Home Systems

Mark Long

Nokia is working with its partners to develop a smart home platform that will enable any mobile device equipped with a Web browser to serve as the remote control for household security, monitoring and energy-management systems.

Nokia's research has determined that consumers want control of home systems whether they are at home or on the go. With mobile devices ubiquitous, they are an ideal interface to home systems -- especially when the user is not at home, said Nokia Vice President Teppo Paavola.

"The home of today has intelligence everywhere, but to date there has not been a solution that is interoperable with the wide range of home systems that can easily be controlled," Paavola said. "We want to create an open solution where external partners can develop their own solutions and services on top of our platform."

'Any Device with a Browser'

The remote-control function will not be limited to mobile devices made by the cell-phone giant, noted Toni Sormunen, director of Nokia's smart home program.

"The APIs and protocols are open and specified as part of our software development kit and available to our partners currently," Sormunen said. "Any device with a browser can connect to the Nokia Home Control Center remotely or locally."

The initial platform, planned for release in late 2009, which Nokia is developing with Europe-based energy company RWE, will enable mobile devices to remotely access a central unit linked to thermostats installed throughout a home. Nokia and RWE also plan follow-up offerings that work with the latest smart meters.

The goal is to provide consumers with real-time information about their energy consumption and even allow them to control their energy bill remotely. Sormunen noted that smart electricity readers can deliver information in real time, which means consumers will be able to determine how much electricity their homes are using at any given moment.

"In the evening when going to bed, I can check from my phone whether my home is also in a 'sleep mode,'" Sormunen explained. "I can easily see if the electricity consumption is on the normal rate so I know I haven't, for example, left outdoor lights on and there's no kettle boiling on the stove."

Opening the Door

Nokia and its smart home partners eventually intend to develop technologies covering five key areas: Safety and security, energy savings, wellness, real-estate management and building technologies, and home automation. For example, the consumer research that Nokia has conducted shows wide interest in home safety and security.

"People with small children want to know whether their kids are safe and sound back home," Sormunen noted. The technology also could be used to remotely monitor the blood pressure of an elderly family member and relay the results to the family physician, he said.

Nokia even wants to make it possible for consumers with busy work schedules to remotely enable visitors to enter their homes.

"If somebody rings my doorbell back home," a message is sent that includes a picture of the visitor, Sormunen noted. "I can recognize the guy -- tell him 'Yeah, come on in' -- and open the door."

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