CREATE the home of tomorrow, today.
It sounds like a tagline from a cheesy infomercial, but that was the task Waterford IT's Telecommunications Systems and Software Group (TSSG) was set by the Digital Hub in Dublin for its current technology exhibition, Exhibit7@The Hub.
The task was duly accomplished. Using simple, affordable technology, including a common-or-garden PC, TSSG has set up the livingroom of the future right next to the Digital Hub's reception area.
TSSG was set up eight years ago as an independent research group affiliated with WIT. Its exhibit at the Digital Hub is a small sample of its applied systems work which, as the name suggests, focuses on practical uses for telecommunications systems and software. The lights, heating and home entertainment centre in the model home are all controlled by an ordinary PC tucked inconspicuously beneath a bookshelf in the corner. Said PC, meanwhile, can operate any equipment hooked up to it via the touch of a key or the click of a mouse.
That may not be a quantum leap in time-saving or convenience for the average homeowner in itself but, according to TSSG's Claire Fahy, having your appliances plugged into the home computer can be very useful.
With a simple, free software package downloadable over the internet, for example, the PC can be instructed to turn lights or heating on and off via a text message from your mobile phone. The communication can run both ways. Hooking up the computer to the alarm system for instance, could give the homeowner the option of receiving a text message alert if the alarm is set off.
Networking appliances and computers to enable greater automation and convenience in the home has been a favoured theme of some of the world's biggest technology and consumer electronics companies in recent years.
Much of their enthusiasm centres around the possible benefit of such developments as wireless network technology, wi-fi access points and third-generation mobile phone technology.
Fahy said however that for those without the necessary wads of cash to invest in such high-end gadgetry there are much more affordable options which can produce impressive results.
The hardware to control lighting in a room can be bought for as little as 20, for example, wired to a PC and run with freely available software.
"I think people have a notion that it's going to be quite expensive to kit out yourself, but we were surprised to find that you can actually quite cheaply kit out your home, " said TSSG's Claire Fahy.
"The idea was to demonstrate things that are actually out there, " she said.