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The Web-Enabled Home

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The Web-Enabled Home
So just what is a Web-Enabled Home anyway?

It is possible to use computers to automate and control several different aspects of your home today. However, there are currently several different subsystems for different applications such as home audio, large screen video, security, and communications. So the current state is what used to be called "islands of automation" in industry. Local and wide area networks forced common standards to be developed. It was the use of a different set of common standards (such as HTML and HTTP) that allowed the current World Wide Web to become the useful element it is today. We need the same thing to evolve within the home.

The main interest in the use of technology in the current home seems to be in the following areas and in the order listed.

  1. Communication - both local and distributed
  2. Entertainment - audio, video, computer games
  3. E-commerce - using the web to run the business of the home
  4. Education - continuing education (K-80)
  5. Security - computer, network, and general home (should be higher on the list but is not)
  6. Automation - computer control of home elements

Communication involves the phone for voice messages and the computer for email and instant messaging. With today's busy families, keeping everybody in touch and maintaining an overall calendar are important concerns. Soon, all family members will carry a combination cellular phone/PDA/pocket PC and your home system will maintain an updated status of all activities and the location of all family members. The device you carry will function as a cell phone outside of the house but will automatically switch to using the inside house network and will function as a remote control for all audio/video/security functions.

Entertainment for the whole family will use much of the bandwidth of your home network as well as your Broadband internet connection. A central server will store CD-quality audio, HDTV-quality video, plus providing support for both local and networked computer games.

E-commerce involves paying bills, interacting with your banking and brokerage accounts, buying items online and other similar activities. Soon all interactions with local, state, and federal governments will be web-based. This is now complicated by the fact that every system you need to interact with is different. Hopefully some of the future web plans such as the semantic Web will help you out here. 

Education needs to be a life-long activity not something limited to formal educational institutions. The idea of a static education that you then use in one position all your life has been replaced by the need for ongoing education as needed for different jobs. Broadband access coupled with high-speed graphics and access to large online databases of courses will enable education to be a continuing activity for all family members.

Security: A gateway/firewall system implemented in either hardware or software will sit between your home system and the Internet and provide security and antivirus protection. Other elements such as lighting control and cameras with automatic motion detection will be added for the physical security of your house. You will be able to monitor all of this easily from your cell phone when you are away from home.

Home Automation: Some people will want to add heating/cooling controls and other home automation functions to their home computing complex. This will be easier to implement with new homes although wireless controls, sensors, and actuators will make it more feasible for existing homes as well.

The Distributed Home:  You may have a main home and a vacation home or two different homes (perhaps yours and one for your parents or an adult son or daughter or a college dorm). You want to treat these homes as one distributed home for some or all of the areas mentioned above.


All of the above functions must be integrated and easily controllable (with security provisions) from anywhere on the Internet. One way to achieve this is to turn your home(s) into a distributed web with several tiny servers. Thus, the web-enabled home.


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