Articles and whitepapers
The Application Home Initiative - TAHI (6/2/2006)
Mike Windsor, TAHI
Barely a week now goes by without another
story in the media about smart services, telecare and the integrated
home. It could be news of a luxurious high-tech housing development
or the introduction of a ground-breaking local authority scheme
to streamline the delivery of services. As often as not, it is the
launch of another covetable bit of entertainment kit - particularly
around Christmas and the January sales when these gadgets and gizmos
are flavour of the month.
Whatever the object of all this media attention,
it is music to the ears of TAHI members. TAHI - The Application
Home Initiative - is a not-for-profit group of innovative businesses
and academics whose mission is to hasten the public's embrace of
smart home technologies and services. It includes household technology
names, FTSE 100 companies, SME businesses and universities. Since
it was set up five years ago, members have been quietly working
behind the scenes to smooth the delivery of truly integrated connected
Earlier this year, TAHI members completed
a 30-month programme of high-level DTI-backed trials in conjunction
with Loughborough, De Montfort and Heriot Watt universities to demonstrate
and promote interoperability between different appliances and services,
and to test consumer attitudes to smart appliances which had been
specially installed in their homes. Other TAHI achievements include
developing principles for an open architecture of smart systems
and creating business modelling tools. And we are currently entering
an exciting new phase to open up the smart home market - but more
of that later.
The smart home is just around the corner
Of course, the glamorous stories inevitably
hog the media limelight: the enviable lifestyles of the rich, cool
and famous in their fabulous hi-tech homes make great copy. The
heartening news for TAHI - and indeed the rest of us - is the speed
at which smart technology is at last becoming much more accessible
and percolating through to us ordinary mortals. After years of Futurama-type
speculation, the media is finally reflecting the fact that the hi-tech
dream is rapidly turning into a reality.
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Smart technology will revolutionise life,
making it more comfortable, convenient, energy-efficient and secure.
A smart house can be defined as one where all electronic equipment
and services - from the washing machine, gas meter, lighting and
heating to the television and sound system - are networked and can
be controlled remotely via the PC and mobile phone. Complete control
over home management is at the householder's fingertips. Home security
can be monitored from the office or holiday beach, emails can be
read on the TV screen, the fridge will order shopping on the Internet,
and if you leave the lights on or a tap running, a monitor will
raise the alarm that resources are being wasted.
Telecare and telemedicine services enabled
by smart technology will allow elderly people to enjoy living independently
for longer, and unnecessary trips to the doctor or hospital will
be a thing of the past. As baby boomers reach retirement in the
next few years and life expectancy climbs, smart home technologies
will play a crucial role in relieving the pressure that threatens
to overstretch the UK's social services and healthcare systems.
What consumers want
The technology is already out there. The
biggest hurdle is not in developing ever more intelligent applications,
but in providing smart services which ordinary consumers actually
want, are prepared to pay for, and can use instinctively, whether
they are aged eight or eighty. Indeed, one of the key findings of
TAHI's recent trials was that consumers want smart products and
services which fit in with their existing homes and lifestyle and
which are simple to use - for example, using their TV to access
interactive services such as information about energy consumption,
local services and home shopping.
Home automation opens up a world of opportunity
to service providers. That is why TAHI is now taking the exciting
step of forging links with those who design and build our homes
and take care of our health and welfare services - they touch people's
daily lives and have a crucial role to play in transforming the
smart home from concept to reality.
Using the TV for Internet banking
Last November we held a cross-industry conference
exploring the commercial reality of the smart home where the speakers
included smart house trailblazers such as BT, Bryant Homes, energy
providers EDF, York University's Centre for Usable Home Technology,
intelligent buildings specialists i&i, Severn Trent Water, Initial
Community Care, system integrators Tridium, and the Office of the
Deputy Prime Minister's national DigiTV community project.
Everyone agreed that the smart home lifestyle
is just around the corner - perhaps only four or five years away.
After all, US research group TDG expects that global home networking
will grow from 35 million homes in 2004 to over 160 million by 2010.
Consequently, TDG also believes that the number of network-capable
devices will increase dramatically, rising from 108 million today
to a staggering one billion Internet and LAN-friendly gadgets in
2010. According to Ofcom, an estimated 99.6% of UK homes should
be connected to a broadband-enabled exchange capable of a 1-2Mb/s
connection by the end of 2005. Most estimates suggest that in 2010,
over half of all UK households will benefit from blended average
broadband speeds of 10Mb/s, which is fast enough to make them video-capable.
The result of the TAHI conference is that
we are currently setting up working groups focusing on the areas
we have identified as key: Energy, Conservation and Green issues;
Social, Wellbeing and Community; Health and Telecare; Entertainment;
Building; and Home Systems.
In the coming weeks we will be bringing together
groups of companies to create world-beating market solutions and
we would like to invite anyone who thinks their organisation should
take part to contact us. The opportunities and the rewards could
For more information please email the Commercialisation
Group Leader, Neil Spence Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
or call him on 01223 422005.
Mike Windsor is the Marketing and Communications
Group leader of TAHI and Managing Director of Digital Living Ltd.