Intel’s new vision for home control: User-programmable peer-to-peer networks

You can buy a sophisticated home-control system today, but most have two drawbacks: You need a centralized controller to manage everything, along with a professional installer to set it up. Enter a new concept that Intel demonstrated Tuesday at its Research@Intel event in San Francisco: a peer-to-peer network of embedded micro controllers that homeowners can program for themselves.

Intel researchers demonstrated the concept in a booth set up like a tiny apartment. In one room, they had a webcam that recognized hand gestures. A thumbs-up gesture triggered an AV receiver to play music. Hand-swipe movements caused the drapes to open and close. A webcam in another room, mounted to a baby’s crib, was programmed to recognize the baby’s facial features. When the baby cried—they used a photograph as a stand-in—an instant message was sent to “mom’s” smartphone and music began to play to soothe the infant until she could arrive.

The researchers were using tiny hand-built computers—on the scale of a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino—but they said the real thing could be small enough to embed into the devices being controlled. The demo system was using a Wi-Fi network, but an Intel spokesperson said other protocols, such as Z-Wave, Bluetooth, or ZigBee, could be supported as well.

Actions can be programmed in simple code such as HTML 5 or Unified Javascript, and saved as modules. Homeowners would then be able to access these online libraries and program the devices to interact using a simple graphical user interface.

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