Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Martin Kienzle, Ph.D, Electronics Industry Leader, IBM Research

By Martin Kienzle

At the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week, the hype wasn’t all about the latest smartphone or tablet launch. Exhibitors and attendees alike were abuzz about the rapidly evolving smarter home – a concept that calls for connecting not only your mobile device to the web, but your TV, fridge, washing machine, thermostat and even your carbon monoxide detector. 

The analyst firm Parks Associates forecasts that more than 8 billion devices will be connected to the home network by the end of 2015. The breakthrough that’s driving this mass adoption – cloud computing. Cloud is quickly becoming the common platform to connect these disparate devices into an “Internet of Things.”

With cloud as the common foundation of the smarter home, energy consumption can be monitored as your thermostat adjusts to take advantage of utility rate fluctuations; lights, locks, appliances and home security systems can be turned on and off remotely; and even a carton of milk can reset its expiration date if you leave it out too long.

Perhaps most exciting for home entertainment enthusiasts, a cloud-connected television can recommend new TV shows based on your tastes, and advertising can be targeted to the individual (making it more relevant). Smart TV is already a reality in many homes, and companies like Philips TP Vision, Panasonic, LG and Toshiba are working together as part of the Smart TV Alliance to develop a common platform for interactive Smart TV applications and services hosted on the cloud.

In addition, IBM and Panasonic are teaming up to assess the business and technical value of home appliances connected to the cloud. Powered by IBM’s advanced analytics and cloud technology, the two companies will work together globally to evaluate and improve the user experience of a whole range of connected products and services.

A truly connected smarter home doesn’t mean everyone living in it will have to be glued to a control panel on their smartphone or tablet 24/7. When you’re at home, devices and appliances will learn to respond to voice commands and even physical gestures. In fact, at CES IBM announced a collaboration with STMicroelectronics and Shaspa to further such technology.

To create an open, non-proprietary smarter home ecosystem, the developers of digital services and content must create applications that can run on any device or network. That’s the beauty of an open cloud platform.

As the smarter home and Internet of Things advance, our electronics will soon be able to sense and anticipate our wants and needs even more intuitively. In the past, people had to adapt to their gadgets; in the future, devices and equipment will seamlessly perceive and respond to our needs and requests. As articulated in IBM Research’s “5 in 5″ tech predictions, in the next five years computers will begin to mimic and augment the senses, helping us become even more aware and productive.

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