Wed, Aug 18, 2004 - Page 15 News List

Living Well

The home of the future is expected to be a place where computers do all the thinking for you

DPA , Duisburg

The "coolbox" also makes the kitchen into the household's central circuit board, with other devices controlled by the fridge. The appliance can also play back music and films.

Even if smart living makes sense in theory, most of home networking in real life is currently limited to entertainment electronics.

Many of the devices from this technology branch can already communicate with one another thanks to the wireless WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) standard. "The computer and audiovisual worlds are increasingly in step when it comes to the living room," explains Sony's Nils Seib.

The core pieces tend to come from computer technology.

"The computer is the server and archive of the home network. It plays the central role as digital shoebox for collecting everything," Seib says.

All multimedia content stored on the server are dished out through the network media receiver, a little silver box that communicates with the audiovisual devices in the house, either with or without cables.

The user makes selections through a menu on the television that shows all linked devices. Unlike many other manufacturers, Sony has elected against a so-called proprietary solution.

This means that the network media receiver can work with more than just Sony brand components. "You're completely free in terms of choosing output devices," Seib claims.

Philips is chasing a similar dream. The Dutch firm offers a slightly different twist: their devices can communicate with one another without the help of a computer as middleman.

A wireless digital media receiver that looks like a flat DVD player bridges the "media gaps." Their networked entertainment center runs absolutely wirelessly, with content streamed from the PC or Internet.

Philips has also avoided the closed-solution model. "We purposely avoided developing our own standards, since nobody buys devices from just one brand."

Much more important is user-friendliness, even for very complex devices, he says. "You need to be able to feel comfortable with the machines without being a computer expert."

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