Welcome to the world of open source domotics
by Glyn Moody
Ubuntu on your TV and Android running your refrigerator. Glyn Moody looks at some of the developments announced at the recent Consumer Electronic Show and explains how Linux is the natural choice for intelligent appliances.
Viewers want entertainment, not electronics. They want to relax and enjoy the movie, not juggle remote controls.
Beautiful simplicity is the driving force behind Ubuntu TV. It integrates broadcast, time shift, online box office, personal cloud, apps and disk media experiences – all without wires, connectors or more boxes. It really is just the TV.
This was an interesting move for a number of reasons. First, it showed that Canonical was thinking well beyond its traditional – and frankly rather limited – market of GNU/Linux on the desktop. It indicated that it wasn't content to be pigeonholed as an outfit serving the geekier parts of the population, but wanted to apply open source in mass markets. It was interesting, too, because it demonstrated to people that Ubuntu is, of course, hugely adaptable, and can be applied in other domains. Finally, it was a well-timed move because it turned out to capture perfectly the most important trend at CES: the rise of intelligent home appliances.
The big player in the world of intelligent TVs (an oxymoron, surely?) is Google, and in a pre-CES post it mentioned half a dozen manufacturers that were supporting Google TV. Although the reality turned out to be somewhat less exciting, there were a couple of noteworthy announcements: widescreen TVs from Samsung and LG.
At the heart of the line-up this year are LG’s innovative new smart features – Smart Grid, Smart Diagnosis, Smart Access, Smart Adapt and Food Management – which allow homeowners to manage refrigerators, washing machines, ovens and robotic vacuum cleaners via a smart network. In combination with LG’s signature technologies, the new innovations will deliver big savings in energy, time and expense, helping enrich consumers’ lives.
Here are some of the features offered: Smart Grid enables washing machines, ovens and fridges to make optimum use of power depending on the assumed varying energy rates. The Smart Diagnosis system issues alerts when problems occur. These currently use the display panel but in future will send messages to the owner's smartphone or tablet. It will also give service engineers better information for solving problems.
Appliance owners will be able to monitor and control appliance functions using their phones and tablets. They can also download the latest options for their appliances, such as pre-programmed recipes, wash cycles and the like. LG adds that "Food Management makes it easy to keep track of where everything is in the refrigerator and when it all expires".
That's a pretty cool vision, but the most interesting feature is not mentioned: these systems are all running Android.