High-tech home showcased in new Digital Hub exhibition

8 Dec 2004

The digital home and the technologies that power it are a key part of a new showcase running at the Digital Hub in Dublin’s Liberties. Exhibit7, the seventh in an ongoing series, demonstrates technologies that are either ready to use today or else close to being launched, under the umbrella theme of ‘living’.

The Telecommunications Software & Systems Group, a research department at Waterford Institute of Technology, is demonstrating a networked ‘Home of the Future’, showing the ways of integrating networked various domestic technologies, from the television to light switches and even microwave ovens. The hub of the operation is a HP Media Center PC, which has a specially developed graphical front end intended to manage the user’s lifestyle. The activities accessible from the home page include games, email, music, films and travel in a slick layout, viewed from a large TV screen rather than a PC monitor.

Using middleware developed by WIT for automating devices in the home, a consumer can also control lighting in a room, a webcam via a remote control or infrared keyboard. This software could also be put on a PDA, which would theoretically allow these functions to be carried out when the consumer is off-site. The Home of the Future also has a high definition TV, which displays images in much sharper definition than current standard television sets.

All of the technology on display is available today, although the organisers admit that connecting it all together could require the zeal of a home entertainment enthusiast or hobbyist. It does however offer a snapshot of what the living room of the future could look like.

Visitors to Exhibit7 will also have a chance to see emerging technology for data services delivered over mobile phones. In the past, many of these were located on portal sites run by the mobile operators, but user uptake has been low to date. However, new handsets which have more processing power and memory are now capable of running these portals locally. “It’s about putting these services in front of the user and making it entertaining for them,” explained Mike Brady of Cibenix, the Irish company demonstrating the service.

This kind of portal will most likely be preloaded on upcoming versions of phones when they are rolled out by mobile operators, said Brady. The software on the phone lets users download ringtones or songs and also allows operators to push ‘teasers’ for new data services directly to users’ handsets. “It’s a perfect fit for a 3G operator because it’s rich media,” added Brady.

Another element of Exhibit 7 is an interactive portrait of the Liberties. The Media Portrait of the Liberties is a series of multiple short narratives from the Liberties community on the history of the area, which are delivered to viewers via PDA. It features a mix of specially shot video and archive photographs of the area, with a voiceover telling stories based on a script adapted from the book “Around the Banks of Pimlico” by author Mairen Johnston. As users navigate around the physical streets, the interactive application highlights where a location may have one or more stories attached to it.

The European Biometrics Forum is demonstrating a prototype machine called the Morphokiosk, a multi-biometrics device that gathers and verifies information including fingerprints, facial scans and iris scans from an individual. The device is aimed at helping familiarise people with various kinds of biometric technology as it is likely to be rolled out more widely in airports and seaports over the coming years. The European Commission is currently in favour of facial recognition as a biometric identifier and the US visa waiver programme is based on digital fingerprint records, meaning that travellers are likely to encounter at last one and probably more kinds of biometrics in the near future.

Exhibit7 is open free of charge to the public and runs until March. More information is available at www.thedigitalhub.com.

By Gordon Smith