The Service Oriented Home

I had a meeting with a vendor earlier today and at one point, he said in jest, “I’m sure you’ve got some web services around your house.” I replied, that I didn’t, which I don’t. But I certainly thought that there’s plenty of opportunities for it. I was just going to leave it at that, but then I got home and the first entry in my news reader waiting to be read was a story from The Unofficial Apple Weblog on the Indigo Home Automation and Control Server. I decided then it must be a sign.

First off, there’s absolutely no reason SOA can’t be applied in the consumer world. I’ve previously blogged about SOA for schools, but this is the first time I’ve thought about SOA for the home. I don’t have any of the home automation technology in my house (i.e. X10), but I’m at least aware of it and what it can do. While X10 is definitely a de facto standard, why shouldn’t all the device in our home be web services based? Now, it probably isn’t cost effective to embed a SOAP stack in every lightbulb. Besides, X10 works just fine for that. There are plenty of integration and process problems in the house, however. Why do you think that convergence (i.e. integration) has been a theme of CES for the last 5 years? If all of the devices in our house had a standardized interface and spoke a common language, there could be great potential. I’d love to have a programmable oven that I could push cooking instructions to from the recipe I’ve got online. What about pausing the TV or at least turning down the volume when the phone rings? How about a programmable thermostat that actually taps into the various weather services available to really optimize power consumption? The same could hold true for an automated sprinkler system.

There’s a ton of research dollars that is being poured into the “digital home” right now, but how many of the vendors doing so are actually thinking about it as a service oriented home, with open standards and open technology? Unfortunately, the focus right now is on media, which means DRM, which means closed and proprietary. The AppleTV is a nice device, but the piece that missing, in my opinion, is the ability to stream to any monitor in my house. I’m not about to pay $299 for every single TV. Give me a $299 server, and some $50 access points to hook up to the various screens in the house, and now it’s beginning to look promising. We have two DVRs in our house, and it just sucks when I want to watch a show in our living room, only to remember that we had recorded it downstairs because something else was on upstairs. So, my advice to all of the vendors out there dealing in the digital home is to start thinking about the service oriented home, and giving the consumer open services to be able to do things the way we’d like.

2 Responses to “The Service Oriented Home”

  • A few years ago, Kodak was working on a standard called CPXe for ordering photo prints, sending prints from pharmacy kiosks, home printers, and home computers to photo printing companies. The plan was to link it in with their “Easy Share” digital cameras and with printers also, so that these devices would communicate up with photo rendering service providers via SOAP. I saw a nice demo of this in Kodak’s HQ in Rochester back in 2002. It was interesting to map a security and management layer on this SOA.

    I always saw this as the first example of how appliances (well, printers and digital cameras anyway) would expose Web Services. Unfortunately, CPXe never seemed to really catch on, though I don’t think the technology itself was at fault. A pity, since it was a nice early example of an SOA that would have encompassed the home.

  • SOA for the home, part 2…

    I’m listening to the latest Technometria podcast from IT Conversations where Phil Windley and his gang have a discussion with Ben Galbraith. At 53:45 into the podcast, Phil asks Ben about his home automation efforts that he’s incorporating…

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