A Refrigerator? No that's a Peripheral in Microsoft's HomeOS


A Refrigerator? No that's a Peripheral in Microsoft's HomeOS
Watching and controlling home surveillance cameras from your smartphone. Remotely setting all the energy devices in your house.
These have been the stuff of home automation dreams for years, but now Microsoft, hoping to move things along, is releasing new details on progress made by its HomeOS research project.

In a new video and white paper, the technology giant presents the platform, which treats virtually any electronic device in the home as a controllable peripheral.

The research paper, An Operating System for the Home,which we looked into last year,mentions that the platform has been running as a prototype in a dozen homes for four to eight months, and that a variety of applications have been built by students and researchers.

'A Single Logical PC'
The idea of a connected home is not a new one, and dozens of companies and labs have discussed, developed, and proposed concepts and solutions in recent years. In 2010, for example, Microsoft released a white paper about HomeOS, along with a HomeStore for apps, drivers and drives.

The newly released research paper and video describe the prototypes and applications that have been developed from that concept. Home automation and control has not yet achieved critical mass because of such factors as technical complexity, a huge array of manufacturers for home devices, lack of standards, setup time, and cost.

Microsoft's newest research attempts to address all of these issues. Microsoft's proposed solution, as the paper states, is to create a platform where "all devices in the home appear as peripherals connected to a single logical PC," which could be a smartphone or tablet.

The company said the HomeOS platform has been under development for more than two years. Microsoft has also had a prototype smart home in operation in Redmond, Wash., the company's headquarters, for some time.

The key aspects of the platform are a device-agnostic kernel, and protocol-independent services that allow developers to address simple abstractions in order to access devices, rather than the devices themselves. HomeOS supports several existing device protocols, such as Z-Wave and DLNA.

Applications developed for the HomeOS platform include one that generates an e-mail notification with photos snapped by in-home cameras whenever a front or back door is opened at unexpected times or if the doorbell rings, face-recognition reminder systems that are keyed to individual household occupants, and Kinect cameras that provide in-the-air gestural control for standard devices.

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