It takes a former IBM employee to design his home as an IBM mainframe system. But, although the concept may seem early 22 th century, after you give ‘a little thinking, design home as you design the Big Iron can not be so far fetched. I realized this when I visited John Patrick, who has retired to run IBM’s Internet business several years ago. He gave me a tour of the house on the outskirts of the city earlier this month. It has opened my eyes to the challenges and opportunities that the VAR system of the house will face in coming years more and more people demand for this type of technology. Not to mention the challenges we all face when we try to apply advanced technology in our homes.
VAR overcome three major obstacles in the realization of the home system and also executed. First, people do not know what they want, and what you want is not something that most know how to provide VAR. Second, the skill set of most VAR face is very large, and finding the right mix of people to provide a solid solution is not easy. Third, the problem is not technology, but all the usability and performance. Let’s look at each one.
What I see is that most of us do not really know what we want when it comes to high-tech home. For example, people have only a vague idea of what the ‘smart home’ real. Some people want their computers located at strategic points, Internet connection sharing. But then we have implemented, they realize that they do not want to be around their house trying to find documents on a specific PC or can share a printer as well. So the home network becomes more than just a part of the bandwidth. Some people want homes that can be controlled through a Web browser. But then they want to be notified when something goes wrong, and have some understanding of what is happening in their homes when they are geographically distant. And many of us want the delivery of entertainment and more sophisticated ways to interact with our TVs to store your favorite programs, and that is why TiVo is so popular. But then you realize when you have your Tivo should be able to remotely program the unit when not at home, for example.
This section is only human nature: it is better to define your needs, when you see what really high-tech toys. But some of them it is because of the high tech does not really work out of the box.
Problems in distributing this case is that the skill is very great, especially because they demand more and more intelligent that need to bridge the various homes. I learned from my tour of Chez Patrick you must separate your services into separate components. But before they can be separated, it is necessary to identify them. This comes back to my first point, and most importantly, this identification process is not something that most can provide VAR.
Let me give you an example. At first glance, it seems electricity is simple: there is a switch box in the basement, and each switch is connected to a series of outlets or switches in a room or set of rooms that controls it. But this is not really smart enough for a house. You have the power of a special system that you want to run 24 / 7, such as refrigerators and heaters, and other places of power are not critical or that are not even 110 volts, such as mobile phones, safety sensors and touch panels that can operate at low voltages.
What Patrick did was to separate the system in a variety of categories secret. Take as another example of the audio service. The speakers that offer music that is located on the walls of several rooms. Those speakers are connected to the music distribution system can play a variety of channels and a variety of sources, including MP3-based Linux servers located in his basement. But you can not decide to go to the basement to find the right way to play with dinner in order to have a touch panel in the dining room that you can flip through your music and select just the right song to fit your mood. But to do this correctly, you should write code so that the touch panel can access the music library and include a tag ID of the files stored in it.Suddenly, you have to have someone who understands:
* How to rip and encode your entire music library;
* How to see the ID tag of the song on different screens, including PC and touch panels around the house;
* As this information is updated when you add new music to your library;
* How to access the programming interface of the touch panel system, music, music distribution and servers, all can run different operating systems and code base (and can not have two programming interfaces)
And that’s just music. Tougher security, heating and cooling, propane delivery, computer networks, video and various homes for the transaction.
This is where mainframer out in the open, so to speak. In fact, a different wardrobe. Common practice of system design houses to attack anything that has a wire in a single enclosure, so you can access everything from one central place. The problem with this is that you need all the locations in the house that they have some control functions. For example, if you have all your music service in a single enclosure, you may not want to go to the cabinet that when you want to play CDs or DVDs.
When you refer to the old days Systems/360, this is what IBM did with its Systems Network Architecture: a distributed control functions, but keep some of the central processing unit. Patrick’s, has created a separate area in its basement that will handle each service: his propane gas pipe, for example, all end up in the zone, so you can disable the service for an outdoor barbecue from the same place that it can close the valve on top stove or water heater. Sure, you spend ‘a little more for all the pipes to get a “home run” delivery of propane, but it makes for a clean installation and more manageable.
This brings us to our last issue, namely that most of the problems is all about usability and performance, not technology. What Patrick has done to improve usability is to define a series of scenarios on how to live in his house, and the system as “events” must occur as part of daily routine. For example, watching a movie in the living room is dim the lights, bring on the screen, bringing the projector and turn on the sound system. What genius is the way and controls are designed to replace (you want to turn everything off at night when you go to bed, for example) but it still makes things a little ‘consistent and logical in order to change things on the fly (for example, if Letterman is really interested and worth staying at another time).
Patrick is very proud of the solutions which he collects for the common parts are available from Radio Shack. While his home integrators are very experienced, there are some things he wanted done differently, and integrators can not handle. Different technologies should be fairly easy to use and debug, and present a uniform interface so that they can be operated from a variety of interfaces, including touch panels everywhere on the walls, a Web browser, and video screens around the house.
Even the best designed mainframe customization needs a little ‘.And maybe someone else take on the other Patrick innovation when designing the architecture of future smart homes.