Intel Targets Home Management System Market

Intel released a reference design for a new home energy automation system yesterday, furthering its effort to target the nascent market for domestic energy management systems.

The Intel Home Energy Management Reference Design is aimed at appliance manufacturers and utilities, which Intel hopes will use it to create home energy automation systems.

The reference design includes a touch-sensitive screen, similar to modern smartphone touchscreens, displaying various energy management applications for users. A software stack is included that allows for other third-party applications to be built on top of the operating system.

Other features include the ability to connect to devices via the Zigbee wireless sensor communication standard, or via Wi-Fi. The design also includes an application programming interface that allows other devices around the home to be integrated with devices based on the reference platform.

Executives from Intel demonstrated how plugging an appliance into a wireless power socket adapter would enable a device based on the design to monitor its energy consumption.

The firm demonstrated the Intel Home Dashboard, a proof-of-concept device designed to showcase some features of the new design.

"It's an ATOM-based device that provides relevant and detailed information on your overall electricity consumption and usage patterns," said Chris O'Malley, marketing manager for Intel's Embedded and Communications Group. "It also delivers advanced features that enable consumers to take proactive energy-related action."

The demonstration device includes the ability to compare home energy usage to that of neighbours, along with an application to measure the level of energy generated by solar panels attached to a home.

It also allowed users to see the percentage of home energy use individual appliances consume, and included other applications designed to make the unit a hub for home communication. For example, a video recording application allowed family members to leave messages for each other, while a transportation application let them plan their journeys for the day.

Other features included a "goodbye" function that automatically puts a house into a user-configured off mode when the last person leaves for the day. When in this mode, the device would automatically turn off so-called "vampire" energy devices that consume energy in standby mode, while also setting thermostats to predefined levels.

Intel is one of a number of technology firms investing heavily in the potentially lucrative market for smart meters and energy management devices. In April the company co-signed a letter to president Obama along with more than 40 other firms, asking him to help make energy usage information available to every home in America.

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