ABB and Bosch in plans to establish open Smart Home standard

October 30, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Electrical engineering companies ABB and Bosch, networking giant Cisco and Korean consumer electronics provider LG have plans to develop an open software platform for Smart Home control applications, enabling users to control lighting, heating, and other home appliances from their tablets, laptops or smartphones. The companies already announced to launch a consortium that will drive the development.

The goal is to develop an open data exchange architecture that enables devices and appliances to communicate among each other irrespective of the make or brand. In addition, they plan to offer additional middleware and application software. At present, there are certain de-facto standards in place which serve specific niche applications. An embracing general standard that could connect all electric controls and domestic appliances from light switch to shutter motor and washing machine does not, however, exist. The consortium plans to enable appliances to exchange data and instructions in a standardised way. Connecting various devices in the home would be a further step towards the "Internet of Things" in homes.

The platform will be available for all hardware manufacturers, software developers and services providers, the consortium said in a release. It will combine a multitude of services; examples are energy management, security, comfort and infotainment. It will also enable novel business models. For instance, software developers could provide and sell their apps across this platform. Consumers would not be forced to commit themselves to a proprietary technology, effectively excluding appliances from other vendors.

Such a Smart Home could, for instance, determine by means of sensors and software that a window is open, and assess this information against the background of the current weather forecast. Then the system could close the windows automatically to protect the home.

While such solutions are available today, they typically cannot communicate among each other, and existing solutions are not always compatible. The consortium of four intends to create a common language that enables the appliances to exchange data. These standards will define the rules and communication architecture for a Home Gateway which in turn organises data exchange within the home and with the internet. As soon as the higher-level standards will be defined, compatible appliances will be able to utilise existing communications techniques such as WiFi, ZigBee or KNX to establish communication channels.