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issue: September 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Guest Editorial
Update on Europe’s Smart Home Platform


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by Luigi Meli, director general, CECED

Further milestones have been reached in the development of CHAIN, the interoperability platform for European household appliances that was launched in late-2003 by CECED (the European Committee of Manufacturers of Domestic Equipment).

Luigi Meli, director general, CECED

CHAIN (CECED Home Appliance Interoperating Network) aims at integrating all household appliances in a virtual network fully open to any communication protocol and proprietary control system embedded in the appliance. It outlines a market-driven roadmap to the final goal—the “smart house” or “intelligent home”—in which all key services and appliances could be controlled and managed, even remotely, through ICT tools and solutions.

Today, the CHAIN framework is ready for implementation into industrially feasible processes. Detailed technical specifications are currently being finalized, and as of press time, the mapping on two leading open communications protocols for home automation—EHS/Konnex and LonWorks—were almost complete and ready for delivery to interested parties.

The release of technical specifications opens the door to the next step: the definition of test protocols by the end of 2004. Following such a schedule, the first certified CHAIN-compliant products could be available by early 2005.

CHAIN is a demanding endeavor carried on by CECED at three levels—technology definition and implementation, marketing strategy, and policy making.
Technology is the cornerstone, managed by a working group of CECED experts led by Fabrizio Dolce of Electrolux. This group faces a demanding task due to the large differences among electrical loads in the home, types of appliance, unit prices, and operating costs, all of which need to be integrated within a multi-layered approach with CHAIN acting as the all-encompassing virtual network.

Technology alone won’t make CHAIN a success without proposing a sound application solution to the end user. As a result, CECED has established a marketing group, convened by Sabine Häring of Miele and Ina Klinge of BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH, that oversees the pre-competitive applications that should be present on all appliances.

As far as policies and rules, CECED pursues a “multi-cluster” approach in dealing with other industry associations that defines a common protocol for intelligent home systems. Such a protocol would be accepted by all related parties if it provides a fully open framework within the home automation system, without imposing any constraint on products and protocols established by each industry or manufacturer. CECED believes this approach is, to the best of our knowledge and experience, the key for getting the EU support: we as an organization plan to present a proposal to the DG Enterprise in Brussels later this year.

As far away as the “intelligent home” may appear, a key application is already close—the actual implementation of home automation solutions focusing on load and tariff management and a more rational, eco-compatible use of appliances. CECED sees this as a valuable starting point due to the very large appliance installed base and the users’ viewpoint approach that we are using to guide the design and development of CHAIN.

We also know that no technology can penetrate the market without being “fully dressed up” with applications: home power-load management is a key issue at the pre-competitive application level in which CECED operates. Users, regulators, and utilities are interested in home power-load management systems, which could help avoid blackouts, while optimizing supply from power plants.

The CHAIN calendar is quite tight, and it has still to go through additional milestones. However, CECED is committed to working with our member companies and other parties (industry associations, regulators, and institutions) to help develop the intelligent homes of tomorrow.

 

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