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Microsoft tests "smart home" waters with HomeOS

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May 1, 2012

Microsoft's HomeOS provide a central hub through which various household devices can be co...

Microsoft's HomeOS provide a central hub through which various household devices can be controlled

Microsoft is looking to unify electrical appliances within the home and establish itself in the burgeoning “smart home” market with the development of HomeOS. Essentially a lightweight “smart home” operating system that aims to make it easy for users to manage their home networks and ease the creation of applications by third party developers, HomeOS is designed to provide a central hub through which various household devices can be controlled.

Like a personal computer that instantly recognizes attached devices such as a USB mouse, Microsoft is seeking to overcome the problem of getting various, currently incompatible devices to communicate with each other. This would make adding new devices to the network as simple as plugging in a USB mouse to a computer.

The current prototype HomeOS system, which includes support for devices such as light switches, security cameras and TVs, is a Windows system running on US$350 worth of hardware through which all commands are relayed. Microsoft Research has demonstrated the simplicity and intuitiveness of the system using the HomeMaestro app on a Windows Phone that lets users set up “rules” that trigger an appliance – turning on a lamp when opening a door, for example. These rules can also be chained together to perform more complex behaviors involving multiple devices.

Google’s Android@Home project promises similar functionality, but maybe Microsoft’s ace in the hole will come from the HomeOS Homestore. Following in the footsteps of Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market, this is an app store of sorts that will allow users to find and install third party apps. Like the Android model, developers can target a type of device of a single device, meaning users will have the benefit of apps made for niche devices.

With the amount of technology now found in the average home only set to increase, it seems it’s only a matter of time before someone is able to bring the various devices together under the one roof, as it were.

While Microsoft certainly has the financial and technological teeth to put it in a good position to lead the smart home charge, there's still quite a few steps it needs to make before HomeOS is ready for primetime. As it will probably struggle to launch a home revolution on the back of the struggling Windows Phone platform alone, making the “Home Maestro” home control app compatible with Android and iOS would probably be a good start.

Source: Microsoft Research

The video below shows the prototype HomeOS system being demonstrated using the HomeMaestro app.

13 Comments

With Microsoft's history of software security and software vulnerabities, I wonder how many of these homes with HomeOS would get hacked and robbed before they have a patch for the software?

BigWarpGuy
2nd May, 2012 @ 05:50 am PDT

Unless your Bill Gates or Mitt Romney I don't think you need your whole house wired. I can see turning on your heater before you get home or even checking your security camera if you are that paranoid but the rest seems to be an answer looking for a problem.

The Hoff
2nd May, 2012 @ 06:25 am PDT

No thank you Big Brother. I'll control my own energy consumption with my wallet.

Hmmm...
2nd May, 2012 @ 09:05 am PDT

The only thing Microsoft ever did for me was to make me smart enough not to use their products.

Personally I feel that there is a certain novelty to automation, it's also a definite target for an axe in a moment of lucidity.

I think I will stick to paper and pencil - and hand written lists and manually operated everything.

Somehow my tolerance for BS has grown incredibly thin when it comes to computers, corporate moron software and ideologies.

"Ummmm what - you mean there is NO way to switch off the power saving feature of automatically powering down my whole house after 10 minutes of inactivity? - I am having a bloody bath for christs sake!!!!!"

Mr Stiffy
2nd May, 2012 @ 09:19 am PDT

Funny, that looks -awfully similar to android@home. Well, Microsoft never had much originality anyway, but they would do better trying to buy up or rip off Start-ups than Google or GE.

By the way, I note that you refuse to call Android Market by it's new name, "Google Play". Good call.

Charles Bosse
2nd May, 2012 @ 09:46 am PDT

i don't know if this is necessary yet at the home level, but i use programs like this to help run and maintain large buildings, and it works awesome. i only wish i could do more with the systems i have now. i would like to see more of this aimed at the commercial building and mid rise / highrise apartment buildings that i work with, it simplifies my job immensely even with the limited ability's current systems allow.

drgnfly004
2nd May, 2012 @ 11:16 am PDT

Thanks but I'll stick to HAL, Home Automated Living, which is voice activated knows which room i am in and can even tell me what the weather is outside.

Ryan Gribble
2nd May, 2012 @ 11:40 am PDT

google smarthome, click on the insteon link, just saying, all of my lighting is LED in my home and uses quaint manual switches so if I leave a light on I don't care, the heating is programmed. this seems like a needless expense, I can get off my hairy white ass to turn things on and off, oh the stress! turning on a light, turning it off, perhaps I should file for disability, yeah sarcasm at the end

Bill Bennett
2nd May, 2012 @ 07:44 pm PDT

I'll tell you what all this will lead to !

But before, anybody remembers HOHM or the other POWERmeter thing from the other guys? circa 2009/10? discontinued both after about a year...

As mr. Stiffy tells it so much better than me with a lot of humour: we do not need all of these tools as they are presented us in half finished, almost tasteless incarnations.. Yeah, tasteless!

But I DO need tools which intelligently and transparently helps me monitor my energy usage, and helps me save energy that I can SIRI.

So as with the tablet thing we are just waiting the real incarnation, the category definer...

sinan
3rd May, 2012 @ 12:08 am PDT

I just can't wait for the privilege in being the first on my block to get to reboot my house weekly, do periodic update that causes the house equivalent of the blue screen of death, subscribing to costly antivirus/anti-spyware "home edition", having to upgrade my obsolete appliances every 18 months and relearning a new OS so I can make toast, running two dozen 30-watt CPUS 24-7, deal with opting out/unsubscribing from random promotional products my appliances think I need, and hackers knowing exactly what I have in my house, what's being used, and when from another continent.

sk8dad
3rd May, 2012 @ 01:45 pm PDT

I can only see the potential of such technology IF it is designed to SIGNIFICANTLY reduce energy consumption rather than focus on automating trivial tasks. Its time to get real!

Brendan Dunphy
15th May, 2012 @ 03:56 am PDT

OMG, They still don't get it. The burgeoning “smart home” market has languished in the niche of high-end new homes with professional installation, or with geeks who'll do it themselves. One reason for that is the need to set up rules. HomeOS lets users set up rules to trigger actions such as turning on a lamp when opening a door, but even when simplified, setting rules for each new device or occupant behavior is too complex. A truly "smart" house must learn, communicate and react automatically without rules.

Wayne Caswell
12th August, 2012 @ 01:45 pm PDT

WOW!! This is exactly what I am looking to install in my new home. I have looked at HomeSeer and MControl but if Microsoft can deliver an easy to use rules based system controlling my lights, security, doors, heat and air, energy management and entertainment needs I would buy in a heart beat. How can I get connect with the HomeOS team.

Coolsane2007
3rd January, 2013 @ 04:01 pm PST
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