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Microsoft Now Testing a Prototype of a Home-automation Operating System (HomeOS)

Back in 2010, Microsoft Research shared details about a project called “HomeOS,” a home automation service when coupled with smartphones and cloud services (by using Project Hawaii and Windows Azure), makes the smart home a reality for the rest of us.

“HomeOS provides users and developers with a PC-like abstraction. It presents network devices as peripherals, enables cross-device tasks via applications, and gives users a management interface that is designed for the home environment. By so doing, the HomeOS overcomes the extensibility limitations of the appliance model and the manageability hassles of the network of devices model. At the same time, it brings the “app store” to the home environment, allowing users to extend the functionality of their home by downloading applications,” explained Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections.

Now the company is apparently going forward with real world prototypes of its HomeOS and a HomeStore concept revealed a Microsoft Research’s white paper entitled, “An Operating System for the Home,” published this month on the Microsoft Research site.

Mirosoft Research HomeOSThe white paper never explicitly says that HomeOS is derived from or based on Windows. (There are other operating system research projects and incubations at Microsoft, including Singularity and Midori, neither of which is Windows-based, so it’s not a given that HomeOS is Windows-derived.) But it was built using C# and the .Net Framework 4.0, the new white paper on the technology explained.

Microsoft papers says that HomeOS runs on a dedicated PC, much like a home server, inside a residence:

It runs in 12 real homes and 42 students have developed applications using it. These homes run applications varying from getting e-mail notifications with photos when the front or back door is opened at unexpected times, to seamlessly migrating video around the house. Students have built applications ranging from using Kinect cameras to control devices via gestures to personalized, face-recognition-based reminder systems.

For example, HomeMaestro from the MIT Media Lab shows the power of the HomeOS approach.

In another example, students at the University of Washington recently used HomeOS with Windows Phone 7 and cloud services (from Project Hawaii) to create a door-monitoring system and networked alarm, and to control various home devices using the Kinect sensor.

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The paper also reveals that the concept of a home automation system has its roots in entertainment and pop culture, “Pop culture, research prototypes and corporate demos have all envisioned a smart, connected home where multiple devices cooperate to cater to users” wishes with little or no effort. For instance, in a home with remotely controllable lights, cameras and locks, it should be easy to automatically adjust lights based on the weather and time of day as well as remotely view who is at the door before unlocking it.

You can check out some potential applications of the HomeOS in these student demos.

A paper describing HomeOS will be presented at the 9th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI ’12), which runs from April 25 to 27, 2012, in San Jose, California.

Check out the HomeMastero – HomeOS vidoe demonstration below: — HomeMaestro: a platform that helps end users program their home appliances

The whitepaper is available for download here (pdf).


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