ConvergeX works for smarter homes

Smart home solutions provider ConvergeX is utilising a wide range of technology solutions to create an impact in the Middle East real estate market.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  September 23, 2004

|~|Jostein-Svendsen,-ConvergeX.jpg|~|ConvergeX’s Jostein Svendsen claims that smart home technology has improved dramatically in terms of reliability. The integrator utilises a chip that allows users to build a mesh network, in which a radio signal hop from point to point to reach its destination.|~|UK-based smart home solutions provider ConvergeX aims to use its recently opened office in Dubai Internet City (DIC) to create new business in the burgeoning Middle East property market. The core business of ConvergeX is producing the software that controls household appliances from a central location using a variety of networking technologies. The vendor supplements this by providing an overall solution with its partners tailored to each customer. “We have chosen to open up in the Middle East because it is home to some of the brightest property hot spots in the world, such as Dubai and Qatar,” says Jostein Svendsen, CEO, ConvergeX. “We are looking to work with large property developers and in the retail space. We will target both new developments and existing homes,” he adds. The smart home specialist is in the process of signing up regional partners and plans to use the Gitex exhibition in Dubai, which runs from October 3-7, to identify potential systems integrators and resellers. The vendor plans to have two or three partners in each territory. ConvergeX will not have its own stand at the exhibition but will feature in the smart home section of the Microsoft stand. The ConvergeX system is designed so the user can manipulate all home automation from one device, either fixed or mobile. Smartphones, PDAs, notebooks, PCs and TVs are among the product types that can be used as the hub. The software on the controller is light, comprising an interface, with the main processing power residing on middleware, which is housed in custom-designed PCs. Signals are relayed from the input device to the middleware on the PC and from there to devices throughout the home, such as lights, air conditioning, curtains and thermostats. The system is TCP/IP compatible, which means it will work over a variety of wired and wireless networks, including Ethernet, Powerline, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The vendor can also integrate its solutions with the Barix Barionet, which is a break out box with an Ethernet port to connect from a PC and a variety of ports for connecting to home appliances. The smart home is not a new concept but it has traditionally been dogged by unreliability, issues which the vendor claims are resolved in the new generation of solutions. “Early generation systems were unreliable but this solution has a robust platform, based on Windows XP or CE operating systems (OS) depending on the device, with un-necessary OS parts closed off to increase resiliency,” says Svendsen. The smart home industry has seen several key advances according to ConvergeX and the company is working with technology partners to integrate effective solutions. For example, Scandinavian vendor Zensys has developed Z-Wave technology, which includes a chip embedded in home appliances such as lights and air conditioning units that allows the device to be controlled and monitored wirelessly. “The chip allows you to build a very reliable mesh network. Even if the radio signal can’t travel far enough to reach each point in the network from the central control device, the signal will hop from point to point to reach its destination,” explains Svendsen. ConvergeX is also placing a great deal of emphasis on its use of open standards, with universal plug and play (UPnP) to the fore. UPnP uses internet and web protocols to enable devices such as PCs, peripherals, intelligent appliances and wireless devices to be plugged into a network and automatically recognise each other. IT heavyweights such as Microsoft, Intel and Cisco are throwing their weight behind the standard. The aim is to make plugging devices into a network as simple as plugging a lamp into an electrical socket. ||**||

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