Remote control

The notion of the car being an extension of the home was reinforced this week by technology developed by BMW to enable
drivers to remotely check up on their house.

The notion of the car being an extension of the home was reinforced this week by technology developed by BMW to enabledrivers to remotely check up on their house.

The system, which enables drivers to view live pictures of their homes as well as lock doors, control lights, and open windows, is being trialled on a BMW 5 series car as part of the Futurelife House project. This hi-tech home in Switzerland has been occupied by a family since 2001 and is one of a number of similar experiments designed to help engineers develop future technologies.

All of the technology in the house is linked through a central communication system that connects via GSM to an in-car server and can be accessed via a central control system.

The technology is an addition to an in-car web portal offered by BMW as an option on its 5, 6 and 7 series models. This can be accessed through BMW’s Idrive system, an onboard computer and display screen.

Since its 2001 introduction the Idrive system has come in for some heavy criticism for distracting people from driving. But BMW spokesman Gavin Ward said that fears of drivers taking more interest in what is happening in their kitchen than on the road are unfounded as the new system will not work unless the handbrake is on.

The immediate commercial prospects for the system arelimited, said Ward. While the technology certainly works, it is also dependent on the existence of hi-tech homes. But once there are sufficient modern homes around to make such systems viable, Ward is confident that the system will become extremely popular. This, he said, could happen within the next five years.

Futurelife is one of a number of smart home projects investigating the development of hi-tech networked homes. These include Finland’s Future Home project, and a facility in the UK run by Orange. The most recent addition is MIT’s Place-Lab, a residential facility full of clever electronics where researchers are studying the way volunteers interact with new technology.

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