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September 24, 1998

IBM INTRODUCES ITS HOME NETWORKING PRODUCT

By CBR Staff Writer

IBM Corp is hoping to get in on the ground floor in the developing home networking market, and is working with the building industry to get its technology built into new houses and included in the price of the mortgage. IBM introduced its Home Director home networking system yesterday, and said it was working with the home construction industry through its Authorized Home Systems Integrator program. Home Director aims to deliver a complete home network controlled from a PC or television screen. It says the system will not require special hardware configurations. It integrates the functions of household systems such as security, lighting, heating and air conditioning, as well as connecting up home PCs and peripherals. There are two components to the system: the IBM Home Network Controller and the Home Network Connection Center. The Controller, basically a Windows 95 Netfinity server running Home Director software, is for the command and the control of data, and connects up to the Connection Center via TCP/IP. The controller is ready and able to connect with any of the emerging protocols that might end up being used in home networking, says IBM. The Connection Center is built into the house as it’s being constructed, and supplies up to 16 separate video feeds, a local area network for up to four PCs, up to four separate telephone lines, lighting control through existing power lines, video monitoring through up to four remote in-house cameras, and control of intelligent devices through low-voltage wiring. An IBM WorkPad will be used as a control pad. Clearworks Inc in Houston, Texas, and Advanced Protection Systems in San Diego, California are two of IBM’s authorized integrators, and it has signed up firms in nine states to date. Projects in a number of gated community housing developments are underway. IBM estimates the cost of a home network in a house costing $250,000 would be 3% to 4% of the mortgage cost. IBM went to Westboro, Massachusetts-based Savoy Automation Inc for some of the key technology behind Home Director. Savoy, which developed the CyberHouse product, was founded by Dr David Nelson, co-founder of Apollo Computer Inc and one of the forces behind Apollo’s Domain networking system, later NCS. Apollo was eventually acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. Nelson was also the founder of Fluent Inc, now Novell Inc’s Advanced Services division. But IBM says it’s keeping track of current standardization efforts in home networking, as is involved in the Home Radio Frequency Working Group, the HomePNA phone networking alliance and the HAVi Home Audio Video specification proposed by consumer electronics companies, and will incorporate any technology that becomes important in the future.

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