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  1. Technology
November 29, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

After WANs and LANs, watch out for LONs – don’t worry, you won’t see them called that in Computergram – but the letters stand for Local Operating Networks, and it is the promise of this new concept that has tempted Rolm Corp co-founder Kenneth Oshman back into hands-on management. After taking a string of non-exec posts and lecturing at the University of California at Berkeley since he kissed goodbye to his Rolm creation following its sale to IBM, he is back in the saddle as president and chief executive of Echelon Inc, a company organised in Los Gatos, California in March by the least well-known of the Apple Computer co-founders, A C Markkula. Markkula, who remains chairman, formed Echelon with the dream of pioneering the universal local operating network, defined as a network for controlling – typically home appliances, each of which would become a node on the network. While such things already exist – the Japanese are storming down the path, and there are one or two US and European players, Thorn EMI Plc among them, too – Echelon reckons that there is still a lot of work to do to create something cheap enough and with sufficient utility that every home will have to have one. Each appliance would have its own node control unit, picking up only its own messages off the network. It is not clear whether the Echelon product will use mains electricity wiring or a separate cable – and it is noteworthy that another Apple alumnus, Steve Wozniak, took as his first venture the concept of the universal home control console, but using infra-red communications. He is out of that business now, having sold the technology after his first product made little impact. At all events, Oshman is clearly convinced by Markkula’s pitch – made to him after he’d invited A C to give a lecture at Berkeley: Local operating networks represent the next revolution in the fields of computing and communications. I am convinced that Echelon’s local operating network technology will become the basis of a whole new industry, says Oshman firmly. The challenge of creating this new industry and building its leadership company is what brought me to Echelon. Echelon is a privately held, and investors include Markkula himself, venture capitalist Arthur Rock, Venrock Associates, Apple Computer Inc and Dr Henry Singleton. The company currently has about 40 employees.

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