Microsoft Has an Operating System for Your House

Researchers at Microsoft have released software aimed at making it easier for homes to be monitored, automated, and controlled using computers and the Internet. It also paves the way for developers to create apps that can be “installed” into homes with numerous different devices to make use of them in new ways.

Although Internet-connected products for the home—including security cameras, thermostats, and motion sensors—are readily available, it can be challenging to install them, and they typically work independently. The new software from Microsoft, called Lab of Things, provides a centralized virtual dashboard for monitoring and controlling different “smart home” devices. It also provides standards for building “apps” for homes with the Lab of Things software installed.

Microsoft researcher Arjmand Samuel announced the Lab of Things software this week at Microsoft’s annual Faculty Summit, held for researchers from inside and outside the company. He said it was needed because the challenges of installing and running collections of home automation devices are holding back research into new possible uses for the technology.

The Lab of Things software “lowers the barrier to deploying field studies in connected homes,” he said, explaining that trials of home automation systems that combine multiple types of sensors and other devices are typically small-scale and short-lived due to the inconveniences for both researchers and the volunteers who welcome them into their homes.

Providing a common platform will help ready technology for consumers who want to automate or augment their home, said Samuel, by making it easier for researchers to try out new ideas and create home automation apps.

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