The typical modern household contains numerous electronic appliances, made by diverse manufacturers, and the Home of the Future will have more devices by orders of magnitude. Many of these are home networking, automation, and entertainment devices designed to communicate with other devices. Unfortunately, manufacturers often use varied and incompatible hardware and software communications standards. How can this Tower of Babel be converted into a single, integrated system, with all components working together harmoniously? The problem is solved by OSGi: The Glue to Fix your Home Network.
Home Toy Blues
So you’ve got your home theater with HDTV, DBS, STB, DVD player, VCR, Xbox, a television in every bedroom, piped-in stereo in every other room. You’ve got a killer home security system with door and window sensors, motion detectors, video cameras, control console, connection to the police. You have an automatic sprinkler system with programmable watering clock and rain sensor. You’ve got electric heat, central air conditioning, a smart power meter that talks to the air conditioner over the powerline or the power company over the telephone line. You’ve got two PC’s with Ethernet and USB ports, broadband Internet access via cable modem, email, voice mail, mobile phone with infrared port, PDA with RS232 serial port. You’ve got more electronic toys than George Jetson. Ah, that’s the lifeâ€¦
The problem is that you’ve got five remote controls, can’t watch pay-per-view in the bedroom, can’t watch videos in the living room, and can’t program the VCR. You want home security alerts on your mobile phone, home video pictures on your work PC, can’t get either. The sprinkler system, which knows when it’s raining, isn’t speaking to the security system, which knows when the window is open. The power meter knows when electricity is cheap but can’t tell the water heater. One PC has broadband access, the other has printer access, neither can access your PDA phone list. And so it goes.
You are bent but not broken. You are strong, you are invincible, you love a good challenge. Muttering the mantra: “For every technology problem there is a technology fix”, you jump onto the Web and point your browser at a well-known search engine.
It seems that the problem is a basic failure to communicate. How can you get all these things to talk to each other? Put another way, what communication protocols are used by devices in a local network?
Internet Seach for – communication protocol device “local network” yields 17,300 hits
DIY Home Automation at SmartHomeUSA
Whew, that’s quite a few references! Researching these references would yield a list of communication protocols which might include: 802.11a, 802.11b, Bluetooth, CEBus, DAVIC, DECT, EHS, EIB, GSM, HAVi, HomePlug, HomePNA, HomeRF, IEEE 1394, MHP, PSEM, RS232, SCP, SWAP, UMTS, USB, WAP, X10. Each protocol defines hardware, software or both. In the terms of the so-called OSI (Open Systems Interconnect) seven-layer abstract networking model, the protocols define the physical layer, data link layer, perhaps the network and transport layers.
Evidently what is needed is some sort of gateway to connect all the diverse communications standards and protocols in the local home network. It should not be proprietary to a particular manufacturer, but rather, independent and open to specifications of all types.
Another Internet Seach for – gateway independent open specification yields 49,600 hits
The first link shown is to the web site www.osgi.org . This website reveals some interesting information. You dive in with relish.
The Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) was founded in March 1999 with the mission “to create open specifications for the delivery of multiple services over wide-area networks to local networks and devices.” “The Open Services Gateway Initiative is focused on the application layer and open to almost any protocol, transport or device layersâ€¦”
The three key aspects of the OSGi mission are multiple services, wide area networks, and local networks and devices. Key benefits of the OSGi are that it is platform independent and application independent. In other words, the OSGi specifies an open, independent technology which can link diverse devices in the local home network.
The central component of OSGi specification effort is the “services gateway”. A services gateway is a server that is inserted into the network to connect the external Internet to internal clients. The services gateway enables, consolidates, and manages voice, data, Internet, and multimedia communications to and from the home, office and other locations.
That covers “communication protocol device ‘local network'” and “gateway independent open specification”. But what’s all the stuff about services?
There’s much more involved here than simply getting devices to communicate with each other. “The central component of OSGi specification effort is the services gateway that functions as the platform for many communications-based services.” “The Open Service Gateway specification [is] designed to provide a common foundation for Internet service providers (ISPs), network operators and equipment manufacturers to deliver a wide range of Internet services to gateway servers running in the home or remote office.”
In other words, the services gateway acts as a platform for installing and executing software which works in cooperation with devices on the local home network. The software allows external “service providers” to interact with devices in the home network to provide services of benefit to the homeowner.
Some examples of services which might be offered by external providers through the home gateway are:
* pay-per-view movies downloaded to the service gateway, which then distributes the movies to any television in the home.
* downloaded music, purchased or pay-per-play, piped to any room.
* a home security system which can be accessed via mobile telephone by the owner, and continuously monitored by a professional security service.
* an electric power meter that downloads instantaneous electricity prices from a utility company which charges varying rates, and then tells the water heater and air conditioner to minimize consumption when rates are high.
There are other benefits to systems designed to be OSGi-compliant. The specification defines a software execution framework designed to accommodate modular software bundles. This allows new or upgraded software modules to be swapped in and out dynamically via the Internet, without intervention by the homeowner or the need for an on-site installer. The framework is designed to provide standard techniques for all services on the gateway to communicate with other services on the gateway. The open specifications mean that a software system designed to be OSGi-compliant can be extended without compromising the integrity of design. Open specifications also mean that the specification is not closed or proprietary, but available to the public, leading to more competition and lower prices for services. With the exception of so-called native code, which can be used to take advantage of specific hardware features, all software designed to be OSGi-compliant is written in Java, to take advantage of Java’s hardware independence. Hardware independence means the system can be run on any hardware which meets basic requirements, which leads to more competition and lower prices for hardware.
This all sounds great, you think. So who is the provider of this OSGi service gateway? You don’t want to be a sap, stuck with a bunch of goodies only half working–you want to install in your home of the future a service gateway, based on the latest OSGi specifications.
Another Internet Seach for – provider OSGi “service gateway” sap “latest OSGi ” “future home” – 1 hit (currently)
Well, it turns out that installing a service gateway is not a do-it-yourself home project. The hardware needs to fit with whatever home devices you want to connect, the software has to be written to work with the devices, and the home devices have to be designed to work with the service gateway. But cheer up: OSGi service gateways are already available, and are predicted to become wide-spread in the near future. One day soon your OSGi-managed home system will make George Jetson look like a Luddite.