The metalTIC – Digital Home project (http://www.metaltic.org), carried out by the Domotics and Ambience Intelligence group at the University of Alicante along with the Federation of Metal-working firms in the Province of Alicante (FEMPA for its Spanish abbreviation, http://www.fempa.es/), had the aim of designing and developing a show room which simulates a home with the latest technological advances in the fields of information, communication and control technologies to provide services at home, with different objectives depending upon the addressee:
With this, metalTIC – Digital Home project, has aims in four different aspects:
The house is about 50 square meters big and it has a living room with integrated kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom (where the latest most-innovative information, communication and control technologies have been integrated to offer different services in the home, organizing different aspects such as energy control, surveillance and security, comfort and leisure, communications, accessibility and management).
Given that two of the objectives are training and innovation, instead of choosing a technology with which to develop the whole system, a wide range of technologies have been chosen, both open and proprietary, wired and wireless. For this reason, one of the biggest efforts has been to develop an integrating element, which allows communication among different technologies and subsystems.
With these requisites very different technologies have been integrated; some open technologies such as KNX, LonWorks and DALI (lighting), the EnOcean wireless technology, and the proprietary INELI technologies (one of FEMPA’s member enterprises) which uses a CANopen bus and also the technology from Fagor (for home appliances). Likewise, in some cases it has been necessary to directly generate control signals for engines. Currently, other technologies such as Zigbee and RFID are being integrated.
In order to avoid duplicate sensors or actuators with each of these technologies, complete subsystems or particular devices have been deployed each using only one of the aforementioned control technologies. KNX, for instance, controls different lighting sets, which cover a wide range of incandescent, halogen, fluorescent (discharge) and LED lamps. The installation of different lighting technologies will allow the development of future projects regarding the evaluation of electric consumption. KNX also allows the activation and deactivation of electric sockets and the advanced control of blinds, shades and canopies. KNX sensors have been installed such as buttons and switches, indoor/outdoor temperature probes, presence sensors, rain control, wind, and outdoor lighting.
The DALI standard controls RGB-LED lamp sets, and fluorescent lamps; being able to switch them on, off, shift their state, or dim them either in absolute or by-step terms.
Elements using Lonworks have been integrated for electricity consumption monitoring, and for outdoor lighting management.
EnOcean has been used to create a self-powered wireless sensor network. These devices are buttons, door sensors and temperature probes in the underfloor heating system.
CANopen, the protocol used by INELI’s proprietary system, has been used in the management of technical alarms (fire, intrusion, gas and water leaks) and for opening/closing gas and water electrovalves.
RS485 has been used to control and adjust HVAC machinery and to obtain information from the consumption counters. Modbus is being used on top of RS485, an open, easily-implementable protocol in the application layer.
RS232 has been used to obtain information from the solar panel control system, in order to determine whether grid electricity supply is needed or not. It also obtains information about the amount of energy left in the batteries. It is also used to notify the user via SMS of any triggered alarm using a GPRS modem.
One of the most interesting aspects in the project is the big effort made to integrate all these technologies. To achieve this integration, an automaton offering a hardware-software platform has been used which combines the industrial standard IEC-61131 in order to allow programming with the benefits of an embedded PC architecture. The real potential of such a configuration is easily observed in the development of programming modules which integrate both proprietary and standard systems together. This gives the services or applications an independence of the underlying technology and increases the possibilities in the development of value-added services.
One of the most important aspects in the project is the operating system in use (middleware), developed to achieve integration among the offered services. This middleware will be bound for independence between lower hardware-related layers and higher application-related ones. There has been a bond between the development of this layer and the artificial intelligence integrated in the system, as well as the desired generalization level. This middleware allows a complete interoperability among all the aforementioned control systems, which is one of the most relevant, desirable features currently under research in many open-platform-related projects in the field of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL). The services being offered by the system are specified under the Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) R4, and the components in the system have been defined and OSGi packages. Likewise, an API-based high-level accessibility solution has been implemented in order to guarantee the interoperability with all kinds of interfaces. This API (Application Programming Interface) provides a SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) solution using REST-based Web Services. This way, the client node obtains from the system all data needed to transparently build a user-adapted interface.
The user-system interaction environment is a fundamental component, because it will allow the control over the system and, therefore, the possibility of enjoying all its features. All data needed to operate the system and show the results in a user-friendly way have been analysed. A study about the information the system may provide has been carried out, potential users have been consulted, and relevant information has been chosen along with the way to display it.
For instance, next to the main entrance, a large touch screen is found. This allows the user to interact with all the functionalities the digital home system provides. Also, all other rooms have more reduced screens or keyboards in them which allow access to local-reach functionalities.
Likewise, interaction with the home can be achieved through the television. In this case, the communication can be done using a keyboard or a system made up of infrared sensors, gyroscopes and accelerometers (to reduce costs, a Wiimote from Nintendo is used).
Also Vocali, a natural language recognition system from Invox has been included. It allows running commands by using speech. This interface, provides not only comfort, but is of great use to persons with reduced mobility or visual impairment. Among other services, using speech lights in all rooms can be switched on, off or dimmed; blinds, shades and canopies can be raised or lowered; doors can be opened or closed; the heat pump can be switched on and off; HVAC grilles can opened or closed; and all programmed ambiences can be chosen (such as when we go to sleep, we leave the house, and so on).
Likewise, audio message generation for interaction with residents has been added. In particular, to welcome people home or to warn about technical alarms due to water or gas leaks, or fire. This same system is being currently used to interact remotely with the resident in case of a fall.
Another way of interaction which has been developed consists of a mobile-based interface. In this case, interaction is achieved by using a mobile phone (smartphone), having access to all functionalities. Nevertheless, the system is different from others, as interaction can also be done visually through a number cameras installed throughout the rooms. For this, virtual remote controls for each device have been developed. These greatly facilitate the execution of commands. Furthermore, immediate visual confirmation is received as feedback.
This mobile-based interface also offers a variant for the visually impaired, in which the phone interacts with the user using voice, and the user interacts navigating through menus either pressing buttons or making gestures on the touch screen.
Finally, an Internet-based remote home control and management system has been developed. This allows the same functionality provided by the main touch screen in the home. In addition, all rooms of the house can be visualized.
In some cases, the human-environment interaction needs of people with impairment (either motor, visual, cognitive or in hearing) have been taken into account:
In short, this home-laboratory is a tool of great value to FEMPA, as it serves as a showroom for the different installer enterprises and groups which are part of the federation. It shows them how to adapt to the new times and new trends like power saving, sustainability, automation, integral building management, security, accessibility, etc. while serving as a vehicle for the exchange of knowledge and experiences among members of these groups (installers of: plumbing, electricity, renewable energies, HVAC, metalwork, etc.). Also, its versatility allows the development, validation and addition of new technologies and services for the digital home.
The fact that, all functionalities are readily available through the use of an API, is of special interest in the field of AAL; as this allows fast, straightforward service and interface prototype development for its validation in MetalTIC – Digital Home. An example of this is the recent INREDIS project validation in our environment. This high availability is allowing the current development of a wide range of human-environment interaction interfaces. In particular, interfaces for mobile devices have been developed for Android, Windows Phone 7, iOS (iPhone and iPad), iFreeTablet, Microsoft Surface, … Given that the whole system allows interoperability, work on accessible design for all offered services is being carried out. For instance, alternative or augmentative communication systems are planned to be added.