The Intelligent Living ’97 conference was held in Hanover November 10-11, 1997. I was in Hanover to make a presentation about the marketing of the CEBus standard and the Home Plug’n Play Specification, on behalf of the CEBus Industry Council (CIC). Over 60 executives from major European companies gathered to hear presentations on the Home Automation industry in Europe. One of the focal points of the conference was a progress report on the convergence process for the three major protocols presently in use. The industry associations for BatiBUS, EIB and EHSA have agreed to converge towards a common standard. As you can imagine, this is no easy task, made more difficult by the many different standards for electricity and heating found in the different countries. The basic approach is to take different elements from the existing protocols. One can only speculate on how the choice is made between protocols belonging to different associations. It was impressive however to see the united front as to the absolute necessity for a common standard.

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Many interesting products and applications were shown at the conference. Products ranging from the Java refrigerator to integrated building control systems showed great promise. Other presentations on systems for care-giving for invalids and handicapped persons showed another avenue for useful and cost-effective products. Unfortunately, many of these products will have to be reworked to conform with the convergence standard.

The merged standard has several different levels, from installation of limited function plug and play devices to installer-required devices. Several speakers indicated that tests with consumers showed that the plug and play concept did not actually work in real life. This suggests that manufacturers should test both their products and the instructions before going to the market.

Several researchers pointed out that consumers did not understand and had negative perceptions of such terms as “Home Automation”, “smart”, “intelligent”, etc. On the other hand, they were favorable to the solutions put forward by the industry. This suggests that our industry put the emphasis on solutions and benefits instead of categories such as HA.