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The future of homes, from Siemens

May 17, 2006 11:25 IST
Following the success of its IPTV (television via Internet protocol) solutions, currently deployed in over 75 broadband service providers' networks across the globe, Siemens Communications, the telecommunications division of Siemens AG, is showcasing IPTV's extended concept,  the 'Smart Home' of the future, to Asia.

The intelligent home of the future is not just about your refrigerator indicating that you have run out of milk; the user is ensured seamless operability between all intelligent devices in the home.

Smart Home will also integrate Siemens solutions in healthcare, communications, entertainment and home security with telecommunication technologies.

Imagine being able to turn on central heating at home from your office PC, using your mobile to set a DVR to record a rerun of Friends, monitoring your teenage daughters' visitors on your PDA, getting SMS warnings from your smoke detector and even video conferencing with your doctors referring to ongoing systems that capture your ECG and blood pressure readings.

Smart Home users would have a simple, secure and manageable user interface to do all of this and more. Their service providers would operate all these applications at their data centres and deliver them over broadband lines. A home gateway will work as their central control centre.

"By the end of 2007, someone would offer a  comprehensive Smart Home solution in Asia, but not on a mass scale,'' said Christian Unterberger, president fixed networks, Siemens Communications. Currently three carriers in Europe and one in Asia Pacific have deployed Siemens' Smart Home solution for trials.

"But operationally, it makes sense to go step by step, and IPTV is the starting platform for the Smart Home solutions," says Unterberger.

IPTV allows broadband service providers to combine telephony, entertainment, and Internet protocol (triple play services) which can be sent to the customers' TV via DSL; the television becomes the hub for entertainment and communication operable via the remote or a wireless keyboard.

Approximately 3.3 million households in Western Europe are already enjoying a bundle of multimedia applications via IPTV but Siemens reckons Asia-Pacific is the next big growth market for triple play services, estimated to account for over 200,000 broadband lines and over 1,000,000 mobile subscriptions by 2008.

ADC (Thailand) commercially launched Siemens' Home Entertainment solutions in March 2005, and has over 7000 users online. Siemens Communications clocked euro13.14 billion in sales in FY 2005.

India's four million broadband users may have to wait another six months or more to enjoy IPTV.  "Siemens Communication India is currently in talks with all telecommunication majors to launch IPTV in India, deployable, if all goes well, within the next six months," said Unterberger.

Currently, broadband adoption in India (3 per cent) trails behind markets leaders like South Korea (62 per cent) and Hong Kong (57 per cent).

Broadband operators beefing up their domestic broadband operations may solve some of that. But then, there would be issues of content protection and bandwidth inconsistencies that network operators need to resolve with content providers.

And finally convincing the consumer that an investment of $150 in the set top box would make successfully converge all their daily activities into one easily manageable function.

(The correspondent's trip to Hong Kong was sponsored by Siemens AG)

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Arati Menon Carroll in Hong Kong
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