Home, Web-Enabled Home

I have seen the home of the future--and it has an Internet-ready blender.

Or at least it might if X-traWeb Inc.'s MAX catches on. Demonstrated here at Comdex this week, MAX lets homeowners control almost anything in their home from any Web browser.

Previously used in commercial products such as vending machines, the MAX technology can essentially turn any electrical device into a node on the Web, controllable from a browser or even a Web-enabled phone. Besides the blender, the company's model home at Comdex featured a Net-savvy sprinkler system, lights, window blinds, a security system, and other equipment. The MAX system connects devices directly to the Internet and doesn't require a PC.

X-traWeb hopes to work with construction companies to build MAX into new homes, starting in its home state, Colorado. The company also plans to ship versions designed for use in any home, starting at approximately US$225. There will be no ongoing service charges for the system.

Remote Control Adds Value

Computer controlled home automation is no breakthrough; hobbyists have been using wireless products from X10 for such purposes for many years. And big players such as 3Com and IBM have been building home automation into future versions of the networked home.

What's new with MAX is the ability to easily control devices from any remote location that has Web access. In fact, MAX is compatible with X10's equipment and can operate it over the Net.

Does anyone need to turn on a blender from the office? Probably not, but shutting off lights or checking a security system via MAX could make sense. And if you ask X-traWeb President Don Wallace, Net-ready homes will become commonplace.

"Just look at the penetration of the Internet," he says. "It's become how we live--shouldn't it be where we live?"

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