Smart House Projects

There are many projects carried out by the research groups on Universities and by Industry that investigate Intelligent Houses. The projects focus on various elements from the design guidelines and requirements to actual implementations of an intelligent house. The researches address the hardware problems of the technology together with the security, privacy or social issues related to Intelligent Houses. Below there is a list of the most interesting and valuable projects together with the short description of each of them.


Phillips carries out a number of reserches into the house technologies. All the projects are available on the Phillips ambient intelligence research site.

One of the project carried out by Phillips is called WWICE, which stands for World Wide Information, Communication and Entertainment. The project focuses on communication within the house. The key element is a portable screen that can easily link to all the devices present and serves for both control purposes and for exchange of multimedia. Any media displayed or played on any screen or speaker in a room can be transferred to the portable screen and vice versa. Also a number of the devices within the house are connected with each other, which allows the inhabitants to use the resources provided by any piece of equipment in any room in a house. Additional functionality is the concept of connection between different houses. So friends can watch the same movie or listen to the same music while having a video chat. All actions are controlled by the user, through the portable screen, so this is an example of a controllable house.

Another project carried out by Phillips is called PHENOM. Its infrastructure relies on connection between different devices in a house. So for example a photo album could be displayed in any place in the house. Additionally there is a portable touch screen device that can be used for managing the display of different resources. Both projects mentioned above are being tested in a place called HomeLab. It is a laboratory, where Phillips is testing their projects. There are some volunteers that live in a house for a given period and the researchers can observe their interactions with the system. This makes the projects human centred and allows answering the most important question of automated houses - are humans going to actually benefit from the technology and what would be the influence of the house automation on people. Although the PHENOM prototype appears to be limited to displaying photos, the underlying infrastructure is designed to learn the users preferences automatically, so this is an example of an intelligent house project.

Easy Access is another project researched by Philips. The project deals with the interaction between people and a large database with multimedia resources. In the particular implementation that was carried out by Phillips, the database contained large music library. The interface allowing a user to choose a song was implemented using voice recognition technology. In particular a "query-by-humming" functionality was created. The system is capable of recognizing the song using a short sample that was hummed by the user. Event though such functionality is very narrow in its usage, it is interesting as it deals with much complicated voice analyse then regular speech recognition. And the project, being successful reached the "Internet-connected audio jukebox" implementation. Although the "query-by-humming" interface is very advanced, it is directly controlled by the user, so this is another example of a controllable house.

E2Home company

Ericsson and Electrolux have created the E2Home company, which conducts research and development of electronic household services for automated houses. The company offers various applications that are controlled by a central terminal located usually in the kitchen. From such touch screen it is possible to control lights, alarms, electronic locks, energy usage and other parameters of the house. Also there is a feature of easy communication with services outside of the house for example booking common areas in the neighbourhood like a laundry. Additionally it is a possibility to access the home services when an inhabitant is for example at work by using a mobile phone or Internet. Again, the advanced features developed by theE2Home company are directly controlled by the user, so this is an example of a controllable house.

While developing all the above mentioned functionalities e2Home is focusing on the aspects that they find most important. Those are the user friendly interface, security, privacy and the relevance of the services. And what is particularly interesting in the e2Home efforts is the fact that it succeeded in the real life implementations. Besides of the typical houses for testing the e2Home products, a Ringblomman condominium in Stockholm, was created. The condominium consists of 59 IT apartments, each of them equipped with the control panel providing the functionalities offered by E2Home Company. Hence the inhabitants have control over their house or can for example check their emails from the terminal. There is a great focus on communication with the condominium itself for example booking the common areas like laundry or sauna, contacting the administrator or ordering some food. The investment was really popular and all the flats were sold out long before the end of the construction.


The Japanese project TRON stands for The Real-time system Nucleus. This project is carried out at the University of Tokyo and focuses on such concepts as ubiquitous computing, small size of devices, natural human interfaces and security. The researchers deal with both software and hardware, providing mostly the interfaces and design guidelines for their creations. Nevertheless they also create different implementations. One of them is a TRON Intelligent House, which was created in 1989 in Nishi Azabu in Japan and existed for three years. It merged traditional wooden architecture with information technology. All the media received from outside like TV or phone together with the internal data from intercom or security sensors were put together in the display units available in each room. Additionally there was a central control panel and a general purpose remote control. Hence the house had the exact combination of features described in the section above with no unnecessary gadgets. Still during its existence period it got some negative opinions from the press, showing how sceptical people are to the idea of the technology that would surround them everyday. The TRON architecture allows humans to interface with the sensors and media through a central contro panel or a general purpose remote control. It is therefore another example of a controllable house.


House_n is a project being carried out on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The main goal of the project is to create a living space to study the interaction of people and the technology that surround them. The biggest focus is put on the influences of the technology on health of inhabitants. For this reason the project is unusual and interesting at the same time. It provides the most important data about the technologies. What is their influence on people, how people would react after a long of using particular technologies. The house is capable of recognition different activities and has some simple programmable issues. For the purpose of identification of human activities different sensors are introduced. For example thermometers, humidity or C02 sensors, microphones or touch sensors in doors and furniture were introduced. As the project focus on people the development is then human driven. For that reason, the proposed functionalities are generally the simpler ones, which are at the same time very important for people, e.g., control of the temperature or air conditioning. The project identifies many interesting applications of intelligent house technologies, but it is unclear how many of the ideas that have actually been implemented.


Oxygen is an umbrella project in ambient intelligence supported by a number of individual research groups at MIT. The key elements of its implementations are the devices embedded in the houses, cars or offices or the handheld devices with similar functionality. The Oxygen project focuses on many different aspects of ambient intelligence, one of which is combining speech recognition with recognition of facial expressions, lips movement and gaze to better understand the intentions of the humans that the system serves. From the project web page, it appears that the vision puts the human in control of the operation, so it is another example of a controllable house (the programmed evolution managed by the GOALS infrastucture is primarily directed towards software evolution and not the smart house control system).


The Aware Home Research Initiative (AHRI) at Georgia Institute of Technology addresses future domestic technologies. In their 470 square meters home, the AHRI project focuses on various applications of Smart Houses. The technology for controlling various equipment in the house relies on the gesture recognition. To make its usage natural and convenient a special gesture pendant was introduced. The pendant is a device that contains a wireless camera and a pendant with a good design and small size would not disturb people using it. An inhabitant of the house has to carry the pendant with him all the time and all the gesture has to be performed just in front of it. This means that the project is another example of a controllable house.

Adaptive House

The Adaptive House project is in general related only to the Intelligent House technology. The project is being carried out by Michael C. Mozer at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In the vision defined by the project it is highlighted that the house is intelligent and that it has many advantages over a programmable house. The functionalities of the project focus on the most basic and profitable need for the intelligent in the houses which is energy conservation. The implemented house completely controls the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, hot water and interior lights. The goal of the house is to minimise the use of those resources, but at the same time to ensure the comfort of the inhabitants. All decisions are made by the house control system, which is implemented using neural networks. The decisions are of course made in a proper manner, so the inhabitants are observed and different scenarios are identified, recognition of these scenarios allows the house to control heating or ventilation. As a result the house starts controlling the house parameters according to the preferences of inhabitants. The house had a real live implementation which resulted in all those basic system working very well. Currently, the project investigates possible extensions of the house capabilities. One of those is the prediction of when the inhabitants are going to return home in order to switch on heating at the right time. And finally the lights in the house are intended to be controlled in such a way, that the proper light patterns would be set and the lights could be switched on and off automatically, when an inhabitant is going from one room to another. The successful implementation of the house resulted in a large collection of research papers on the project website. The papers deal with hardware, neural networks, learning algorithms and also deals with mathematical models or with psychological issues related with the Intelligent House. The focus on automatic scenario identification and the application of neural networks means that this is an example of an intelligent house project.

Microsoft House

The House of the future made by Microsoft is a flat with a surface area around 750 square meters, which is created in one of the buildings on Microsoft's campus in Washington and it is not actually a true research place. It is a place full of electronic that forms a vision of how possibly the living spaces could look like in the future. It does not try to dictate the future, but rather to present some possible scenarios. The house, which by its visitors may be called a "Disneyland style demo", is presenting a lot of advanced technological solutions. The electronic devices are interconnected with each other. The house gives the possibility to check emails on the TV screen. A projector in the Kitchen allows displaying different media on the wall and there is a place with huge screen that is a centre for the home entertainment - music, movies or videos. Also the touch screen outside the main entrance to the house can record a message that later could be shown in various places inside the house. For the controlling purposes there are pocket PCs that are embedded in the walls in different places of the house. It is possible to control the media devices in the house and additionally other equipment, like all the lights. The project focus on the integration of media and control, where the inhabitant is direct control, so this is another example of a controllable house


The AIRE research group at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory creates software components for various applications. The majority of them deals with intelligent spaces and the infrastructure necesary to support and interact with an intelligent space. They try to cover all the important fields of the intelligent spaces development like the human computer interfaces, resource management, knowledge representation, computational needs, communication, distribution, parallelism etc. The current focus is on work spaces rather than living spaces, but the technologies that they develop are not limited to the office environment. Among their projects is a very interesting one, which is an Intelligent Room prototype space. The purpose of this prototype is to study different types of human-computer interaction. The most important mean of controlling the room is the voice. For the best audio quality the users have a small wireless microphone attached to their clothes. Hence a user can speak in any point of the room, but there is a special procedure that needs to be performed. The computer processing the speech is initially in the sleeping mode. For activating the computer a user has to stop speaking and say a keyword "computer". Then all what is said is being processed, searching for a known command. After a wile the computer is going to sleep mode again. Theoretically the Intelligent Room can recognise naturally spoken language. Still there is a trade of between the performance and the variety of grammar structure that the system can recognised. Hence there is a need to use specified grammar structures for controlling the room. Also there is an improvement using context recognition functionality. For example when a video is being displayed at the moment, the computer tries to use the set of grammar that involves controlling the video stream and the display.

Additionally to the voice commands there is a functionality that is similar to gesture recognition. The system in a room can recognise when a user is pointing at a display. This system can then be used to interact with a personal computer instead of using a traditional mouse. Still the technology can be used in other purposes as well. During the tests of Intelligent Room it was noticed how changes in placement of sensors, changes in ambient lights and shadows can influence the reliability of the visual recognition. The current implementation of the technology is therefore only reliable in fixed environments, which means that it is not a very promising one. As part of the overall Oxygen project the work of the AIRE group is also an example of controllable house research.

Classification of Smart House Projects

The projects mentioned above have been have been classified according to our taxonomy. The results of this classification is shown in the figure below.