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  • Standards for Home Appliance Network to be Set in 1999
  • November 10, 1998 (TOKYO) -- Japan's Echonet Consortium, an industry association for companies involved in home networks, said it will open the ECHONET standards for home appliance control through power lines or wireless control.
    The main target of the standards is power control of home appliances. The ECHONET standards allow a user to control power supply to household electric appliances from a remote location outside of the home.

    "The standards will create a market worth around 4 trillion yen (US$33.88 billion) if such products are used by all households in Japan about ten years after the standards are set," said Seiichirou Matsumoto, chairman of the Echonet Consortium steering committee.

    The steering committee consists of four managing companies, Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp., as well as two other members, Sharp Corp. and Tokyo Electric Power Co. A total of 64 enterprises are members of the consortium.

    Many home network standards are utilized in Japan, the United States and Europe, and various aspects of those standards overlap concerning usage and specifications.

    ECHONET covers a wide range of areas, including transmission systems to application programming interfaces (APIs).

    For this reason, conflicts will likely arise among standards such as HAPI (PC API advocated by Royal Philips Electronics N.V. of the Netherlands and Microsoft Corp.), HAVi, (home network specifications for AV equipment promoted by eight companies in Japan, the United States and Europe) and Jini (a distributed processing environment based on Java and advanced by Sun Microsystems Inc.).

    Echonet has argued that those standards should be separated and adopted. "ECHONET is assumed to apply to the Japanese market, while HAPI targets the U.S. market. Such concentration is reasonable due to different regulations in each country concerning power lines and wireless means as a transmission path," according to Echonet.

    Hisashi Kodama, chairman of the technical committee, said: "HAVi aims mainly at controlling AV equipment, and provides a different application field than that of ECHONET, which focuses on home appliances. As for Jini, there is no competition between the standard and ECHONET, since Java is not taken into consideration in our standard."

    The consortium will negotiate with its counterpart in Europe, the European Home System Association (EHSA), on the possible unification of API.

    A draft of the standards is scheduled to be released at the end of March 1999, and the contents will be made available to the member enterprises. As for transmission paths, the following two types of transmission system are under study: power lines and low-powered wireless (400 MHz). The standards also will adopt some existing standards such as LON of U.S. Echelon Corp., Homebus and IrDA Control.

    Object-oriented technologies are due to be applied to device drivers and middleware in ECHONET. Middleware will be designed to work with 8-bit microprocessors, according to the consortium.

    Related stories:
    Eight Japanese, European Firms Devise Home Network Spec
    Japan's Hardware Vendors Use Java JINI to Develop Devices

    (Nikkei Electronics)

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    Updated: Mon Nov 9 17:18:29 1998 PDT