In the home of the future, a smart medicine cabinet will warn you when you grab the wrong pills, your mobile phone service may power your landlines, and your infant will be able to see your face even when you're many miles away.
Products and services enabling such technological marvels – some of them wildly futuristic and others more imminent – were on display in a huge mock home that promises to be one of the major attractions at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's (CTIA) annual trade show, which opens in New Orleans today.
More than 700 companies are exhibiting at the three-day show, the largest in the organisation's history. Products and services range from infrastructure enhancements (such as network equipment to allow carriers to offer seamless roaming between cellular and Wi-Fi networks) to consumer items such as handsets, ringtones and games.
The 7000ft2 smart home showcases all manner of wireless technologies. Accenture's prototype medicine cabinet, for example, uses RFID technology to tell who is reaching for medication and then to determine if that person is grabbing the right container from several similar-looking ones on its shelves. If the meds and the person match up, a display embedded in the cabinet provides information on both; if not, it throws up a big warning sign.
In a related demo from the University of Florida, a mobile phone with built-in bar-code scanner and a tablet-style terminal was used both to issue voice-activated reminders to people who had forgotten to take their medication, and to verify that the right pill was being taken.
In one of the bedrooms, a prototype of a sophisticated remote-access baby-monitoring system put an LCD display and a Webcam into an infant's crib so that the baby could watch its travelling parent (also equipped with an LCD and webcam) in live video transmitted over the internet. The setup also included interactive features such as a toy tractor set up near the crib, with a duplicate in the parent's hands. When the parent moved the duplicate toy, the one near the baby would move accordingly.
In the living room, meanwhile, ultrawideband technology by a company called Freescale Semiconductor powered a wireless network that streamed two different high-def programs from a single notebook to two large plasma TVs. A Freescale representative said the technology could transmit up to 110MB per second, but only for distances of up to 10m.