By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Shell Energy Services is putting in its first appearance at CES with a home-management system that lets users monitor and control home systems remotely from any Web-equipped PC or cellular phone.
The company, a Houston-based Shell Oil affiliate, plans to launch the system, called HomeGenie, in early 2004.
The system, billed as an affordable home-control alternative, is initially expected to be available in limited areas through retailers and through the Shell HomeGenie Web site. The company plans expanded distribution in other regions and nationwide later in the year.
HomeGenie lets consumers access their homes through a hosted Web service at www.ShellHomeGenie.com, which communicates with devices in the home through Shell's wireless HomeGenie Residential Gateway, which plugs into a home's broadband modem. The gateway, which doesn't use home PC resources, communicates wirelessly with three types of devices in the home. One device is the HomeGenie programmable thermostat, which lets users remotely monitor and control most household heating and cooling systems. The second device is a motion-sensing HomeGenie Wireless Camera, which enables remote monitoring of areas in a house. The third is the HomeGenie Power Switch, which plugs into wall outlets to control connected lights and select appliances. The device is designed to turn on and off any appliance that can be plugged into a 15-amp outlet, including radios, toaster ovens, coffee pots, curling irons, slow cookers and lamps. The Power Switch is recommended for use with appliances running on 120V and rated at 1,600 watts or less.
Home Genie uses 418MHz RF for communication from the thermostat and power switches to the gateway. The camera's video signals are transmitted via 2.4GHz RF. The gateway connects to broadband modems via wired Ethernet or USB. The Ethernet connection also supports a wired connection to a computer, hub or switch, and wireless 802.11b is available for connection to other computers and devices in the home.
"Although home automation products have been in the market for some time, we believe that none of them offer the integration and the features that Shell HomeGenie does, at an affordable price," claimed Robin Gaeta, HomeGenie GM.
Shell Energy Services markets natural gas to residential and small commercial customers within the United States. For HomeGenie, it partnered with Motorola Broadband, Sun Microsystems and Xanboo, a provider of Internet-enabled devices and technology.
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