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Accenture previews intelligent home technology

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

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"Mirror, mirror on the wall, do you think I need to shave? Or maybe change my diet?"

Such were ENN's questions at the Accenture Technology Forum in Dublin on Tuesday. Accenture Technology's research in intelligent home services could soon lead to the "persuasive mirror" appearing in bathrooms and bedrooms across the world. The mirror operates using a computer screen and two video cameras either side that scan the user before verbalising information and advice.

"Sometimes there's a need for some sort of a coach in the home situation - a life coach," said Martin Illsley, research director with Accenture Technology.

The mirror presents a morphed image of the user to provide details of how they could look if they continue with the diet and lifestyle they lead and what they might look like were they to change it.

Accenture Technology is working with the University of California, San Diego on the mirror, which is just one of a series of devices the company is researching for intelligent home services.

Illsley was in Dublin on Tuesday to discuss these services and several other projects Accenture Technology are currently researching in Nice, France. Among these are behaviour monitoring systems which use sensors to determine normal and abnormal behaviours. Possible applications include monitoring car parks for suspect behaviour, or what exactly handlers do with our luggage on the other side of the rubber flaps at airport baggage carousels.

By recognising normal behaviour the sensors are able to recognise unexpected activity. "We need to measure the usual before getting to the unusual," said Illsley. The system is currently being used by a bank in France and has been used to monitor activity and improve efficiency by recognising where and when certain customers entered the bank.

Those with a fear of Big Brother might be wary of the "Dilbert scenario spotting" function of the system, as Illsley described it. The system monitors movements within a workplace and can detect if members of staff are in areas they aren't meant to be, or are away from their desk for long periods. Illsley said that given the privacy issues this raises the technology would need to be used in different ways depending on the environment.

Illsley also discussed problems with the development of wireless sensor networks. He said they are good at delivering value in some circumstances but still have limitations. "Sensor fusion is an issue that hasn't been solved. Most systems aren't probabilistic in nature, they just provide a positive or negative response, so overlapping sensors lead to sensor fusion issues," he said.

"For example, if a company uses a badge system and a video system to monitor staff and they contradict each other then there is a problem. We don't have the middleware at this time to solve this issue."

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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