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Matsushita Electric, best known worldwide for its Panasonic brand of consumer electronics and digital communications products, announced today that it will begin marketing of “Kurashi (Japanese for ‘home life’) Net”, a networked home appliances/housekeeping system to enhance the users’ daily living. The system, to be marketed from September 1, will enable the user to control networked home appliances, such as air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines and microwave ovens, through wireless control from the central terminal, named “Kurashi Station,” or from a mobile phone. The system also monitors security and other household conditions, alerting the users by sounding an alarm linked to the “Watchdog Safety Sensor” in cases of emergency.
The system was made possible through specialized 429-MHz fractional-power wireless technology in compliance with the Energy Conservation and Homecare Network (ECHONET) Standard. ECHONET is a technical specification established by a group of companies (Sharp,Tokyo Electric Power, Toshiba, Hitachi, MEI and Mitsubishi Electric serving as core members) seeking to develop energy-conscious home networking systems. The system connects home appliances via the Kurashi Station, which controls the connected appliances. The Kurashi Station can also receive information services provided over the Internet by MEI.
The ECHONET-compliant wireless technology has made the system economical and flexible in many ways. Its energy-saving feature enables operation by batteries, while its compact sensor and wireless communication units facilitate attachment to a wide range of equipment. Setup of the system is simple, and the wireless network’s communication range can easily cover a typical house.
Specifically, the following services will be provided:
(1) Centralized control and monitoring of home appliances, information download for adding convenient functions to the appliances, and the “Networked Appliance Service”for remote control of the appliances through mobile phones;
(2) “Watchdog Service” for setting off an alarm or sending emergency signals by the watchdog sensor in case of intrusion or an entrance remaining unlocked;
(3) Transmission of various kinds of useful information (weather forecasts, news and regional events, etc.) from MEI.
The system configuration can be customized by combinations of the following products:
(1) In-house central control terminal “Kurashi Station”;
(2) ECHONET-compliant networked home appliances in four categories: air-conditioner, refrigerator, washing machine, and microwave oven;
(3) ECHONET-compliant Watchdog terminals (sensors for security monitoring, emergency call remote control, setting/release remote control).
These services will add new value to conventional home appliances. Operational status ofthe connected appliances can be monitored on the Station display, and information such as suitable timing for changing the filters of air-conditioner units and refrigerators, equipment malfunction, temperature settings, and energy consumption can be monitored and used as guidelines in daily energy conservation.
Users will be able to operate appliances from a remote location by using a mobile phone,allowing them to perform such operations as switching on the air-conditioner or washing machine before returning home and changing preset operating times. MEI has developed new functions and operating programs for the system’s networked washing machine and microwave oven that can be downloaded from the Internet.
By integrating the “Watchdog Service” and the information service, MEI isworking to meet the growing demand for individualized service, remote control of home appliances from outside locations, and advanced home security. In this way, MEI is offering new solutions for more comfortable living through the creation of a networked environment based on the latest technical innovations.
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