The Smart Apartment

And a Proposed Design for the National Information and Communications Technology Centre of Excellence

For the Bauhaus Serve City Sydney Trimester III, Wednesday 12 June 2002, in Sydney


  1. Introduction
  2. City Edge
  3. Wrong With iHome
  4. Home office design
  5. Design Project
  6. Smart Apartment Technology
  7. Design for NICTA
  8. Books
  9. Home Page

6. Smart Apartment Technology

The University of Canberra design exercise provided design ideas which may be used in the future. However, the actual implementation was delayed by the late completion of the building and the late installation of the Transact cable:

Transact Cable

  1. Transact Optical Cable in BasementTransact Optical Cable into Basement: The thin black cables carry the signals for all apartments in the building.
  2. Transact Node in BasementTransact Node in Basement: This box connects Transact to apartments in the building. Note the wire sculpture on top of the cabinet. ;-)
  3. Back of Set-Top-Box Back of Set-Top-Box: The basement cabinet is connected to a wall socket in my apartment and then by the red wire to the set-top-box.
  4. Set-Top-Box and remote controlSet-Top-Box and remote control: Many of the buttons on the remote control do nothing.

As this apartment is located in Canberra it can use Transact's data network. The average home worker will not need a very high speed connection, so the minimum speed 256kbps Download, 64kbps Upload connection should be adequate. This has the advantage of operating though a digital set top box, which is provided at no extra charge by Transact as part of their domestic service. The set-top-box (STB) also provides digital TV and video on demand, which can be used for entertainment. The STB has a built in web browser, but this is currently limited to providing the electronic program guide for video and has limited performance. However, this would be adequate for most home automation tasks.


D-LinkAir DI-713P IWireless A personal computer can be connected directly to the set-top-box. However, it would be prudent to use a firewall for network security and a router to allow more than one computer to be connected at a time. Combined "SOHO" products are available providing these functions. Some also provide a print server and IEEE 802.11b Wireless Ethernet. For example such as D-Link's Air DI-713P (cost: about $790).

Remote Control and Video

Digitor Commander Remote Control Wireless AV Link Ideally a PDA size device with a Wireless Ethernet card could be used as a universal home remote control and cordless telephone. However, for the present such devices are not affordable or practical. Instead an infrared (IR) universal remote control, such as SIMA's Model SUR-20, sold in Australia by Dick Smith as the Digitor Commander Remote Control (about $162) could be used (the manual for this unit is available online). Video and audio can be transmitted between rooms with a wireless analogue transmitter, such as the Allthings Video Sonic TX/RX AV System. As well as transmitting TV and hi-fi audio, this can be used to operate the web interface of the STB remotely, saving the cost of an additional web appliance, such as an Internet fridge.


Brother Personal FAX 515The humble telephone still has a place in the home office. As the hi-tech worker will be spending most of their time at the keyboard, not on the phone, a sophisticated telephone is not required. For receiving occasional facsimiles a low cost (under $300) fax machine can be used. These typically include an automatic paper cutter (to cut the rolls of paper to page size), a multi page document feeder for sending facsimiles and a telephone handset.

UNIDEN AUSTRALIA - DECT1811 Cordless telephoneCordless telephone: DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) standard modestly priced (about $250) digital cordless telephones have recently been introduced into Australia. The DECT standard also has provision for data devices and, in theory, could be used for a remote control and data access. However, devices for this are not readily available.

Structured Cabling

IntraHub An alternative to wireless transmission for data, telephones and video is to cable the home with "structured cabling". This runs cable from wall outlets back to a central patch panel, where they can be connected together as needed. Telephones and data can use the same type of cable (commonly called "CAT5e"), while video requires separate coaxial cable. Some communications hubs require a technician to rearrange connections. Units, such as such as IntraVisions's IntraHub Communications Hub, use standard plugs and cables which the home owner can move.

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