The Harmoniser

Seamless Interconnectivity for Everything

The idea of a domestic HAN (home area network) server isn't new. I've spiced it up a bit using an idea from the universal file format transferred to packets. Using a universal packet format, your HAN server can now talk to anything, but best of all, it can talk to non-compatible devices.

OK, so at a push the average geek could bung Linux on a 486 and get it to glue their stuff together, up to a point. 99.999% of punters can't.

First take your box with an embedded OS (any, preferably a free one). Give it some memory and a little row of module slots on the top like a C-64 multi-cartridge expander board. You buy a basic one with a limited set of phone/ethernet/cable/bluetooth connections built in. This runs cool and silent wherever you want it to, under the stairs if you like. You can patch it in to your LAN if you have one. It can have its own default dial-up connection and it can act as a LAN server/net sharing gate with an ADSL modem/hardware firewall if you plug that particular module in. In a non-net household it can have a dedicated dial-up connection or mobile phone chipset for things like reading the meter, without the user having a specific subscription account. It can also handle your digital TV, cable TV, and iTV too, but thats not what makes it interesting.

This is what makes it interesting.

This box of tricks is the UN of servers. You can send data into it using any protocol and get data out of it using any protocol. And it knows which ones you use.

The Harmoniser harmonises data interchange between PCs, devices, fridges, TVs, anything. It can do video streams, DECT phone data, PS2 gaming data, and read your meter.

Everything can be individually gated according to where data is allowed to go either locally or via the default connection to, say, the electricity company.

It gets better. The Harmoniser works with compatible (Harmonious) and incompatible kit. Harmonious kit sends ID packets and runs a localised DHTCP set-up that automatically tells the box what it is, what packet structure it uses, what its data rate is, and sets-up the gating of access. This is dynamic. You can change it using a web-style GUI control panel on your PC or via the remote control of your iTV STB. Or your phone etc.

Non-compatible kit can't do this, but if it has data in and data out sockets, it will still work. You just tell the Harmoniser what the kit is using your drop-down menus in your Web-like GUI, or plug in a module that adds the relevant code, and maybe a new socket for a cable. Then you plug it in, and the Harmoniser does all the work.

So you release a mobile phone that isn't compatible, but which has an IRDA interface. The user tells the Harmoniser the make and model of the phone, and the Harmoniser uses the default net connection to pull a driver file from Harmoniser HQ. You then plug your phone into something with an IrDA connection (or place it need a Harmoniser cartridge with an IRDA LED) so it can talk to the Harmoniser, and you can control/program your phone via your iTV remote keyboard, or even from a distance using * codes on a phone from Brazil.

Basically, the Harmoniser is the ultimate intelligent router. It connects anything to anything if it is physically possible (and that includes analogue as well as digital).

And you don't have to program anything. You just plug it in, choose from drop down menus what you have in the house with any type of connectivity, and away it goes. In many cases it could be entirely self configuring. The localised DHTCP will give everything in your house a name, and using a short-hop RF system with a low powered 'no-license required' transmitter, you can even connect your HAN to your neighbours and start a mesh network in your street.

Currently, everything has a different packet protocol, and everything has to be set up. Using the Harmoniser, everything can talk to everything else, and data can be translated. So your PDA/phone has a 256 x 256 screen. Thats OK, just stand next to your WiFi connector, type in the URL on your phone and choose for the call to be routed via your landline. The call is made through the Harmoniser's net connection. Now the Harmoniser knows your phone only has certain functions and a certain screen size, and can rejig the display for it, or send the web page to your TV.

Anything with a data in/data out port, of any type can be plugged into the HAN and the Harmoniser will ensure that the data that goes to it is appropriate for the protocol it uses, and permitted, wherever the data came from, and in whatever form.

Plug them in and you can stream data from your DVD to play on your portable console screen in the garden. Anything to anything. Add in a suitable module (which may contain A/D or D/A converters) and instead of plugging stuff into your TV aerial, you just stick your TV aerial into your Harmoniser, and then any device you have can pull feed from it, either directly as an analogue signal, or with runtime translation as an MPEG stream at any optimised resolution.

Plug in your stereo line out, sit at your computer, tell the Harmoniser that it has stereo audio coming in and you'd like it to cache 6pm-6.30pm as an MP3 file on its internal HDD. Later you can plug your iPod in and download it, or broadcast it at midnight over the speakers in the bathroom.

Simple behaviours can be programmed. If your smoke alarm goes off, you can get this to trigger a 911/999 call with a message you record beforehand asking for help.

Ultimately, all our devices just create, send, receive, or display data. Some (PCs) let us manipulate it. The Harmoniser means we don't need to manipulate it in most cases.

Add a module with a HDD and you can use it as a Tivo and as a telephone answering machine that can, say, gate access to certain messages.

Yes, you could do this with a PC, but PCs are unreliable, hackable, big, heavy, need screens and keyboards and time to boot, are noisy, and not the future. The future is the small quiet device, custom designed to do its thing, and only its thing, and to do it well.

Oh, and its pirate proof, as you are selling hardware.

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