When Bread-making machines talk to Televisions

Together with Fifty Companies, TU Professor Albayrak is working hard on a Network Home at the Connected Living Innovation Center

Showroom on Ernst-Reuter-Platz © Connected Living/Matthias Steffen

“That is absurd!” This is one of the sentences that Prof. Sahin Albayrak, Dr.-Ing., often heard, when told others about his ideas. He had the same experiences as other visionaries before him, who wanted to take new approaches.

Even his Connected Living innovation center, established in 2009, is only one step ahead of real life. There in the showroom on Berlin’s Ernst-Reuter-Platz [Ernst Reuter Plaza], bread-making machines are communicating with televisions and smart bikes with refrigerators through a tablet PC.

“We are interested in conceiving solutions that support mobility, are energy efficient and save resources”, says Professor Albayrak. He is a professor for agent technology in operational applications and telecommunications at the Technische Universität of Berlin (TU).

An aging society that wants a beautiful future needs appropriate solutions, solutions that Sahin Albayrak wants to deliver. He provides them by networking homes, by programming electrical devices and software-based wizards to hold the residents’ hands. They help save power, support healthy diets and find the right television programs. The key to the whole idea is a little chip, through which previously isolated devices are connected to each other over existing power lines. Plug them into the power and its done.

Within only a few years, the information technologist has succeeded not just in networking living rooms with kitchens and workout rooms, but also with creating a network of Berlin residents with important sponsors from science, energy management, the entertainment and telecommunications industries and the healthcare industry. Connected Living, which has been associated with Deutsche Telekom, various institutes of the Fraunhofer Society, the AOK health insurance company, Miele and Loewe, EnBW and Vattenfall.

He brought roughly 50 companies together at his desk, which had previously been competitors. “We can only make progress, if we make a start, work together and see that we don’t need to fear each other”, says Professor Albayrak, who established the Distributed Artificial Intelligence (DAI) laboratory at the Technische Universität of Berlin immediately after he graduated. In the meantime, it has become one of the largest research institutes for smart services and smart systems in Germany with 150 employees.

At a time when computers were running slowly, Professor Albayrak believed that they would drive us crazy and that according to Moore’s Law, microelectronics would become increasingly more capable and would become fast enough that washing machines and electricity meters would be able to communicate with each other. He was right. Today, washing machines are capable of starting themselves automatically at times when power is inexpensive.

Even if the health wizard for the networked home appears to be a pretty game with its computer-animated fitness programs and the nutritional wizard seems like a tasty tidbit with its calorie and nutritional content indicators for lemon chicken, Professor Albayrak and his team are dealing with serious issues like demographic shifts. “We scientists have to provide services and show solutions for problems, such as with an intelligent home that supports senior citizens.” Over one hundred homes should now be networked as part of the pilot phase. “Mine vision is an intelligent home for every pocketbook”, says Professor Albayrak. His own home is already rather smart today. It even knows when the lawn will grow.

Susanne Hörr
Kluge Köpfe 2012