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Article: Device Profile: CorAccess home management appliances

Oct 28, 2002 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 5 views

CorAccess (Golden, CO) has released two new home appliances which use Linux as their embedded operating systems. The CorAccess Companion Home Management Panels give homeowners one-touch access to lighting, appliances, thermostat and security control, as well as a digital photo frame, and provide a convenient camera monitoring function which makes it easy to check the front door, the kids' playroom, and… even traffic and weather. Additionally, the devices represent platforms for future applications such as intercom, Internet radio, and whole-home audio control.

Figure 1: the Companion 6 home management panel

Both Companion products are full-color home management interfaces with the power to run Macromedia Flash graphics and CorAccess applications and services. They are designed to be conveniently mounted in key locations throughout a home, and connect with all of the HAI Omni and the OnQ HMS home control products.

From an application development perspective, both devices are based on the CorAccess Utonium framework. Utonium is a plug-in architecture for embedded systems using Linux as the operating system, and MacroMedia Flash for the graphical user interface (GUI).

Hardware specs . . .

  • CPU — 233 Mhz National Semi Geode GX1
  • System RAM — 64MB
  • Storage — internal CompactFlash Type II
  • Input/output connections — Companion 6
    • 1 RS232/RS485
    • 1 10/100baseT Ethernet
    • 1 Line out
    • 1 mini-PCI
    • 2 USB (not exposed in CorAccess Housing)
    • 1 4-wire touch controller
    • 2 Controllable LEDs
    • 5 Progammable Buttons
  • Input/output connections — Companion 10
    • 1 RS232
    • 1 10/100baseT Ethernet
    • 1 Line in
    • 1 Line out
    • 2 USB
    • 1 PS/2 Mouse
    • 1 PS/2 Keyboard
    • 1 4-wire touch controller
    • 1 Reset/Power Switch
    • 1 Power LED
    • 2 Programmable Buttons
  • Display:
    • Companion 6 — QVGA (320×240 pixel) Active Matrix LCD
    • Companion 10 — SVGA (800×600 pixel) Active Matrix LCD
  • Power — uses external 12V 3.0A power supply

Figure 2: The Companion 6's embedded computer PCB

A home-grown Linux software platform

Both Companion devices have an embedded operating system which CorAccess built themselves starting from Red Hat's version 2.4.x Linux kernel, explained CorAccess VP of engineering Bill Wimsatt.

“Finding a ready made commercial Embedded Linux was difficult,” Wimsatt noted. “We would have preferred to base our software on a supported Embedded Linux build but it was cost prohibitive,” but the licensing of commercial Embedded Linux vendors tended to be “designed for large companies, with 5000+ license requirements or high up front costs.”

Another challenge was locating suitable system software components. “Disk space for Linux applications, browsers, graphic libraries, etc. are all too big since they are designed mostly for desktop environments, and the embedded projects tend to be very behind the curve in terms of kernel support,” observed Wimsatt.

Among the key Linux-based software components incorporated into the Companion home appliances are . . .

  • Graphics environment is based on Trolltech's Qt
  • Embedded Konquerer Browser on Companion 10
  • Embedded MacroMedia Flash Player
  • Xitami server services
  • OpenH323 for teleconferencing
  • ShoutCast MP3 streaming client

Why Linux?

“We chose Linux because it is very well supported for limited computing environments,” Wimsatt said. “Linux also is very well documented for customizing for specific build requirements. Other operating systems do not provide for this flexibility.”

“We are working on providing some of our projects to the open source community,” he added. “Our PhotoMate application will probably be the first release. Interested parties are very welcome to work with us.”

GUI toolkit and SDK

To support customization of the Companion home management panels, CorAccess offers a companion GUI toolkit which is used by OEMs to customize the devices by creating new MacroMedia Flash GUIs, as well as the Utonium SDK. The SDK is a software platform consisting of CorAccess' latest Linux build, the Utonium plug-in framework, the PhotoMate application (digital photos, digital camera monitoring), device drivers for the Companion Hardware, CorAccess MacroMedia plug-in, and (coming soon) an embedded Konquerer based browser.

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