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IBM brrr-ings Net to air conditioners

Big Blue joins air-conditioning company Carrier to begin testing a service that lets people manage their air-conditioning systems remotely using a PC and mobile phone.

IBM and Carrier are heating up a plan to let people cool their homes by signaling their air conditioners via the Web.

This summer in Europe, the computing giant and the maker of air-conditioning, heating and refrigeration systems will begin pilot-testing a service that will allow individuals to manage their air-conditioning systems over the Internet using their PCs and mobile phones, the companies said in a statement Monday.

The new service, called "Myappliance.com," will be built on an infrastructure supported by IBM services, software and hardware.

Technology companies have long had their eye on ways to provide remote control of home appliances and systems, and are gradually finding ways to reach that goal, using Internet connections and hardware and software designed to be embedded in home devices.

At IBM, the Myappliance.com service falls under the company's unfolding Pervasive Computing strategy. IBM has announced a number of partnerships--with technology providers such as Intel and Cisco Systems, and with wireless and handheld device makers such as Motorola, Nokia, Symbian and Palm--to build wireless networks and deliver Web software, content and services to wireless devices as part of the new program.

With the new remote-control service, users of Carrier's Web-enabled air-conditioner service will be able to set temperatures and switch units on or off using the Myappliance.com Web site. Carrier's dealers, installers and engineers will also be able to control individual units and to access customer data.

In addition, the new service will allow transmission of fault codes and other diagnostic alerts to mobile phones, e-mail or fax, allowing Carrier dealers to respond more quickly and precisely.

IBM is designing the Web-enabled system, from the embedded Java software inside the air-conditioner units to the browsers in mobile phones, and will provide the systems integration for the new service. The company is contributing its eServer hardware and applications including WebSphere Everyplace Suite Enterprise Edition, WebSphere Application Server and Visual Age Micro Edition J9 Virtual Machine software.

Farmington, Conn.-based Carrier plans to launch the service from WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) phones to several hundred commercial and residential customers in a number of European countries. The program may then be extended throughout Europe and North America and will eventually support other devices, such as PDAs (personal digital assistants).