Internet

IBM PCs become household control hub

IBM Aptiva PCs may become control hubs for household appliances.

IBM today will show off new technology for its Aptiva line of consumer PCs that allows users to control household appliances by remote.

Dubbed Home Director, the system allows users can regulate heat, lights, and services such as security using their Aptiva PC, the company said. IBM said it will offer software and hardware that will let users set this up in the home with relative ease.

With a technology called X-10, a two-way home network is created through modules plugged into electrical outlets that will be sold separately, for about $12 each. Home Director is being demonstrated at a trade show in Florida.

IBM expects to begin offering this technology in its Aptivas this summer. Meanwhile, the company said it will reduce prices tomorrow on certain Aptiva models on the U.S. market by as much as $300 from their current range of $2,000 to $2,800.

Home Director will compete with similar systems being developed by other companies. Novel is working on a home appliance network, and a trial for another system has been announced by Ameritech this week.

Ameritech's service is being tested with Commonwealth Edison in the Chicago area and with Wisconsin Energy in southeastern Wisconsin. That system will allow users to control such appliances as air conditioners and washing machines by punching in a code through their telephones. The companies did not disclose pricing for the service or market timing.