The European Commission has moved to promote the development of so-called 'smart' houses, specially designed for the elderly and disabled, notably through schemes to finance adapted electronic devices built into these homes.
Speaking last week at a conference, 'Vitality in the Age of the Information Society', in Tilburg, Netherlands, EU Information Society commissioner Erkki Liikanen said that promoting products and services for householders with impaired mobility was central to Brussels' hi-tech strategies.
He said that money was being made available for smart house development from the EU Information Society Technologies (IST) programme's £2.2 billion budget, which funds research, demonstration projects, information exchanges, standardisation efforts and cooperation between interested organisations. 'The projects support independent living by developing such tools as personal devices - for instance, tele-support - by designing systems for the home environment and by elaborating advanced solutions for professional and informal carers, ' said Mr Liikanen.
He added that discussions were also under way to include smart houses as a priority topic for funding under the upcoming 2002-06 EU Sixth Framework Programme for research, which will command a budget of £10 billion.
Looking at projects that the European Commission has already supported, the commissioner said that it has spanned 'smartness', varying from 'fairly simple applications of sensors and control systems to the most futuristic automated homes'.
He added: 'Many existing houses may be converted to be 'smart' with structural alterations, if the changing needs of residents over their life cycle have been taken into account in planning. Designers and engineers have to identify future applications and services when specifying cabling and telecommunications connections.'