A European Union-backed research project, called Amigo aims to provide quick and efficient end-to-end operability of network devices in the home.
"By taking an open-source approach, we believe we can speed up the development of interoperable middleware to run home networks using devices from multiple suppliers," said Harmke de Groot, a researcher at Koninklijke Philips Electronics.
"We aim to use as many of the existing standards and specifications as possible," he said.
By giving out the middleware as open source, together with architectural rules and documentation, the group believes it can support interoperability of devices currently locked into either partly connected or totally unconnected domains, such as consumer electronics, computers, mobile communications, home automation and security, according to De Groot.
In addition to open-source middleware, the Amigo project hopes to develop "open and intelligent services that go beyond what many manufacturers envision today", De Groot said. "We need to think outside the box."
In this context, De Groot talked about the role of "ambient intelligence". Ambient intelligence, according to the Amigo web page, is characterised by four basic elements: ubiquity, awareness, intelligence and natural interaction.
Ubiquity refers to a situation in which people are surrounded by multiple interconnected embedded systems, which are invisible in their environment.
Awareness means the ability of the system to locate and recognise objects and people and their intentions, while intelligence involves a digital surrounding being able to analyse the context, adapt itself to the people who live in it and learn from their behaviour.
Natural interaction relates to advanced modalities such as natural speech and gesture recognition, as well as speech synthesis, which could enable a much more human-like communication in a digital environment than is possible today.
A total 15 companies are participating in the Amigo project, including the telecommunication companies France Télécom and Telefónica, the German subsidiary of Microsoft and the Institute for Natural Language Processing at the University of Stuttgart.
John Blau writes for IDG News Service