ERCIM News No.28 - January 1997

DEFIE - An Environment Control System for Elderly and Disabled People

by Rolando Bianchi Bandinelli and Antonina Saba

The DEFIE (Disabled and Elderly people Flexible Integrated Environment) system is a multimedia integrated system that allows the elderly and motor and/or sensory impaired people to command and control domestic and working environments with a high degree of self-sufficiency and safety.

In recent years the problem of self-sufficiency for the elderly and the disabled has attracted increasing attention and resources. The search for new solutions that can guarantee greater autonomy and a better quality of life has begun to exploit easily available state-of-the-art technology. Intelligent control systems, variously called smart homes, smart environment systems, intelligent buildings, or intelligent homes can now be proposed and would go far towards simplifying the interaction between the elderly and the disabled and their domestic environment. A great number of benefits would stem from the implementation of such systems: greater safety, autonomy and self-esteem, and consequently, better relationships with others.

The Defie Project

Defie is a project of the T.I.D.E. (Technology Initiative for Disabled and Elderly people) programme, Action line 4: Integrated systems technologies and, in particular, complies with task T401 Development of Smart Home and Smart Environment Concepts and Applications. It began on 1 December 1993 and ended formally on 29 February 1996. The cost has been 1,758,000 ECU and the European Commission has contributed about 50%. The Defie consortium is composed of four main and two associated partners: Rigel Engineering, Belgium; Artec, Italy; CNR, Italy; CIG, Netherlands; AISM, Italy; CETTICO, Spain.

The goal of the project has been to implement a pre-competitive prototype of a modular system capable of satisfying the needs of a heterogeneous group of users. The Defie system has been especially studied for use by elderly and disabled people; however, its potential application is far wider ­ it could be used within any home by anybody.

The Defie system

The DEFIE system is logically organised as follows:

The DEFIE prototype.

The Home bus

The Home System had to be the most comprehensive, standard communication system available for interconnecting various types of electric and electronic devices used in the home with the control unit. We have chosen the EHS home bus (European Home System) standard for Defie. The Home bus transmitting system, developed by the ESPRIT-2431 project (and the integrated Interactive Home project 5448), has been tested in our prototype, but is open to application to all other future commercial devices.

As EHS has been introduced only very recently, earlier approaches to smart homes were forced to use different transmission systems. Most of them adopted the X-10 protocol, a low-cost system that is easy to install and use. The current prototype also includes non EHS control for backward compatibility with pre-existing appliances using proprietary infra red Defie-driven remote controls (eg conventional televisions) or the X-10 system.


As a partner of a recently formed European consortium, CNUCE-CNR is now participating in a new Tide project (Mosaic-HS) with the intention of contributing the experience it has gained in the Defie Project. Mosaic-Hs aims at consolidating the know-how acquired from previous projects on smart homes and will apply the EHS Home Bus to the design of a new prototype, which, while maintaining as much backward compatibility to earlier systems as possible, will implement the latest innovations and technology.

Please contact:
Rolando Bianchi Bandinelli ­ CNUCE-CNR
Tel: +39 50 593 223

Antonina Saba ­ ILC-CNR
Tel: +39 50 560481

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