Title:
Home management and personal assistance using a mobile communication device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method of home management and personal assistance using a mobile communication device can include detecting a home protection event. The method can also include wirelessly conveying the event to the mobile communication device through a data connection via a proxy. The method can further include presenting an indication of the home protection event upon the mobile communication device.



Inventors:
Gupta, Anurag (College Park, MD, US)
Helal, Abdelsalam G. (Gainesville, FL, US)
Tian, Jun (Gainesville, FL, US)
Application Number:
10/889438
Publication Date:
02/17/2005
Filing Date:
07/12/2004
Assignee:
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA RESEARCH FOUNDATION, INC. (GAINESVILLE, FL, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A61B5/00; A61B5/0205; A61B5/11; G01C21/00; G01C21/20; G01C21/34; G05B19/00; G05B19/042; G06F15/16; G06F19/00; G06Q50/00; G08B1/08; G08B25/00; G08B25/01; G08B25/08; G08B27/00; G08C17/00; G08C17/02; H04B7/00; H04L12/28; H04M1/247; H04M1/725; A61B5/024; A61B5/053; A61B5/08; (IPC1-7): G08B1/00
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Primary Examiner:
AKINYEMI, AJIBOLA A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Christopher B. Linder, Esq. (Atlanta, GA, US)
Claims:
1. A method of home management and personal assistance using a mobile communication device, the method comprising the steps of: detecting a home protection event; wirelessly conveying said event to the mobile communication device through a data connection via a proxy; and presenting an indication of said home protection event upon said mobile communication device.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the home protection event is a home security related event.

3. The method of claim 1, further comprising: receiving a user input via said mobile communication device relating to said home protection event; and performing at least one programmatic action responsive to said user input.

4. The method of claim 3, said performing step further comprising the step of: communicating said home protection event to a remotely located agent.

5. The method of claim 1, further comprising the steps of: arming said home monitoring system using said mobile communication device; and interrogating home monitoring devices for an occurrence of a home protection event, wherein said detecting step results from said interrogating step.

6. A method for obtaining a recommendation for weather management using a mobile communication device comprising the steps of: receiving within the mobile communication device a user request for weather data; responsive to the user request, the mobile communication device querying a weather proxy server over a wireless communication link; receiving weather data over the wireless communication link; comparing the received weather data with criteria stored within the mobile communication device; and recommending a course of action according to a result of said comparing step.

7. The method of claim 6, said receiving weather data step further comprising the step of: presenting the weather data via said mobile communication device.

8. The method of claim 6, wherein the weather proxy server communicates with a weather service provider over an Internet communication channel to obtain said weather data.

9. The method of claim 6, wherein the weather data comprises a notification from an emergency management system.

10. A system for remotely managing a home environment comprising: a mobile communication device containing a thin client; and a proxy server configured to establish communications between a target device and the mobile communication device responsive to queries received via the mobile communication device, wherein the mobile communication device is communicatively linked to the proxy server over a wireless communications link, and wherein said target device performs at least one programmatic action responsive to receiving said queries.

11. The system of claim 10, wherein the target device is at least one of a remote weather service provider and a home monitoring controller.

12. The system of claim 10, wherein said thin client is configured to receive weather information from said target device and to calculate a recommended course of action based on said received weather information.

13. A machine-readable storage having stored thereon, a computer program having a plurality of code sections, said code sections executable by a machine for causing the machine to perform the steps of: detecting a home protection event; wirelessly conveying said event to a mobile communication device through a data connection via a proxy; and presenting an indication of said home protection event upon said mobile communication device.

14. The machine-readable storage of claim 13, wherein the home protection event is a home security related event.

15. The machine-readable storage of claim 13, further comprising: receiving a user input via said mobile communication device relating to said home protection event; and performing at least one programmatic action responsive to said user input.

16. The machine-readable storage of claim 15, said performing step further comprising the step of: communicating said home protection event to a remotely located agent.

17. The machine-readable storage of claim 13, further comprising the steps of: arming said home monitoring system using said mobile communication device; and interrogating home monitoring devices for an occurrence of a home protection event, wherein said detecting step results from said interrogating step.

18. A machine-readable storage having stored thereon, a computer program having a plurality of code sections, said code sections executable by a machine for causing the machine to perform the steps of: receiving within a mobile communication device a user request for weather data; responsive to the user request, the mobile communication device querying a weather proxy server over a wireless communication link; receiving weather data over the wireless communication link; comparing the received weather data with criteria stored within the mobile communication device; and recommending a course of action according to a result of said comparing step.

19. The machine-readable storage of claim 18, said receiving weather data step further comprising the step of: presenting the weather data via said mobile communication device.

20. The machine-readable storage of claim 18, wherein the weather proxy server communicates with a weather service provider over an Internet communication channel to obtain said weather data.

21. The machine readable storage of claim 18, wherein the weather data comprises a notification from an emergency management system.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of both U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/486,018, filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Jul. 10, 2003, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/490,717 filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Jul. 29, 2003, the entirety of both applications is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates to the field of mobile communications and, more particularly, to the use of a mobile communication device to provide home management and personal assistance functions.

2. Description of the Related Art

Home automation systems, or smart homes, have been available to consumers for many years and offer a wide variety of functions. For example, a smart home can provide automatic timed control of lights and appliances. Additionally, a smart home can allow a homeowner to remotely monitor and/or control household devices, such as doors, windows, thermostats, consumer electronics, or the like. Smart home products can also provide a range of intelligent security functions.

Given the convenience of controlling one's home from a central location, and the enhanced security features, smart home technology is ideally suited for individuals who suffer from diminished mental capacities, or are physically challenged. For example, individuals experiencing fading sensory and cognitive skills, such as the elderly, commonly forget to close a door or window, or turn off an appliance. Further, an elderly person may desire the ability to open a curtain to let in light upon waking without having to rise from bed, or conversely, to close the curtain at bedtime. Moreover, automatic notification of emergency events, such as a water leak, allow an elderly person to seek help upon detection, reducing the probability of severe damage or injury to the home. However, the operator interface devices used to control smart homes are typically intended for the technically-savvy, and can be intimidating to persons who are mentally or physically challenged, such as the elderly.

Persons with failing or compromised mental faculties commonly need assistance performing daily activities. For example, it can be difficult for elderly individuals to ascertain the weather when they need to leave their homes. Current methods for checking weather include the Internet, which can be intimidating for elders to access, or radio and television. Further, exposure to direct sunlight and other environmental factors can cause an externally-mounted thermometer to render inaccurate readings. Moreover, an elderly person may need to venture outside in inclement weather in order to read a thermometer mounted outside of the home.

What is needed is a home management and personal assistance system for cognitively impaired individuals, such as the elderly.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a method, system, and apparatus for providing remote management and personal assistance functions using a mobile communication device, such as a mobile telephone. More specifically, a mobile communication device can facilitate mobile communication with a home automation system in order to provide remote control and monitoring of household devices, as well as notify the user of emergency household events. Additionally, the mobile communication device can present real-time weather information to the user. Further, the mobile communication device can provide weather advice, such as how to protect oneself from the weather outside the home.

One aspect of the present invention can include a method of home management and personal assistance using a mobile communication device. The method can include detecting a home protection event, and wirelessly conveying the event to the mobile communication device through a data connection via a proxy. Further, the method can include presenting an indication of the home protection event upon the mobile communication device.

In one embodiment of the present invention, the home protection event can be a home security related event. In another embodiment, the home protection event can be a monitoring event indicating that a monitored apparatus in the home is operating outside safe operational parameters.

In one aspect of the inventive arrangements, the method can automatically determine a solution to the home protection event and present the solution upon the mobile communication device. In another aspect, the method can include receiving a user input via the mobile communication device relating to the home protection event, and performing at least one programmatic action responsive to the user input. In one embodiment, the programmatic action communicates the home protection event to a remotely located agent.

One embodiment of the present invention can include a method for arming a home monitoring system using a mobile communication device. The method can include receiving within the mobile communication device a user request to initiate activation of the monitoring system, and transmitting the user request via a proxy using a datagram connection.

One aspect of the present invention can include a method for obtaining a recommendation for weather management using a mobile communication device. The method can include receiving within the mobile communication device a user request for weather data. Responsive to the user request, the mobile communication device can query a weather proxy server over a wireless communication link, receive weather data over the wireless communication link, and compare the received weather data with criteria stored within the mobile communication device. Notably, the weather data can be a notification from an emergency management system, whether state or federal. Further, the mobile communication device can recommend a course of action according to a result of the comparing step. The method can also include presenting the weather data to the user via the mobile communication device. Notably, the weather proxy server can communicate with a weather service provider over an Internet communication channel.

Other embodiments of the present invention can include a machine readable storage for causing a machine to perform the steps described herein, as well as a system having means for performing the steps disclosed herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

There are shown in the drawings, embodiments that are presently preferred, it being understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown.

FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating an embodiment of a mobile communication device (MCD) configured in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram illustrating another embodiment of an MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram illustrating a system within which an MCD can be utilized in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4A is a schematic diagram illustrating one embodiment of a graphical user interface (GUI) in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 4B is a schematic diagram illustrating another embodiment of a GUI in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram illustrating yet another embodiment of a GUI in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 6 is a flowchart illustrating a method of checking the status of a household device, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a flowchart illustrating a method of remotely controlling a household device, in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a flow chart illustrating a method of obtaining weather information and advice, in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating one embodiment of a mobile communication device (MCD) 100 configured in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed within. As shown, the MCD 100 can include a processor 105, a mobile telephony transceiver 110, audio circuitry 115, a short range wireless transceiver 120, and a memory 125. Each of the aforementioned components can be communicatively linked via a communications bus 150, or other circuitry. For example, the MCD 100 can be implemented as a mobile phone having the features described herein.

The processor 105 can execute a suitable operating system and one or more applications for controlling the various functions of the MCD 100. For example, the processor 105 can execute an operating system that can support the execution of one or more applications intended to run on that platform and which support operation of the various functions and features disclosed herein. As the MCD 100 can function as an intelligent companion, to be described in greater detail herein, the operating system and computing architecture can be designed to support the operation of such functionality. According to one embodiment, the MCD 100 can be compatible with the JAVA 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME®).

The memory 125 can be implemented as random access memory, read-only memory, erasable programmable read-only memory, or any other type of physical memory suitable for use within a mobile communication device, such as the MCD 100. It should be appreciated that the memory 125, while illustrated as a separate component, can be incorporated into the processor 105 or another component. In any case, the memory 125 can include programmatic instructions to be executed by the processor 105 as well as any operational data necessary for operation of the MCD 100.

Wireless signals can be received and sent via the antenna 155 which can be suited for longer-range communications such as conventional cellular or personal communication service (PCS) communications. Accordingly, the antenna 155 can be operatively connected to the mobile telephony transceiver 110. Signals detected by antenna 155 can be provided to the mobile telephony transceiver 110 for processing and decoding. For example, the mobile telephony transceiver 110 can include a codec for coding and decoding information received or to be sent via wireless transmission. The transceiver 110 can make the decoded signals and/or information available to other components of the MCD 100 for processing. Outbound information received by the mobile telephony transceiver 110 can be coded and/or formatted for wireless transmission by the codec and then provided to the antenna 155 for transmission.

Thus, it should be appreciated that the MCD 100 can communicate via conventional cellular telephone and/or PCS telephone calls and access wireless networks, for example using Wireless Access Protocol or another suitable wireless communications protocol, such that the MCD 100 can access the Internet, the Web, and/or a wide area network, as well as any applications and/or services disposed on such networks via a wireless communications link.

The audio circuitry 115 can include a microphone or other audio input transducer for receiving sound and one or more analog-to-digital converters for digitizing the received sound. The audio circuitry 115 further can include one or more digital-to-analog converters for converting digital information into an analog signal, and one or more analog-to-digital converters for converting an analog signal into a digital format. The audio circuitry 115 can include a speaker or other audio output transducer for generating sound from an analog signal as well as one or more amplifiers for driving the speaker.

It should be appreciated that the audio circuitry 115 can include additional processors, such as digital signal processors (DSPs) as may be required for processing audio and performing functions such as audio encoding, audio decoding, noise reduction, or the like. According to one embodiment of the present invention, the audio circuitry can be implemented using one or more discrete components. In another arrangement, the audio circuitry 115 can be implemented using one or more integrated circuits configured to perform the various functions disclosed herein. Thus, the MCD 100 can be configured to play various audio formats from streaming formats to MP3's, or other audio file formats such as .wav or aiff files.

The audio circuitry 115 can also include and/or be communicatively linked to automatic speech recognition (ASR) and synthetic speech generation components that can be used to perform text-to-speech and speech-to-text conversions. When the audio circuitry 115 includes ASR and/or speech generation components, suitable software and/or firmware can be embedded within the audio circuitry 115 and/or executed by the processor 105. When the audio circuitry 115 is communicatively linked to remotely located ASR and/or speech generation components, communications between the audio circuitry 115 and the remotely located components can occur using the mobile telephony transceiver 110, the short range wireless transceiver 120, the interface port 145, and any other suitable interface.

The MCD 100 also can include a short range wireless transceiver 120 as well as an antenna 160 operatively connected thereto. The short range wireless transceiver 120 can both send and receive data. For example, according to one embodiment of the present invention, the short range wireless transceiver 120 can be implemented as a BlueTooth-enabled wireless transceiver, or as a transceiver configured to communicate with one of the 802.11 family of short range wireless communications specifications. The short range wireless transceiver 120 and accompanying antenna 160 can be configured to communicate using any of a variety of short range, wireless communications protocols and/or systems. Through the short range wireless transceiver 120, the MCD 100 can communicate with a local area network or other short range wireless network. Still, the various examples disclosed herein have been provided for purposes of illustration only and should not be construed as limitations of the present invention.

The MCD 100 can also include one or more interface ports 145 used to physically connect devices and/or peripherals to the MCD 100. For example, the interface port 145 can be a standard wall jack to initiate telephone calls over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The interface port 145 can also include a universal serial bus (USB) port, a firewire (IEEE 1394) port, a parallel port, a serial port, an Ethernet port, an audio port, or the like. Use of the interface port 145 for communicatively linking the MCD 100 with external devices can be advantageous in situations where wireless connectivity may not be available, is intermittent, or otherwise unsuitable for a particular purpose.

Each of the various components of the MCD 100 disclosed herein can be communicatively linked with one another using appropriate circuitry, whether through the memory 125, one or more additional memories (not shown), the processor 105, one or more additional interface processors or logic controllers (not shown), and/or the communications bus 150. One skilled in the art will recognize that the various components disclosed herein can be embodied in various other forms and that the configuration disclosed and described with reference to FIG. 1 is provided for purposes of illustration only. For example, the various components can be implemented as one or more discrete components, as one or more processors, logic controllers, DSPs, or any combination thereof.

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram illustrating an embodiment of an MCD 200 in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. As shown, the MCD 200 can include a display 205, one or more control or operational keys 210, which can include special function command keys for operation of one or more of the functions disclosed herein, alphanumeric keys or buttons 215, and an antenna 220 (which may be configured to be fully located within the MCD 200). The MCD 200 further can include a battery or other power source (not shown). Notably, the MCD 200 can include a rechargeable battery as well as additional power sources to enable the MCD 200 to be active for extended periods of time.

The physical arrangement of the MCD 200 has been provided for purposes of illustration only. As such, it should be appreciated that the various components can be located in any of a variety of different configurations. For example, the MCD 200 can include additional keys or controls disposed on the frontal portion or the sides of the unit.

According to one embodiment of the present invention, the physical arrangement of the MCD 200 can be conducive for use by visually impaired individuals or those that may have difficulty accessing and/or operating the keys and/or controls of conventional mobile computing devices, such as the elderly, persons with physical disabilities, or other infirmities. For example, the control keys 210 and the alphanumeric keys 215 of the MCD 200 can be larger in size than conventional mobile device keys and can be spaced a greater distance from one another with respect to both the width and length of the MCD 200. That is, the horizontal key spacing and the vertical key spacing can be greater than that found with conventional mobile devices. Further, the control keys 210 can include Braille markings for key identification purposes.

The MCD 200 can include a display 205, such as a liquid crystal display (LCD) implemented in either grayscale or color, a touch screen, or any other type of suitable display screen. The display 205 can be larger than those found on conventional mobile computing devices and can have an increased contrast ratio if so desired.

FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram illustrating a system 300 within which an MCD 200 can be utilized in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. It should be appreciated that the MCD 200 can be configured to operate in a variety of environments, including indoor and outdoor environments.

The MCD 200 can incorporate a thin client 308 (hereinafter “client”). The client 308 can be a software application executing within the MCD 200. As shown, the MCD 200 can be communicatively linked to a security and control proxy 320 (hereinafter “SC proxy”) and/or a weather proxy 330. Accordingly, the client 308 can interact with the aforementioned proxies on behalf of the MCD 200. The client 308 can include one or more application programs that allow the user to access the functionality of the various systems and/or devices communicatively linked to the SC proxy 320 and/or the weather proxy 330, to be described in greater detail herein. Notably, the SC proxy 320 and/or the weather proxy 330 can be configured with a multitude of MCD 200 and/or user specific settings so that information exchanged between the MCD 200 and the proxies can be tailored to meet the needs, capabilities, and privileges of different users and/or MCDs.

The SC proxy 320 and the weather proxy 330 can operate as application servers, and can be located within the home, or at a remote location outside of the home. In one embodiment, the MCD 200 can communicate directly to the SC proxy 320 and/or the weather proxy 330 via a short-range wireless connection, such as through the 802.11 family of wireless networking protocols, a Bluetooth transmission, or the like. Short-range communications can be used when the MCD 200 and one or more of the proxies are located within the same home or location.

In another embodiment, the MCD 200 can communicate indirectly to the SC proxy 320 and/or the weather proxy 330 via a conventional long range data link. For example, the MCD 200 can access the proxies 320 and 330 by interfacing with a mobile base station 380 via a phone call or data connection. Such long range communications can be used when the MCD 200 is not located within, or proximate to, the location within which a proxy is disposed. However, the mobile base station 380 can also be used to communicate with the proxies 320 and 330 when they are in close proximity to the MCD 200. It should be appreciated that the MCD 200 can communicate with the SC proxy 320 and/or the weather proxy 330 using any of a variety of different communications mechanisms, and that the MCD 200 is not limited to any specific communication mechanism.

System 300 can also include a communications network 315. The network can communicatively link to the MCD 200, for example via a mobile communications link. The network 315 can also communicatively link the mobile base station 380, the SC proxy 320, the weather proxy 330, a home monitoring controller 340, and a remote weather service provider 325. The communications network 315 is depicted as an Internet network. It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that communications network 315 can also include a wide area network, the public switched telephone network (PSTN), or other data network.

The communications network 315 can communicatively link the SC proxy 320 to a multitude of remotely located computing systems on behalf of the MCD 200, such as the home monitoring controller 340 (hereinafter “controller” 340). The controller 340 can be any home automation system capable of establishing a communications link with the communications network 315, such as an X10 computer-based control for home management.

The communications network 315 can communicatively link the controller 340 to the SC proxy 320 in order for the SC proxy 320 to monitor and control household devices communicatively linked to the controller 340, as well as monitor for household emergency events. For example, the controller 340 can be connected to one or more of sensors 360, for detecting the status (on/off or open/closed) of household structures, such as doors, windows, and curtains. Additionally, one or more sensors 360 can be configured to detect the occurrence of household emergency events, such as water leaks. Further, the controller 340 can be connected to one or more actuators 350 for controlling the household structures, for example, causing a curtain to open or close.

In one aspect of the present invention, the SC proxy 320 can be configured to support a “normal” thread for detecting the status of household devices, such as doors, windows, and curtains. For example, the SC proxy 320 can be configured to continually monitor the status of at least one sensor 360 which is linked to a specific household device. The SC proxy 320 can send the status of the specific household device to the client 308 in response to a status request received within the MCD 200. In another embodiment, the SC proxy 320 can be configured to support an “emergency thread” for detecting emergency household events, such as a water leak. In this case, the SC proxy 320 can be configured to automatically notify the client 308 when a water leak has been detected by one or more sensors 360. Thus, the present invention can include independent threads of execution for various tasks or classes of tasks.

In yet another embodiment, the client 308 can be configured to send a control request to the SC proxy 320 using a datagram connection. Accordingly, the SC proxy 320 can be configured to send the corresponding command signal to the controller 340, such as close a curtain. In the case of the curtain, the controller 340 can activate the actuator 350 corresponding to the curtain causing the curtain to close.

In another aspect, the communications network 315 can communicatively link the weather proxy 330 to a remote weather service provider 325 (hereinafter “service provider”) on behalf of the MCD 200. In response to a request received within the MCD 200 for a weather check, the client 308 can query the weather proxy 330. In turn, the weather proxy 330 can query the service provider 325 for real-time weather information via the communications network 315. In one embodiment, upon receiving weather data from the service provider 325, the weather proxy 330 can transmit the weather data to the client 308. Accordingly, the client 308 can present the weather data to the user.

In yet another embodiment, the client 308 can be configured to execute a software application for providing weather advice based on the aforementioned weather data received from the service provider 325. Specifically, the application software disposed within the client 308 can be configured to analyze the attributes of the incoming weather, such as temperature, percent chance of precipitation, percent chance of snow, or the like. The client 308 can compare the weather attributes with one or more rules stored in memory in order to make decisions based on the weather conditions. Notably, such rules can be user-specific. For example, the rules can specify that, for a temperature of less than or equal to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, the user should be advised to wear a coat, hat, gloves, or the like. Additionally, the rules can specify that, for a chance of precipitation greater than or equal to 40%, the user should be advised to bring an umbrella, or for temperatures above a certain threshold, or below a certain threshold, the user should stay inside. Accordingly, the client 308 can present a course of action to the user. Alternately, the weather proxy 330 can be configured to include application software for analyzing the attributes of the incoming weather and determining a course of action for the user.

Household device status, emergency household events, weather data, and weather advice can be presented to the user via the MCD 200 in an audible or visual format. Further, the examples of household devices to be controlled or monitored, and household emergency events, have been provided for purposes of illustration only and should not be construed as limitations of the present invention.

FIG. 4A is a schematic diagram illustrating one embodiment of a GUI 400A for use with the MCD of FIG. 3. The client disposed within the MCD can present the GUI 400A to the user when the user activates the MCD. The GUI 400A depicts a “main menu screen” which can allow a user to initiate a status check of one or more household devices, or select one or more household devices to turn on or off. Further, the GUI 400A can permit the user to disable or enable notification of emergency events, such as a water leak. Additionally, the GUI 400A can inquire whether the user desires a weather check.

FIG. 4B is a schematic diagram illustrating another embodiment of a GUI 400B for use with the MCD of FIG. 3. The GUI 400B can be presented to a user when the user selects an option to receive a weather check from the “main menu screen” depicted in FIG. 4A. The GUI 400B depicts an example of a “weather data menu” for presenting a user with real-time weather information. The GUI 400B can inquire whether the user desires a weather check. Upon receiving a user request for a weather check within the MCD, the client can query the weather proxy for weather data, as described in FIG. 3. In turn, the proxy can query the weather service provider. Upon receiving the weather data from the weather service provider, the proxy can transmit the weather data to the client. As depicted in FIG. 4B, the client disposed within the MCD can open a dialog box 440 to present the real-time weather data to the user. Further, the GUI 400B can include a control 450 for specifying a return to the “main menu screen.” Accordingly, activation of control 450 can cause GUI 400A depicted in FIG. 4A to be displayed. Additionally, GUI 400B can inquire whether the user requires weather advice.

FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram illustrating yet another embodiment of a GUI 500 for use with the MCD of FIG. 3. The GUI 500 can be presented to a user when the user selects an option to receive weather advice from the “weather data menu” depicted in FIG. 4B. The GUI 500 depicts an example of a “weather recommendation menu” for presenting a user with weather advice based on real-time weather information. The GUI 500 can inquire whether the user desires weather advice. Upon receiving a request for weather advice from the user, the client can analyze the attributes of the incoming weather information based on one or more rules stored in memory. Accordingly, the client can present a course of action to the user in a dialog box 540. Further, the GUI 500 can include a control 550 for specifying a return to the “main menu screen.” Accordingly, activation of control 550 can cause GUI 400A depicted in FIG. 4A to be displayed.

GUIs 400A, 400B, and 500, have been provided for purposes of illustration only. It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that a GUI can be implemented in a variety of different configurations using an assortment of control mechanisms. As such, GUIs 400A, 400B, and 500 are not intended as a limitation of the present invention. Notably, GUIs 400A, 400B, and 500 depict the user being presented with data visually. It should also be appreciated, however, that a user can be presented with weather information and security and control data in an audible format.

FIG. 6 is a flowchart illustrating one embodiment of a method 600 for checking the status of a household device, such as whether a window, door, or curtain is open or closed. As is known in the art, each household device can be linked to a sensing device or actuating device that is electrically connected to a home monitoring controller, such as an X10 controller. X10 is a communications protocol used for monitoring and controlling household devices which allows compatible products to communicate to each other using the existing electrical AC wiring in the home. The method of FIG. 6 can begin in a state where the home monitoring controller can automatically send status data to the SC proxy through a network. For example, when a close or open event occurs, such as a door being opened, the home monitoring controller can send a “door opened” signal to the SC proxy over the aforementioned communication channel. Further, the SC proxy can record the status of the household device. The SC proxy will then relay the status information to the client disposed within the MCD only in response to a request for a status check by the user.

The method 600 can begin in step 605, where the MCD receives a user request to check the status of a household device. In step 610, the client can query the SC proxy for the status of the household device. In step 615, the client can receive the status information from the SC proxy. In step 630, the status of the device can be presented to the user, by the client, via the MCD. It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that a user can be presented with the status data in a visual and/or audible format.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the MCD can be configured to automatically notify the user of an emergency event. For example, the user can choose to receive automatic notification of an emergency household event upon detection, such as a water leak. In that case, the home monitoring controller can automatically transmit a signal to the SC proxy indicating that an emergency event occurred. In contrast to status data which is sent from the proxy to the client only in response to user prompting, the proxy can send emergency event status automatically to the client upon detection. Accordingly, the client can present the alarm notification to the user via the MCD.

FIG. 7 is a flowchart illustrating one embodiment of a method 700 for receiving a user request to control a household device. The method 700 can begin in step 705 where the MCD receives a user request to activate a household device, such as open a curtain installed in the home. In step 710, the MCD transmits the user request to the SC proxy as a datagram. In step 715, the SC proxy converts the user request to a format compatible with the home monitoring controller, such as X10 protocol. In step 720, the SC proxy transmits the user request to the X10 controller. In step 730, upon receiving the user command to activate a household device, the X10 controller can send an electrical signal to the corresponding actuator linked to the curtain. Accordingly, the actuator can be activated and cause the curtain to open.

FIG. 8 is a flow chart illustrating a method 800 of communicating with a remote weather service provider according to another embodiment of the present invention. The method 800 can begin in step 805, where the MCD receives a user request for a weather check. In step 810, the client disposed within the MCD can transmit the request to the weather proxy. In step 812, the weather proxy can query a remote weather service provider for real-time weather information. In step 815, upon receiving the weather data from the weather service provider, the weather proxy can send the weather data to the client. In step 820, the client can present the weather data to the user via the MCD.

In step 830, if the weather assistance feature is not selected by the user, then the method 800 can loop back to step 805 and wait for another user request for a weather check. If, however, the user has activated the weather assistance feature, the method can proceed to step 840 and the client can compare attributes of the weather data received in step 815 with the weather rules stored in memory to determine weather recommendations for the user. In step 850, the client can recommend a course of action to the user via the MCD. In yet another embodiment, the weather proxy can be configured to calculate weather recommendations rather than the client. In this case, the weather proxy can transmit the weather advice to the client for subsequent presentation on the MCD.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the MCD can be configured to receive notifications from emergency notification systems, whether state, federal, or another jurisdiction. Such communications and/or warnings can be received as a cellular communication or received via the short range transceiver. As such, the messages can be audio and/or textual messages. Regardless, these messages can be received without first querying for such information.

The present invention can be realized in hardware, software, or a combination of hardware and software. The present invention can be realized in a centralized fashion in one computer system, or in a distributed fashion where different elements are spread across several interconnected computer systems. Any kind of computer system or other apparatus adapted for carrying out the methods described herein is suited. A typical combination of hardware and software can be a general purpose computer system with a computer program that, when being loaded and executed, controls the computer system such that it carries out the methods described herein.

The present invention also can be embedded in a computer program product, which comprises all the features enabling the implementation of the methods described herein, and which when loaded in a computer system is able to carry out these methods. Computer program in the present context means any expression, in any language, code or notation, of a set of instructions intended to cause a system having an information processing capability to perform a particular function either directly or after either or both of the following: a) conversion to another language, code or notation; b) reproduction in a different material form.

This invention can be embodied in other forms without departing from the spirit or essential attributes thereof. Accordingly, reference should be made to the following claims, rather than to the foregoing specification, as indicating the scope of the invention.