America Online and GW Announce Research Alliance to Explore New Uses for the Internet in the Home

April 30, 2001

Dulles, VA and Washington  – America Online, the world’s leading interactive service, and The George Washington University announced today at GW’s annual Technology and Business Expo a new partnership to create the “Home of the 21st Century” Research Laboratory at the University’s campus in Ashburn, Va., in the heart of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor.  The new research center, located just five miles from AOL’s headquarters in Dulles, will focus on research about new uses for the Internet in the home.

“Our new relationship with AOL will enable students and faculty to contribute to the exploration of new Internet technology for improving the quality of life,” said Timothy Tong, dean of GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.  “When completed in the next several months, the lab itself will resemble a fully wired home environment.  In fact, the lab’s physical space, including furnishings and décor, are being designed by students in GW’s interior design program.”

The alliance, which is supported in part by a grant from Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, is guided by a common vision that entertainment, communications and information will be accessed easily and conveniently around the house.  Personal computers, televisions, webpads, as well as everyday appliances — such as ovens, refrigerators, entertainment centers, and security systems — in a typical home will be connected wirelessly to a computer network and capable of transmitting interactive data to residents through the Internet.  Personalization technologies could allow for individual preferences and uses of appliances and services, such as having lights, music and temperature preset before entering a room or receiving health-care advice and information using Internet technologies.

“With more than 29 million members, America Online has a unique understanding of the needs of consumers, and through our alliance with The George Washington University, we can apply this understanding to the study of technologies for the home of the future,” said Mario Vecchi, vice president of AOLTV.  “AOL’s goal is to integrate its hallmark ease of use and convenience into this environment, where people can utilize technology to simplify their lives.  The ‘Home of the 21st Century’ lab is an excellent place to begin this endeavor.”

In addition to sponsoring the Home of the 21st Century lab, AOL will be an integral part in developing projects, bringing its vision of consumer services to the new science and technology that will result from this research.  Unlike other research projects, GW faculty and students will be able to work with AOL to integrate services in a real world environment.

Work has already begun in areas such as wireless sensors that can transmit motion, audio, video, and other data to computers, various hand-held devices, and appliances that are connected to a network.  Researchers are studying ways to coordinate this data and enable residents to monitor and run appliances, entertainment centers or security systems through an Internet connection.

Other research initiatives planned include how to control different types of devices and appliances in a unified manner.  Since appliances, such as ovens, stereo components, and home security systems may be manufactured by different companies, technology must be developed to interpret data received from these devices for use through the Internet.

The long-term research agenda will explore the integration of many digital devices into a home computer system and connected to a content/service provider.  For example, movies could be produced with multiple versions and then transmitted to the home, where parents could instruct a decoder to send an R-rated version to their television and a PG-rated version to another television.

The social implications, and in particular, the human impact of a totally connected home of the future, has yet to be fully assessed by sociologists, psychologists, and ethicists, and the new alliance could lead to further exploration in this area by AOL researchers and faculty and students in the University’s related academic programs.

America Online, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL Time Warner, Inc.  Based in Dulles, Va., America Online is the world’s leader in interactive services, Web brands, Internet technologies and e-commerce services.

The George Washington University Virginia Campus serves an international technology and management community from its 77,000 square foot, $25 million graduate education and research center. Since opening in August 1991, the 50-acre campus has grown from modest beginnings with 200 enrollments and $50,000 in funded research to a strong, vigorous cluster of academic programs with more than 3,000 enrollments and funded research that tops $15 million.