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Messenger HomeHub

I'm in the process of planning my home automation and media centre setup for my new house and one of the problems I thought about on the train to work this morning was how to pervade my single MSN Messenger presence throughout my digital home.
  • Media Centre in living room
  • Media Centre in bedroom
  • Media Centre in kitchen
  • Laptop/TabletPC roaming wirelessly
Why so many media centre installations? Well I could just use media extenders but I also want internet, office and IM capability where ever I am in the house.

The problem
I have multiple locations within my house to receive IM traffic but a single IM account on peoples contact list.

The solution
Create new Messenger accounts for each location (living room, bedroom, kitchen etc) and then write an application to act as a conversation "hub" - automatically forwarding the conversation to each individual location (possibly using presence information such as the status to help decide). Messenger HomeHub is born....

As a bonus this allows me to piggy back work I've done previously with dotMSN and on other automated messenger "bot" systems. I also decided that this has a lot more potential than just directing Messenger conversations. Imagine your house has an automated Messenger system "hub" to direct requests for information; An application architecture such as the one I used in my NAntService allows for any number of extensions into other systems such as home automation, security, calendar/scheduling....kinda like a "Digital Jeeves". I particularly like the calendar/scheduling one and it's a pretty simple one to implement too by hooking into Outlook.

Messenger HomeHub Application
As I write this post I've yet to write a line of code - my goal will be for v0.1 to allow the basic conversation forwarding from one address to a set of addresses using an "auto-conference" feature. I'll be using Microsoft .NET 2005 and the dotMSN library wrapped in a Windows Service to ensure it is always logged in and ready to accept conversations. Of the top of my head I think a plugin architecture utilising an "Observer" pattern would produce a suitable application.

I'll keep you posted as to progress - I'd like to get v0.1 up and running as a proof of concept ASAP. If you are interested in this idea then drop me a line/comment and it would be cool to discuss any improvements/ideas you have.

As a final point I would like to predict big big things for digital home hubs this year but I think that there is a lot of work to do to make them fit seamlessly into peoples lives and home and the messenger location/presence problem above is a good example. I also think that Tablet PC's or rather portable touch screen displays (MS Smart displays?!) will be big...Rather then get a laptop to roam round the house I'm going to get a Tablet PC to allow me to write notes and draw pictures, this is a much more natural way to communicate I think.


Owen Cutajar said…
Good luck mate! It's not a trivial task, and while it may be technically possible to receive a message and relay it to a pertinent endpoint, I think the biggest difficulty you face is determining which location the message should be sent to. This could be compounded by the fact that the intended target may be moving from one room to another.

One solution may be to have an "agent" side to the solution; whereby if a message is received but not acknowledged, the message window will be closed and a request placed on the hub to re-target the message. Interesting problem though and as you say; bought to be an area of interest in the future.
Owen Cutajar said…
Erm .. last line should read "bound to be an area of interest in the future" ...
James Simmonds said…
Hey Owen - thanks for the feedback and I think the "agent" idea is great. I was going to simply spam out the conversation to the internal messenger accounts from the hub account, the danger is flooding an unattended PC with hundreds of dead conversation windows...maybe a cleanup service to close these windows....oi, its getting complicated!

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