Home News The Vision Relevance Technology Current projects Sponsors Contact
© OpenDCU.org 2012 - 2013
the digital consumer unit

The OpenDCU project

The Digital Consumer Unit

The base unit will connect either to existing householders’ broadband infrastructure (i.e. plugging into an Ethernet port on the home hub) or to a city-wide wireless mesh. The base unit will have: Wi-Fi connection Support for home control network to connect sensors and actuators Wired Ethernet Local flash storage ARM processor Ability to install and run add-in software modules Either a link to existing smart meters, as and when those become available, or electric power sensors to provide “smart meter” capability. Power supply for mains connection To keep the cost as low as possible and to keep power consumption to a minimum, it is proposed to commission a custom design. It is expected that these units will be permanently powered, and will consume 3-5W (£3 – £5 p.a. at current prices). If possible the base unit will provide power to the display unit, to minimise power consumption.       To allow the rest of the project to proceed from the project start, a prototype base unit will be produced using existing technology such as Raspberry Pi boards. This will allow services to be developed as fast as possible.

Smart Display

The display unit will be based on a low-cost Android tablet with multi-touch screen. Suitable devices are now available in bulk at well under $50. A mounting frame will be designed to allow the displays to be permanently wall-mounted. Most display units will spend most of their time in sleep mode and should not consume significant power in that mode.


Accessible versions of the system will be produced to cater for users with visual or other impairments. Adaptation for users with more challenging disabilities will normally be by using the browser interface, building on work done to provide general digital accessibility. Over time, the standardised nature of the OpenDCU design should encourage the development of many re-usable accessibility innovations.
The home ecosystem (Click for larger image)

Architectural philosophy

The OpenDCU’s design will conform to the SH&BA “IFRS” Interoperability Framework Requirements Specification.

Cost estimates

It is estimated that the combined cost of the two units will be between £50 and £100. Allowing a maximum of £100/household for installation, training, support and extra network hardware means that the infrastructure element of any project should be well under £200 per household. This will of course fall significantly over time.       It is proposed to sell additional tablets (with or without the mounting frame) for a reasonable mark-up, allowing families (for example) to have multiple access points.