A research team based at the Chinese University of Hong Kong is developing wireless communications systems that could alert homeowners by e-mail, fax or pager message from a home PC to a break-in. It could also allow them to turn off electrical appliances with a telephone call while away from home. Wireless Multimedia Lab (WML) was set up in August with an Industry Department grant of more than $3 million. It is working on newly released data transfer specifications for the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) standard. DECT is a technology developed in Europe and standardised through the European Telecommunication Standards Institute. The group helped to make GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) technology popular. While spectrum has yet to be allocated for public DECT networks in Hong Kong, formal approval for private cordless services such as DECT is expected by the end of next month. Professor Wong Wing-shing, principal investigator at WML, said the new lab was an offshoot of an internally funded radio communications lab at the university's Department of Information Engineering. It was responsible for developing a proprietary two-way paging system, a concept which may also be applied to the DECT technology project. Professor Wong said the department chose DECT as the focus of its latest radio communications project because the chipsets for DECT were already commercially available. Hong Kong manufacturers were also interested in developing phones for the standard. Hong Kong-listed S Megga International has formed a joint venture with United States integrated circuit manufacturer National Semiconductor to join the Hong Kong DECT Forum, a lobby group of technology firms promoting the standard in the territory. Other members are Nokia, Ericsson, Alcatel, Siemens and Philips. Professor Wong said WML was using Siemens chipsets in the early development phase. But he stressed it would not restrict its project to any single vendor's technology. 'We want to prove that we can work with any company and be completely interoperable,' he said. WML project co-ordinator Cheong Lik-ming said the central part of the project was the development of a data interface for DECT wireless traffic for a computer. 'We anticipate we will produce a PCMCIA [PC Card] type of device that would be able to convert data into a DECT format for transmission,' he said. The project completion date is the summer of next year. The integration of DECT services into a home, using a PC as the central fixed radio transmission device, is one of the major applications of the new data interface. Mr Cheong said because DECT specifications covered the network layer, there was plenty of design freedom in particular applications. 'A wireless control defeats the problem that an infrared controller has because it is limited to line-of-sight range,' Mr Cheong said. The WML displayed its DECT interface at the Industry Department's technology week exhibition last week.