Industry Opinion: Trends in Home Networking

By Yasmin Hashmi, HiddenWires. How things have changed. Flooding a home with category cable or putting in a few wireless access points is no longer enough. You have to understand all of the IT hardware that could potentially connect to it, and the new and forthcoming services that might be carried over it. The area of home networking is moving on apace, so we asked a number of leading lights about recent trends and what they think is likely to drive the home networking market in 2014. Here are their replies:
Dr. Dirk Schlesinger, Global Lead, Manufacturing Industries, Cisco Consulting Services The 'Internet of Things and Services', as much as it may seem an IT-industry buzzword, is becoming reality. Smart homes are an early manifestation, but a seemingly obvious one. Furthermore, big industry players have realised that the Internet of Things and Services requires building ecosystems of partners beyond the confines of their own corporation. 2014 will in retrospect be seen as the year when the market for smart homes reached a tipping point, as the inflow of venture capital money, the recent acquisition of Nest by Google and many new industry alliances in this space underscore. Why now? An increasing number of IT-savvy customers are seeking the same convenience and seamless experience in their physical environment as they are used to from their personal digital devices - being 'connected' is cool. Since siloed solutions in the past have failed to take off or make financial sense, the industry is coming around to building 'delivery platforms', spanning multiple home automation domains and services. The interesting thing is that this is now happening with new partners, some of which are even competitors in other lines of business. We believe that open, discrimination-free enabling platforms for these products and services will emerge as the dominant market develops, because these provide the most attractive value proposition to the end-customer and positive business cases for home-automation service providers.
Nick Phillips, VP of Sales and Marketing, Pakedge Device & Software Without doubt, the trend of IT convergence and IP networking has been a revolutionising force in custom install. Systems are now becoming truly integrated over IP whereas in the past, gateway products were needed to translate proprietary protocols. This never resulted in a truly integrated solution, but now that IP is the common protocol, these issues are a thing of the past. The challenge now is to take the products and tools of the IT world and get them working for the installer. The next movement in network technology will see an increased dependency on the robustness of networks, which will be underpinned by a movement toward the cloud. The rise of the connected device will transform the Internet of Things into the Internet of Everything - some predictions see the amount of new data being created in 2020 at 40ZB. This will put enormous strains on networks and will exponentially increase the requirement for better - more secure and more robust - networks. If custom install manufacturers and installers can rise to these challenges, we'll see opportunities for better customer service and subscription services for the dealer, and a bright future for the industry as we wrestle the 'specialist' tag for this area of expertise away from IT consultants and technicians.
Michael Maniscalco, Co-founder, ihiji The continued growth of the internet of things will continue to drive the home networking market. As we see more and more devices and sensors connected to the network as well as cloud services adoption the need for more robust home networks will also increase. Looking forward, the adoption of 4k streaming services from providers like netflix in conjunction with the growth of consumer internet services will also put a stronger emphasis on higher end networks in both homes and businesses. This increase in number of connected devices and the importance of the core network performance will also require more robust tools for ongoing network management.
Martin Boulter, Manager of Customer Services, Luxul One of the most talked about trends is the increase in the number of connected devices. Televisions, thermostats, kitchen appliances, smoke detectors, and myriad other devices are now IP-enabled. With more data being shared by and between such devices, more robust networks are required to support the infrastructure. At the same time, network security becomes an even more important issue that needs to be properly addressed. Over the last decade, business has adapted to an increasingly hostile network environment. With more IP-enabled consumer devices gathering and sharing data, home network installers will also need to take security more seriously in order to protect personal data and privacy. This being the case, I expect to see more emphasis on the use of commercial network best practices within home network installations. This includes such things as the use of higher-level wireless security protocols, installing commercial grade routers with better security and firewall capabilities, and the implementation of secure guest networks as a means of minimising potential security breaches caused or initiated by internal users.
Greg Schlechter, Residential Segment Chair, AVnu Alliance Increasingly, consumers are using their home network to not only stream different types of media to single consumption points, but also to distribute media to more than one room in a home. Distributing media and multizone networked audio requires networks to be designed for media usages - requiring features such as time synchronisation and options for guests to consume and share media. It is more important than ever for homeowners and installers to understand their options for networks that can not only download media, but distribute and consume media in the home. This will require an understanding of standardised solutions to ensure that all devices in the system reliably work together across devices and brands.
Peter Huddleston, Sales and Marketing Director, Devolo UK This year will see two main factors pushing the development and demand surrounding home networking: increasing consumption and the consolidation of technology to fewer platforms. People are consuming more content over their home networks, streaming video and connecting multiple devices. This is not only putting pressure on bandwidth, but is also exposing the quality and speeds of networks within the home. The fact is that fast and reliable Internet is now a hygiene factor and consumers aren't willing to make do with a poor experience. Broadband availability is now even part of the criteria for buying a new home. Operators are under pressure to roll out services and consumers are also looking at how they can optimise the performance of their home networks in terms of speed and strength of signal throughout the home. The other market driver, already influencing home networking, is the consolidation of devices onto a single platform. The connected home is a headline for 2014 and the increased number of products at affordable prices will see mainstream adoption accelerate. Products that are easy to set up and use will move home networking on from early adopters, and useful OTT solutions, such as security and energy monitoring and control, will help consumers understand how they can apply the technology to meet their needs.
Jonathan Pengilley, Managing Director, Habitech Bandwidth demand has grown exponentially in the last few years - we all know that. So why is that, and what will be the continuing trends? We are consuming so much more video footage than we realise. Some of that footage is the explosion of amateur filming such as You Tube etc, but there is also the amount of professional footage such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer etc that we all watch. Again, we all know that video is more memory-hungry, but we probably don't appreciate how much more hungry. It's huge!! And don't forget music as well - it's not as memory-hungry as video but it still adds up. I'd say that my family is a normal middle-class UK family, and three years ago I signed up to BT unlimited broadband at home (well actually it was unlimited in BT's eyes, and mine at the time, as it gave us 40GB per month). Eighteen months ago we started to get charged for extra data as we were using more than our 40GB. So I renegotiated. We are now on an unlimited tariff and we consume about 65GB per month. And I am sure we are not considered as heavy users. So in summary, data usage is going through the roof. But what going to happen in the next twelve months? Demand is probably going to keep growing exponentially. The movie studios have finally brought down the price of Blu-ray as they want it to take over from DVD, 4K is the big buzz at present even though we know there is no content yet, and the VOD sites are finally getting some real traction. It all mounts up in terms of data consumption. So what's my advice? Get IP savvy as fast as you can. Use quality kit as the customer will forget the size of the bill if his or her system is fantastic, but they will never forgive you if it keeps falling over. And don't forget that demands on wired and wireless systems are growing together, so ensure you put a minimum of CAT6 as the cable backbone ( I would definitely be putting fibre in as well , even if we didn't terminate it at present, as the walls are sealed for 25 years) and I would use quality Wi-Fi components. Wi-Fi is not all the same - it's just a generic term that everyone uses. Finally, don't panic. I have read that there is some very cleaver compression technology software in the wings (Google's new software is meant to be amazing) and it will ensure that we will be able to watch 4K movies without the need for fibre directly to every device. Humans are incredibly inventive when there is lots of money involved!
Yasmin Hashmi is the Editor of HiddenWires, EMEA's leading English-language publication for the home control trade. You are welcome to add to this discussion by commenting below or through the HiddenWires group on LinkedIn.

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