Network gear may not be the sexiest stuff at the International CES, but it provides the infrastructure for lots of cool gadgets and cloud services on display here. And those products will benefit from the improved networks and network devices that vendors plan to ship this year.
One example of these trends came from D-Link, which announced a gaming router based on the draft 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard and on Qualcomm Atheros' new StreamBoost technology for bandwidth management. It's due around mid-year and price will be announced then.
StreamBoost, which Qualcomm Atheros announced last week, differs from existing QoS (quality of service) technology--including the IEEE's own 802.11e spec--in that it allocates bandwidth based on the actual requirements of applications running on connected devices in real time. (Many QoS technologies simply prioritize application bandwidth requests, which often far exceed actual requirements.) The D-Link Gaming router, expected to appear around midyear, will be one of the first to incorporate StreamBoost.
With a StreamBoost-enabled router, you'll be able to not only map every device on your network, but see what application (or application type) it's running and how much bandwidth it is actually using. An optional StreamBoost cloud service will constantly update the software's intelligence about app and device bandwidth needs.
The rush to 802.11ac
Lots of vendors are already shipping (or about to ship) routers based on the IEEE 802.11ac wireless ethernet standard, the successor to 802.11n that promises nominal speeds of up to 1300 megabits per second--in other words, faster than gigabit ethernet. D-Link itself announced two other ac routers at the show, and a company called EnGenius that has previously been selling primarily to businesses announced three consumer-focused models. All this is happening even though Wi-Fi Alliance officials say the IEEE is unlikely to formally ratify the standard before next fall.
However, no one expects the final standard to differ significantly from the draft version (at most you'll simply have to upgrade firmware), and the Wi-Fi Alliance plans to begin its 802.11ac certification program--which runs tests to ensure compatibility between products from different vendors--in April.
In a private meeting cubicle concealed from the Las Vegas Convention Center crowds, Alliance officials at CES also demoed some of the first products based on its Miracast spec for displaying content stored on Wi-Fi enabled devices on an HDTV. This is useful for both businesses that want to put presentations on big screens and consumers that want to watch web video on their TV without having to use a home network.
Miracast requires support at both ends to enable the sender and recipient devices to make a Wi-Fi Direct (peer to peer) connection. Legacy devices can add Miracast support by using third-party adapters, such as the ActionTec ScreenBeam Wireless Display Kit that the Alliance used in its demo along with the Netgear Push2TV (PTV3000), which also supports Intel's competing (and proprietary) WiDi technology.
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