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Make way for faster, smarter, cloud-savvy networks

Yardena Arar | Jan. 11, 2013
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.

The Wi-Fi Alliance also recently absorbed the trade group supporting Wi-Gig, the ultrafast but short-range 60mhz wireless technology designed primarily to replace unsightly cables connecting HDTVs to peripherals and laptops to docking stations. This should speed up long-awaited product releases.

Leveraging the cloud HDTV 

Many networking products now come with built-in support for free or fee-based cloud services. D-Link offers remote monitoring across its Cloud Router line (which is growing with the two aforementioned 802.11ac products. EnGenius announced separate cloud service offerings for businesses and consumers, due to launch by spring; the business service lets you monitor switches as well as access points, while the consumer service will include remote access to media.

Home entertainment continues to drive new product announcements: Netgear is introducing a NeoTV Prime media streamer with Google TV support, while Asus announced the Asus Qube, which also delivers Google TV and a remote that also lets you control the device with voice or gestures. Reflecting increased consumer adaption, routers and other networking gear continues to arrive in diverse industrial design, from D-Link's dark cylindrical towers to the "pod" theme of EnGenius's consumer line.

But this year, media streamers ceded the spotlight to more business-oriented networking hardware: IP cameras primarily for use in remote surveillance of small businesses and homes. All major network vendors now have an IP camera line, and at the show at least three of them--D-Link, Netgear and DropCam--were showcasing newer models that support night vision.

Vendors are also diversifying their related cloud offerings. Typically, vendors will let you access at least a couple of live camera feeds for free via a browser or mobile app, but charge service fees for extra cameras or for recording and/or storing video.

The explosion in network adoption in homes and small businesses is luring new vendors to the category. For example, longtime scanner vendor Plustek now sells routers designed to work with their IP cameras, along with the cloud services to go with them. Plustek plans to sell the product and service on a whilte-label basis--that is, to vendors (such as telecommunications or cable operators) who will market them under their own brand name.

A messy wired networking market

While Wi-Fi is fairly well entrenched as a worldwide wireless standard, at least some vendors are still fighting over non-ethernet wired technologies. HomePlug and MoCA currently dominate for powerline and coax networks, respectively, but the HomeGrid Forum continues to promote the development and deployment of products based on the International Telecommunications Union's standard for all wired network types (i.e. powerline, coax, home phone line and plastic optical fibre). stands for gigabit home networking.

The goal is to support and ensure compatibility between all types of wired networks, and supporters include AT&T, Intel, Marvel, Motorola and others with an interest in addressing compatibility issues that continue to plague wired home networking technologies. At CES, the HomeGrid Forum was showing adapters from several chipmakers and vendors--but facing fierce opposition from current wired-home networking vendors, who have little motivation to switch from whatever current technology they support to yet another new solution, will likely have an uphill fight.


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