Category: Wireless Networking

Devolo releases a highly-compact HomePlug AV500 wireless access point

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Devolo

dLAN 550 WiFi

Press Release (German Language – Deutsche Sprache / English language)

Product Page (German Language – Deutsche Sprache / English Language)

My Comments

Devolo have released a highly-compact HomePlug AV500 wireless access point that only takes up the space needed to plug in an ordinary appliance in to that power outlet.

The dLAN 550 WiFi works with HomePlug AV500 powerline network segments and is a Wi-Fi access point for 802.11g/n N300 two-stream wireless networks along with having a single Ethernet socket.

But the dLAN 550 WiFi is a small cube which has the same effective volume as a typical AC plug-head on the end of an appliance’s cord or a small plug-in nightlight in Europe or Australia, something I have observed with the situational photos that Devolo has published on their Website. This means that it only occupies the power-outlet space needed to plug in an appliance, thus avoiding problems that can occur with most HomePlug devices where you can’t plug in other devices in to a neighbouring socket on a double outlet when one of the sockets is occupied by a HomePlug device. There isn’t the temptation to unplug the Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi from that power socket (then leave it unplugged) because you couldn’t plug the hoover in to the neighbouring power socket .

It also answers situations where there isn’t much space around a power outlet, typically due to furniture being located nearby or a power outlet that is near shelving where you crowd out that shelving with books and other objects. As well, the Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi looks more discreet this pleasing whoever is in charge of the house’s aesthetics.

The Wi-Fi access point has a specified radio range of 300 metres which would make it good enough for improving coverage in that Wi-Fi dark spot in your home and it supports a simplified “push-to-setup” routine when you want to extend a WPS-capable router’s coverage. Let’s not forget that this unit supports WPS device enrollment for setting up “open-frame” computers and devices that implement this function – press the WPS button on the nearest access point to have that Windows laptop or Android smartphone on your network in a snap.

What I see of the Devolo dLAN 550 is that it could be a step in the right direction towards making HomePlug access points effectively become less obtrusive yet are able to extend the coverage.

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Google celebrates Hedy Lamarr who is behind how Bluetooth works

Articles

Hedy Lamarr: Five things you didn’t know about the actress and inventor in today’s Google doodle | The Independent

From the horse’s mouth

Google

Celebrating Hedy Lamarr (Blog post)

Video

My Comments

Google is celebrating Hedy Lamarr who was an Austrian film actress who moved to France then America where she gained her footing as one of Hollywood’s most beautiful film stars. They have done this using their animated “Google Doodles” which shows you the pathway from a film star to the home network.

But it wasn’t all about being the most beautiful woman in Europe or starring in these films that made her significant. When Hedy was with her first husband who was a German arms dealer, she had taken an interest in applied science which was part of what made military technology work.

After fleeing Germany, she also wanted to contribute to the Allied war effort during World War II in a more useful way than selling war bonds. She realised that Hitler was using his U-Boats to sink passenger liners and wanted to do something about that.

Hedy Lamarr worked with George Antheil, an avante-garde composer who was her neighbour in Hollywood, to invent a frequency-hopping system for radio communications. This was a tool to allow successful communications to take place without being at risk of radio jamming which the Germans were good at. 

The proof of concept was based around a player piano a.k.a. a pianola and its perforated rolls that had the music and taught the instrument how to play. Here, a piano roll was used to unpredictably change radio equipment between 88 different frequencies with the setup only operating on the frequencies for a short time. The sequence was only known between the controlling ship and the torpedo and it would require a lot of power in those days to jam a large swathe of frequencies. 

This was not implemented by US Navy until the early 1960s where it earnt its keep as part of a blockade of Cuba. But this technology and the spread-spectrum ability that it allowed for ended up as an integral part of today’s digital-radio communications techology. Examples of this include Bluetooth, CDMA used in some cordless phone and mobile phone applications and COFDM which is used in Wi-Fi wireless networking which nearly every home network runs with, DAB and digital satellite radio and DVB-T digital TV.

Here, it is about a film star who appeared through Hollywood’s Golden Era but also contributed to the features essential for mobile computing and home networking.

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Netgear sells a router and HomePlug access point as a package through Best Buy

Article

Best Buy, NETGEAR Partner On Distributed Wi-Fi System | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

NETGEAR

Nighthawk R7300DST Router and DST Adaptor

Product Page

Best Buy

Product Page – GET THIS HERE! (US$299)

My Comments

Most of us think of filling in our home network’s Wi-Fi dark spots where there is poor wireless reception or extending its range through the purchase of a wireless range extender. But these devices can be a headache to use and, as I have heard for myself when I talked with a friend regarding their home network, these devices are likely end up being returned to the store very quickly.

As well, when I advise someone on filling in that Wi-Fi dark spot, I recommend using an access point that connects to the router via a wired backbone i.e. Ethernet or HomePlug powerline.

NETGEAR and Best Buy has answered this problem by offering the DST package which consists of a NightHawk R7300DST wireless broadband router and DST adaptor. The DST name stands for “Dead Spot Terminator” which is about eliminating these dark spots in a home network’s Wi-Fi segment. This will also get rid of frustrations that Best Buy face with handling the number of wireless range extenders that come in as returned stock.

Here, once you have set up the Netgear DST router and given your Wi-Fi network segment its ESSID name and WPA2-Personal passphrase, you can simply plug the DST adaptor which is really a HomePlug AV2 simultaneous dual-band access point in to the power outlet in the area you need to expand Wi-Fi coverage to. Then you press the WPS and DST Sync buttons on both these devices to effectively transfer the settings to extend the network.

You could “revise” your network using the router’s interface and have these settings transmitted to the DST Adaptor. As well, you can separately purchase extra DST adaptors so you can cover that large house easily. The HomePlug AV2 segment created by this router can be used for other HomePlug AV, AV500 and AV2 devices but, as far as I know, you don’t have the ability to transfer Wi-Fi network parameters from the router to other HomePlug access points.

I would like to see Netgear offer this feature across more of their routers including the modem routers and offer these products beyond the USA. This feature can be augmented through manufacturers implementing nVoy in to their consumer and small-business networking equipment to allow for simplified network setup using the best network medium for the job,

As well, the Netgear NightHawk DST router supports up-to-date requirements like IPv6 dual-stack operation and the system supports operation up to AC1900 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and HomePlug AV2.

It shows that it is feasible to have one-touch setup of multiple-access-point Wi-Fi networks and that there is a future in maintaining the concept of access points with a wired backbone as a way to assure Wi-Fi coverage across a home. Who else will come up with such a package. As well, it is a first for a major appliance chain to encourage a supplier to factor in HomePlug technology as a valid solution for a problem.

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Internationaler Funkaustellung 2015–Part 2–Wearables and the Home Network

IFA LogoPreviously, in Part 1 of my series about the Internationaler Funkaustellung 2015 in Berlin, I had covered the trends affecting regular computers, tablets and smartphones especially with Intel just releasing the Skylake processor silicon which yields better performance for the same amount of power used. This has caused manufacturers to effectively refresh their desktop and portable computer lineups. As well, nearly every computer manufacturer is offering a lineup of desktop or portable computers that shine on gaming-grade performance to appeal to the core gamer and e-sports communities.

Wearables

ASUS ZenWatch 2 press picture courtesy of ASUS

ASUS ZenWatch 2

The smartwatch scene is slowly maturing with manufacturers offering more of these watches in their product lineups. The key trends here are about smartwatches that are designed to “look right” for the user and occasion. Here, we are seeing premium smartwatches that would look the part if you are to “dress to impress” on that date or in the corporate boardroom, but there are a few sports smartwatches with the rugged look along with a few “ladies’ watches” that look the part on her wrist.

Samsung had just launched the latest Tizen-based Gear S2 which has a traditional-looking round face and they have co-opted Alessandro Mendini, a well known Italian designer, to design accessory bands and watch faces for this watch.

ASUS has come along with the Zenwatch 2 Android Wear which uses an OLED display and Gorilla Glass protection and comes in 2 different sizes. It even has an add-on battery pack for if you want to get that more runtime out of the watch. Fossil has come up with another Android Wear watch as part of their range.

 

Moto 360 ladies smartwatches press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Motorola 360 smartwatches for her

Motorola have built out their Moto 360 range of Android Wear smartwatches with the Moto 360 Sport which is their smartwatch equivalent of the sports watch along with a slender “ladies’ watch” variant that will look good on her wrist. There are different finishes available such as a rose-gold look, a gold look, a silver look and a black-metal look with these watches up for preorder. This is also accompanied with a 1” TV commercial which they used to promote this watch.

LG Watch Urbane Luxe press picture courtesy of LG

LG Watch Urbane Luxe – fit for the boardroom

LG have also brought out the LG Watch Urbane Luxe which is a more premium variant of the LG Watch Urbane. This comes with an OLEP flexible display that works like the OLED displays and has a 24-carat gold finish. Huawei’s Android Wear watch can be had gold plated for US$800, gold with a leather band for US$649, black metal for US$449 and a stainless steel look for US$349.

The home network

The main trend affecting the home network is the availability of 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless-network technology which implements the MU-MIMO multi-path technology. This has led to some very powerful routers hitting the European market lately which have four MIMO streams and support the “multi-user” feature that effectively creates a Wi-Fi “switch” out of the access point.

ASUS RT-AC5300 router press picture courtesy of ASUS

ASUS RT-AC5300 router

ASUS has launched the RT-AC5300  which is considered the world’s fastest Wi-Fi router. This router, which uses spike-shaped antennas can run 1Gbps over the 2.4GHz band and 2.167Gbps over the 5GHz bands.

NETGEAR also fielded the 7800 Nighthawk X4S which is the first modem router to offer this kind of performance. This modem router has a DSL modem on the WAN (Internet) side that can work with ADSL2 or VDSL2 (fibre-copper) networks alongside a Gigabit Ethernet connection for fibre-to-the-premises, fibre-coaxial or Ethernet-based fibre-copper networks; and has on the LAN side, Wi-Fi capable to AC2600 4×4 MU-MIMO dual-band standards along with 4 Gigabit Ethernet connections. It is available in Europe and Australia for a recommended price of AUD$529, EUR€299 or GBP£269. The American press were moaning that they didn’t get this modem router first but they work on a service provisioning method very different to Europe and Australasia where self-install or BYO-modem provisioning of DSL based services is the norm.

D-Link have fielded some home-network hardware in the form of the DIR-885L router which supports 4×4 MU-MIMO AC3150 for its Wi-Fi functionality. They even fielded a USB Wi-Fi network adaptor which can allow any computer to work with an 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless network. This device’s best-case abilities is to work with Wi-Fi network segments up to 3×3 MIMO AC1900 standards.

AVM Fritz!Box 6820 LTE "Mi-Fi" press picture courtesy of AVM

AVM Fritz!Box 6820 LTE “Mi-Fi”

AVM has been very productive with its home-network hardware although this has been very much “in the comfort zone” with existing technology. They have launched the Fritz!Box 4020 which is a small Internet gateway with an N300 dual-stream single-band Wi-Fi access point along with the Fritz!Box 7430 VDSL Internet gateway that has an N450 three-stream single-band Wi-Fi access point. They also launched the Fritz!Box 6820 which is a “Mi-Fi” that can work with LTE mobile-broadband services and implements 802.11n Wi-Fi and a Gigabit Ethernet connection on the LAN side.

AVM Fritz!Powerline 1220 HomePlug AV2 adaptor press photo courtesy of AVM

AVM Fritz!Powerline 1220 – AVM enters the HomePlug AV2 fray

They have bought in to the HomePlug AV2 MIMO arena by offering the Fritz!Powerline 1240E HomePlug wireless access point along with the Fritz!Powerline 1220E HomePlug adaptor with pass-through AC outlet. This is in conjunction with the Fritz!WLANRepeater 1160 which is a dual-band Wi-Fi repeater.

Devolo haven’t been quiet lately. Here, they are pitching custoem HomePlug-based powerline solutions including HomePlug access points to ISPs and telcos so they can provision these devices to customers for optimum Wi-Fi coverage. They intend to sell these solutions more likely on an OEM basis. As well, they have launched the dLAN 550 WiFi which is a HomePlug AV500 wireless access point that can establish a single-band N300 Wi-Fi segment. They also used this show to exhibit their existing dLAN 1200 HomePlug AV2 hardware including the dLAN 1200+ WiFi AC which is a wireless access point that answers to the HomePlug AV2 MIMO and 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi.

Next I will be talking about the home-entertainment trends that are expected to cover Europe and Australasia such as the ultra-high-resolution TV and networked audio. Stay tuned!

Part 1 – Personal Computing Trends

Part 2 – Wearables and the Home Network

Part 3 – Home Entertainment

Part 4 – Home Automation and the Internet Of Things

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Wi-Fi now the expected feature for digital cameras and camcorders

Wi-Fi as a feature for digital cameras and camcordersRecently, I have been going through news articles about the digital cameras that are being launched or premiered this year and most of them are offering a common feature. What is this feature?

It is Wi-Fi wireless-network connectivity which allows you to link your smartphone or tablet with your camera using the same technology that is used to link these devices to your home network and the Internet when you are at home.

One of the key advantages that Wi-Fi wireless connectivity offers is that it offers a wider bandwidth than Bluetooth which would earn its keep with transferring the high-resolution RAW or JPEG pictures to your computer or mobile device.

Camera set up as access point

The camera serves as an access point for the smartphone or tablet

The typical situation is that you have to install software on your smartphone, tablet or computer that is written by the camera’s manufacturer to take advantage of this feature. This software would allow you to transfer photos and video from your camera to your computing device or have the computing device’s screen work as a viewfinder for the camera. In a lot of cases, it could serve as a remote control for your camera such as to be able to trip the shutter remotely. If the computing device is a smartphone or tablet, you may have the ability to geotag the shots you took using your camera with the smartphone’s GPS sensor providing the information. As well. some Panasonic camcorders use this software to create a multiple-camera setup using your smartphone’s camera along with the camcorder’s own camera function.

Using your smartphone's wireless-tethering feature as an access point

Using your smartphone’s wireless tethering feature as an access point

As I have highlighted before, Ricoh uses an integrated Web page rather than a client-side app for their GR II digital camera when it comes to remote control. This would appeal to those of us who use regular computers or Windows smartphones as partner devices for our cameras.

In some situations, the camera may offer an “on-ramp” to a manufacturer-hosted Web gateway which allows you to upload and share the pictures using the Web. As well, some of these Web gateways may offer a further “on-ramp” to social-network, image-sharing or file-exchange services that you have accounts with so you can take advantage of these services.

Using an existing network

Your Wi-Fi-capable camera as part of an existing home network

But how can these cameras work with Wi-Fi? Most of these cameras can be their own access point, typically serving one device like a smartphone or laptop. But they also have the ability to connect to an existing access point. This can be of benefit when you use a phone with Wi-Fi-based tethering, a “Mi-Fi” router or your existing home or small-business network.

How to get the most out of this technology

Interlinking with your smartphone

Facebook and Dropbox desktop

Facebook and Dropbox can benefit here

If you use your smartphone or tablet to post pictures on Facebook, Instagram and the like, you can take the pictures you want to post using your Wi-Fi-capable camera rather than the smartphone’s rear-facing camera and these pictures could impress people more. This is because the good digital cameras implement optics that are better than what would be integrated in a smartphone’s integrated camera.

Instagram Android screenshot

… as can Instagram

Similarly, when you take those holiday pictures, you can take advantage of your smartphone’s GPS to geotag the pictures and use them as part of an interactive map that a social network may offer.

Here, you use the camera for most of the photography while your smartphone’s camera can work as a fallback if your application calls for something small and light and you don’t care about the quality. Similarly, your smartphone’s camera would earn its keep with video-conferencing.

The best network setup for the job

The Wi-FI feature along with the “remote-control” functionality will come in to its own when you dig out that tripod. Here, you could be able to interact with the subject yet keep tabs on how it will look in the viewfinder and how the exposure will come off using your smartphone.

An existing network served by a powerful router could earn its keep here if you need to be further away from the camera such as filming a presentation or interacting with a subject. If you are “out and about”, a Mi-Fi could serve this role easily because of it working as an access point on its own battery rather than you finding that the battery is being depleted very quickly during a long shoot.

What needs to be done

DLNA integration

Once you have NAS units, especially mobile NAS units being equipped with the Upload and Download functionaliy for their DLNA MediaServer functionality, these cameras would have to support DLNA MediaUploader functionality to allow you to deliver the pictures you took on to these devices.  Similarly the idea of “throwing” images and footage you just took to a DLNA-capable smart TV via your home network would need to be investigated as a feature for these cameras.

Here, this could be approached through identifying standards and specifications that apply to the photography and videography ecosystem. As well, this concept could be taken further to allow different software to gain access to the camera’s sensor or controls for different applications.

Wi-FI Passpoint support

Another area that may need to be worked on for these digital cameras and camcorders is support for WI-Fi Passpoint. This allows for a simplified yet secure login experience when you use these cameras with a public-access Wi-Fi hotspot like what your favourite hotel or café provides. Here, you are not dealing with a login Webpage which would be difficult, if not impossible, to use with a digital camera because of the absence of a Web browser and reliance on “pick-and-choose” data entry.

The concept of a “trusted device cluster” could be looked at in the context of Wi-Fi Passpoint so you can provide a surefire “local-network-link” between two or more devices that are using a public-access network. Here, it would earn its keep when you are controlling your tripod-mounted camera from your smartphone during a presentation or downloading those pictures to your Ultrabook or tablet while you are in your hotel room.

Wi-Fi as another path to control lighting and other peripherals

Serious hobbyists and professionals will be dealing with advanced lighting setups in order to get the best out of their photographs and footage. This may involve continuous-light devices like video and photo lights along with flash-based devices like Speedlites or studio flash units. LEDs are also making it more feasible to vary the lighting colour of a particular lamp at an instant.

Here, Wi-Fi along with some of the “Internet Of Things” proposals being put forward by the UPnP Forum and AllSeen Alliance could open up the ability to use your smartphone or camera as a control surface for your lighting setup. This would also include being able to trigger flash units manually or in sync with the shutter.

For video applications, Wi-FI technology could also earn its keep with picture-sound synchronisation by working as a “common path” to transmit SMPTE synchronisation data between audio recorders and video camcorders. This could allow for “best-quality” sound recording and multiple-camera setups with devices having their own recording transports.

Conclusion

What I see of this year’s trend for cameras and camcorders to have Wi-Fi wireless network abilities is something that will make them increasingly capable.

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What is MU-MIMO and how does it benefit your Wi-Fi network

Article

Linksys EA8500 broadband router press picture courtesy of Linksys USA

Linksys EA8500 broadband router – One of the first MU-MIMO capable wireless routers

Why You’ll Want MU-MIMO | SmallNetBuilder

My Comments

A feature that is appearing at the top-end of manufacturers’ wireless router and access-point lineups, but will trickle down to more modest offerings including ISP-offered equipment is MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output).

This answers a situation faced with home, business and public Wi-Fi networks where individual users’ bandwidth is reduced because there are more Wi-Fi client devices using these segments.

It effectively provides an effective total throughput improvement where there is at least one MU-MIMO Wi-Fi client device on the wireless network. The trick used here is to use “beamforming”, which is effectively steering radio waves between radio endpoints, to achieve simultaneous AP-client data transfer for up to three client devices.

It is effectively like what an Ethernet switch does for an Ethernet network where it allocates the maximum bandwidth to the network client rather than sharing that bandwidth amongst a group of devices.

Previously, if you had a three-stream access point or router with 3 antennas, a third of the total bandwidth would be offered to the single-stream devices. These devices would also limit the bandwidth offered by the access point for that Wi-Fi segment and share that amongst the other devices. But a MU-MIMO setup would send the needed bandwidth to each device simultaneously, creating a “fat Wi-Fi pipe” for each device.

It also answers a reality where a Wi-Fi network would be serving plenty of legacy devices based on 802.11a/b/g/n or 802.11ac SU-MIMO technology along with the newer MU-MIMO devices. Here, the remaining Wi-Fi bandwidth would be freed up for the legacy devices to share while each MU-MIMO device has its own bandwidth.

But to see some real throughput benefit from a MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless network segment, you would need to be using an 802.11ac MU-MIMO client device on that segment. This would appear as devices are upgraded to newer models that have this feature.

A good question to raise with MU-MIMO would be whether clients and access points still benefit from multiple-access-point setups that are used to increase coverage and whether these setups also increase network capacity.

Other than that, it is the sign of things to come for the Wi-Fi wireless-network segment where they will benefit from increased throughput.

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Pay-TV providers are pushing for integrating access-point functionality in to consumer-electronics devices

Article

Time for Pay TV industry to get serious about Wi-Fi | VideoNet

My Comments

LG's 4K OLED curved TV press picture courtesy of LG America

Could a smart TV like one of these be an access point for your lounge area?

Previously I have raised the idea of having integrated Wi-Fi access point functionality in consumer electronics devices as a way to provide infill coverage for your wireless network. This is due to an increasing number of network-capable consumer-electronics devices like printers, set-top boxes, smart TVs and the like having network functionality in the form of both an Ethernet socket and integrated Wi-Fi wireless networking.

Some of these devices actually repurpose the Wi-Fi network functionality as an access point during their setup routine so you can supply your home network’s Wi-Fi credentials from a smartphone or tablet for subsequent wireless-network operation. But I was drawing attention to situations like a Wi-Fi-capable smart TV installed in the secondary lounge down the back of the house where there isn’t the good Wi-FI coverage and this TV is connected to the home network via a HomePlug AV500 powerline segment, or a premium desktop printer with Wi-Fi and Ethernet used in the garage that serves as the home office and. again, is linked to the home network via a HomePlug AV2 powerline segment.

There was some attention in the TV-technology scene when AirTies put forward their Air 4920 802.11ac concurrent-dual-band wireless-network repeater which was considered capable of pushing out 4K UHDTV data streams reliably. It led to the device winning the Connected TV Award for the Best Consumer Device.  This was due to it also supporting Wi-Fi Mesh functionality which uses a mesh setup in a Wi-FI network.

But TV Connect also showed interest in a 4K set-top box which also implemented the Wi-Fi Mesh technology for receiving the data but having an integrated wireless access point. It was also targeted with the point of view of a broadband provider who provides a multi-play service that includes pay-TV being able to troubleshoot and service the Wi-FI connectivity if the connection is below par.

Of course, wired backbones are used by pay-TV providers to link set-top boxes to the home network typically to provide IPTV services, download video-on-demand content or stream content from a DVR to another set-top device servicing the bedroom TV. Typically this is facilitated using a “no-new-wires” technology like HomePlug AV powerline or MoCA  coaxial-cable which links back to the home network’s router. Why hasn’t the integrated access point functionality been investigated in these setups?

The concept can be easily implemented in to most of these devices using WPS-assisted “network-clone” functionality and automatic tuning for a simplified setup experience. As well, the ability to detect a wired-backbone connection can be used to determine whether to set up the integrated Wi-Fi functionality as a n access point, a standalone Wi-Fi network like a guest network or not run it at all.

At least those in the pay-TV scene are waking up to the idea that an access point which is part of Wi-Fi network infrastructure doesn’t have to be part of a dedicated network-infrastructure device. Instead it can be part of a device that makes use of the network.

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Preferring highest-throughput on your dual-band Wi-Fi setup

Article

Specify 2.4 or 5 GHz WiFi bands on Surface Pro 3 | Barb’s Connected World (blog)

My Comments

A problem that Barb Bowman had highlighted in her blog was that the Surface Pro 3 was preferring to connect to her Wi-Fi home network on the 2.4GHz band rather than the 5GHz (802.11ac) band that it was capable of. This may be a problem with a lot of dual-band 802.11n/ac devices.

Here, she had ran the same SSID and security parameters for both the bands on her network and the Surface preferred the 2.4GHz band. To work around this, Barb had used the Device Manager to force her Surface Pro 3 to stay on the 5GHz 802.11ac band. With this 2-in-1’s network adaptor, there was an “Advanced” option to lock on 2.4GHz or 5Ghz or simply switch between the bands. The problem would become worse when she took the Surface on the road because of having to head to the Device Manager to set these parameters.

Another way to work around this is to run separate SSIDs for each band, having the 2.4GHz and 5Ghz networks work as separate segments. Here, the network could be set up as MY-NETWORK for the 2.4GHz band and MY-NETWORK-54 for the 5GHz band. Most simultaneous-dual-band access points and routers allow you to set this up and your can prefer to connect to a particular band using your device’s network-selection function. If you wanted to allow automatic switching, you then just set both SSIDs up on your device for automatic connection.

On the other hand, it could be feasible for operating systems to have support for “preferred” bands or operating modes for wireless networks in a similar way to how you can determine in Windows whether a network is a public, home or workplace network and adjust its sharing behaviour according. This kind of manual override could allow a device to prefer the 5GHz band for better performance but fall to the 2.4GHz band if this band works better. 

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Consumer Electronics Show 2015 – Part 4 – The Home Network

Over the past three days, I have covered some very interesting trends that were exhibited at the Consumer Electronics Show 2015 in Las Vegas. Part 1 covered the changes concerning personal computing including smartphones and tablets whereas Part 2 covered the increasingly-connected lifestyle which is brought on by the Internet Of Things. Part 3 has covered home entertainment especially as 4K UHDTV, wireless multroom audio and high-resolution file-based audio via the home network approach points of market maturity.

Now I am covering computer peripherals including USB 3.1 with the Type C either-way connection along with the “glue that holds it all together” – the home network. This is brought on with the arrival of Wave 2 802.11ac (AC2600 and AC3200) wireless networks and the highly-resilient HomePlug AV2 MIMO powerline network technology.

Computer Peripherals

A major innovation that is taking place with computer peripherals and accessories is the implementation of USB 3.1 with Type C connectors, something I have covered regularly on this site. Here, it is living up to the promise of high throughput with setups clocking a real-world throughput of 800Mbps on a demonstrator. Nokia’s N1 tablet is the first tablet device to be marketed with USB 3.1 technology and Type C connectivity. MSI are pitching the G772 gaming notebook and X998 Gaming 9 ACK motherboard with the USB 3.1 and Type C connectivity along with regular USB connectivity and they are intended to be available in March. Creative Technologies have not taken computer audio lying down. Rather they fielded a USB digital amplifier in the form of the X7 which you can connect to some decent speakers. It uses Sound Blaster chipsets for the computer interface and has enough connectivity to amplify line-level or digital sound sources or provide the Sound Blaster goodness to other amplifiers, digital recorders or digital-analogue converters. It also has on-board Dolby Digital decoding along with enhanced sound processing to get the best out of anything from compressed MP3s to high-grade FLAC files.

As for displays, most of the monitor manufacturers are running at least a few 4K ultra-high-resolution models. HP are running an new monitor lineup including some 4K models and even a 5K model. Two of these monitors have curved displays like the TVs shown at this show while there is a “virtual-reality”display that works with 3D glasses. Samsung joined the party by premiering 34” curved monitor with 21:9 aspect ratio and WQHD+ (3440×1440) resolution – their TV-display knowledge fits in here on the desktop.

There is a huge run of Bluetooth-capable audio devices at this show. Braven have premiered the Braven Bridge portable conference-call device. This uses a microphone array and noise-cancelling technology for clearer and understandable voices and can even come clear in loud environments. It has that deluxe leather look that appeals to travelling executives and can serve as a powerful Bluetooth speaker and mobile charge bank.

They also fielded a series of deluxe-look Bluetooth speakers with TruWireless stereo pairing. These are known as the 2200b and the 2300b with the latter having improved sound output. Braven also pitched a wireless audio mixer that mixes the sound from two Bluetooth A2DP sources and distributes it to two Bluetooth speakers.

Samsung cracked the storage capacity ceiling for solid-state storage by offering a 1 Tb external solid-state storage device that connects to the host via USB 3.0. Ultra fast, Ultra large! SanDisk had come to the party by offering a “memory-key-type” external storage device that connects to “open-frame” smartphones via their microSD card slots or a regular computer (or other device) via its USB 3.0 socket. These are available at capacities up to 64Gb.

The very fast no-new-wires home network

D-Link DIR-895L AC5300 6 stream wireless router press picture courtesy of D-Link America

D-Link DIR-895L AC5300 6 stream wireless router – an example of what Wave 2 802.11ac is all about

One major technology that is being premiered at CES 2015 is the 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless segment, especially the faster variants that implement at least three input and output streams and use MU-MIMO technology. This has a theoretical media-level throughput of 2.6 Gbps or 3.2 Gbps. This technology has been “cemented” courtesy of IEEE releasing the Wave 2 set of specifications for the 802.11ac wireless network along with Qualcomm, Quantenna and Broadcomm releasing the chipsets for this specification.

MU-MIMO is a high-throughput variant of MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) wireless technology that can allow an access point to concurrently serve data to multiple client devices with best-case performance and reduced network congestion. The benefits that this provides also extend to non-MU-MIMO client devices because the higher-throughput devices aren’t taking up the lion’s share of the traffic.

It was also run alongside the Wi-Fi Aware proximity-based service discovery mechanism for the Wi-FI wireless network standard which is to come later this year. Working in the background, this setup allows a device to discover other Wi-Fi devices and what they offer before actually connecting to them. It is being pitched to be like what Bluetooth was known for where you could spontaneously discover a person to share a namecard or picture with in the same room or set up a multi-machine multi-player game with friends on the couch. It also would serve a similar function to the Bluetooth Beacons and orthodox Bluetooth “push” advertising as a way to reach mobile users..

All of the major home-network hardware vendors are releasing at least one premium-level router with this technology. This has also pushed down the availability of AC1750 and lower-spec 802.11ac routers to prices that most of us can afford and allow carriers to supply such gear to their customers.

D-Link DHP701AV HomePlug AV2 MIMO adaptor press picture courtesy of D-Link America

D-Link DHP701AV HomePlug AV2 MIMO adaptor

As for HomePlug AV2 powerline networking, each of the major home-network companies is releasing a HomePlug AV2 MIMO-capable adaptor package that allows you to start setting up a robust powerline network segment with a theoretical throughput of around 1.5 Gigabits per second. It gives legs to this “wired now-new-wires” technology when being used in commercial premises or multi-building home networks.

Amped Wireless have released their 802.11ac range with AC750-compliant routers and range extenders that use touch-screens as their control surfaces. Sadly, these are their low-tier models for this specification. They are also running more 802.11ac range extenders with two desktop models having a Gigabit Ethernet switch to make them work as wireless client bridges for many devices along with two wall-plugged models that have a Gigabit Ethernet port for wireless-client-bridge functionality. In each form-factor, there is a two-stream variant along with a three-stream variant.

Linksys launched their fastest 802.11ac home-network router which uses four streams with MU-MIMO(AC2600) and has Snapdragon horsepower, a four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch and USB and eSATA sockets to allow it to serve as a NAS. They also released the “AC1200” variant of their WRT1900AC “son of WRT54G” router along with the styled-alike WRT Network Storage Bay which is a dual-bay NAS enclosure with eSATA and USB external-disk connectivity. Oh year, it has DLNA network media server functionality.

D-Link have shown off their out-of-this-world 8-antenna MU-MIMO AC2600 router and also launched the AC1900 USB wireless network adaptor. This is so you can gain the benefits of a Wi-Fi wireless segment running to the latest 802.11ac wireless specification with your existing laptops or desktop computers. They have launched their HomePlug AV2 MIMO adaptor (DHP701AV) and HomePlug AV2 SISO adaptor (DHP601AV), both having Gigabit Ethernet connections.

TRENDNet TPL-421E2K HomePlug AV2 MIMO adaptor (US variant) with AC socket plugged in to typical US AC outlet - press picture courtesy of TRENDNet USA

TRENDNet TPL-421E2K HomePlug AV2 MIMO adaptor (US variant) with AC socket

TRENDNet are also running one of the first “travel routers” to have 802.11ac technology. This unit implements AC750 single-stream technology along with the ability to be a USB file server as well as having Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. They also launched an AC3200 “tri-band” (all 5GHz band and 2.4GHz band) six-stream router with six antennas along with their AC2600 four-stream router, both having Gigabit Ethernet for WAN and LAN, USB file serving and IPv6.They haven’t forgotten about the HomePlug AV2 MIMO powerline network and are re-exhibiting their HomePlug AV2 adaptors and exhibiting a variant with an integrated power outlet.

TP-Link launched their Archer 2600 router with 4 x 4 AC Qualcomm Wi-Fi and Archer C3200 with 2 3-stream 5GHz front-ends and 1 3-stream 2.4GHz front-end and Broadcomm chipset. They also have launched a 3-stream AC1750 range extender and an AC750 range extender. As well they have contributed HomePlug AV2 MIMO adaptor which is the first of this product class to have a 3-port Gigabit Ethernet switch

Netgear have launched a lineup of range extenders including an AC1900 model, AC1200 model, AC750 model. These devices can use one band for their wireless backhaul while the other serves the downstream devices and can be set up to be access points with Ethernet (or HomePlug AV2 MIMO) wired backbones. They are the  EX7000 which is the AC1900 3 stream variant with a 5 port Gigabit Ethernet switch and a USB 3.0 file server, along with the EX6150 which is a 2-stream AC1200 wall plug that has a Gigabit Ethernet connection, and the EX3700 Essentials Edition which is a 1-stream AC750 wall plug.

NetGear GS108E 8-port Gigabit Ethernet "Click" swithch with power supply bracket press picture courtesy of NETGEAR America

NetGear GS108E 8-port Gigabit Ethernet “Click” swithch with power supply bracket

They also launched their PL1200 HomePlug AV2 MIMO adaptors – the PL1200 and the PLP1200 which has an integrated AC outlet. Let’s not forget their value-priced unmanaged desktop Ethernet switches which Netgear have been well known for and is something I would specify, and they have shown up with a new device in this class. Here, they have launched a pair of these Gigabit switches which dock in to a power-supply bracket thus eliminating the need to use a wall-wart that falls out too easily. They have a 16-port variant along with an 8-port variant which comes with two USB gadget-charging ports.

NETGEAR ReadyNAS RN1040 NAS press picture courtesy of NETGEAR America

Latest generation of the Netgear ReadyNAS family

Netgear also launched the latest iteration of their ReadyNAS multi-function NAS units as the 100 and 200 Series ReadyNAS series. The 2-bay and 4-bay NAS units have improved processors for quicker throughput along with using ReadyNAS OS 8.2 as their operating system.

Around Town launched a 4G LTE 802.11g/n Mi-Fi router with a “boosting cradle”. This is a charging dock that has an Ethernet LAN socket, and 2 better MIMO antennas for 4G. This reminds me of some consumer-electronics devices released through the early 1980s like a portable VHS video cassette recorder setup that Hitachi implemented where the video recorder docked in to a large L-shaped tuner-timer base which had a full-function infra-red remote control, or some “ghetto-blaster” setups that had a tape unit that could be removed to become a Walkman.

The NAS is being seen by some vendors as being a “personal cloud”. But some of these vendors are taking an integrated approach with interlinking with existing online storage services like Dropbox along with acceptiance of the new BitTorrent Sync technology. This is being pushed more so by Seagate with their home NAS units.

QNAP had launched some AMD Steppe Eagle x86 powered NAS units which came in 4 bay, 6 bay and 8 bay variants. They had 4 gigabit Ethernet connections for throughput-bonding or serving multiple networks, a 10 Gigablt Ethernet upgrade option for small businesses and ran QTS 4.2 OS. This operating system provided various “connected-home” functions along with various business-focused snapshot backup options.

Conclusion

What I have seen of the Consumer Electronics Show 2015 is that certain technologies like 4K UHDTV, HomePlug AV2 MIMO, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and lightweight highly-capable personal computing have hit points of maturity in the marketplace or are close to achieving that goal.

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Devolo marries the latest HomePlug and Wi-FI standards in an access point

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Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac (Continental Europe (Schuko) variant) in action - press image courtesy of Devolo

Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac (Continental Europe (Schuko) variant) in action

devolo détaille son dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac | EreNumérique (France – French language | Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth

Devolo,

dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac

Product Page (German Language – Deutsche Sprache / English language)

Press Release ( German Language – Deutsche Sprache / English language)

My Comments

Devolo, a German network-hardware manufacturer, has done the most incredible act with their support for HomePlug technologies.

Here, they have released in to the European market a simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi access point which can work with HomePlug AV2 MIMO powerline network segments. Here, these use the three AC wires to achieve a media-level power-line network speed of 1.2Gbps for the powerline backbone. This is in addition to using the three wires to create a highly robust HomePlug AV2 segment that could work in difficult environments like commercial premises where there are motors that can create a lot of electrical interference.

Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac access point - Continental (Schuko) variant - press picture courtesy of Devolo

Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac access point

For the wireless segment, you have a single stream for the 5GHz band which goes to 866Mbps and two streams on the common 2.4GHz band which goes to 300Mbps. There are two Gigabit Ethernet sockets which come in handy with a lot of sessile devices like Smart TVs, desktop computers as in those “gaming rigs” and printers.

These access points come with an integrated “pass-through” power outlet which means that you don’t have to forfeit a power outlet so you can use HomePlug AV2.

Lets not forget that the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac supports WPS clone which is a simplified method to set up a multiple-access-point home network. Here, you press the “setup” button on the access point then the WPS button on the router or access point you are extending for it to learn the ESSID and security parameters of that access point so you quickly have it work as that extension access point.

Devolo have answered a need to allow users to quickly extend Wi-Fi coverage out to outbuildings, charming old caravans serving as extra living space and the like or answer Wi-Fi coverage difficulties yet be able to work with the latest HomePlug and Wi-Fi technologies. Try this device with handling Wi-Fi issues with that mas en Provence or other stone-built European building.

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