Current and Future Trends Archive

Linksys and Deutsche Telekom bring Wi-Fi 6 home networks to the mainstream

Linksys MR7350 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router press picture courtesy of Belkin

Linksys MR7350 Wi-Fi 6 Broadband Mesh router – the first of the affordable Wi-Fi 6 routers

Articles

Deutsche Telekom Speedport Smart 4 Plus

Telekom Speedport Smart 4 Plus mit Wi-Fi 6 steht in den Startlöchern {Telekom Speedport Smart 4 Plus with Wi-Fi 6 is in the starting blocks) | Caschy’s Blog (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

Linksys MAX-STREAM AX1800 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 Router

Linksys unveils a more affordable mesh router with WiFi 6 | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Linksys

Linksys Expands MAX-STREAM Mesh Router Portfolio With Its Most Affordable WiFi 6 Solution (Press Release)

MAX-Stream Mesh Wi-Fi 6 Router (MR7350) – Product Page

My Comments

Two companies have pushed Wi-Fi routers which are about bringing Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology within the reach of everyone who is establishing a home network based around a fixed broadband Internet service. This is being drawn out of necessity thanks to smartphones, tahlets and laptops released through this year being equipped with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.

The first of these is Deutsche Telekom who have poised to release in to the German market a unit that will be typically supplied to a household signing up for fixed broadband Internet offered by that telco. This unit, known as the Speedport Smart 4 Plus is equipped with Wi-Fi 6 and will be about providing this technology in a turnkey manner to a home Internet service customer. It is ready to be launched at the IFA 2020 trade fair at Berlin in September.

The other is Linksys who have offered the MR7350 broadband router through retail channels for USD$149. It is rated as an AX1800 unit which will provide an average throughput for a Wi-Fi 6 router. But it is able to be part of Linksys’s Intellignent Mesh distributed-Wi-Fi setup, thus allowing you to expand your network’s Wi-Fi range when teamed with a compatible Linksys Wi-Fi router.

Engadget’s review described the Linksys MR7350 router as being fit for starting a Wi-Fi 6 network to cover an average-sized apartment or townhome unit. It can also be seen as an affordable infill access point for a Linksys Intelligent Mesh distributed-Wi-Fi setup, especially if you decide to put a better router from that product range as the Internet edge of your home network.

But what I am pleased about these devices is that they are an effort to bring Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology in to most home networks. These efforts may be continued on by other carriers, and home-network equipment manufacturers.

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Facebook now offers a way to turn off political ads on its main platforms

Article Facebook login page

Don’t want political ads in your Facebook or Instagram feed? You’ll be able to turn that off | CNet

From the horse’s mouth

Facebook

Launching The Largest Voting Information Effort in US History (Press Release)

Videos

Control Political Ad Content on Facebook (Click or tap to play)

Control Political Ad Content on Instagram (Click or tap to play)

My Comments

Facebook is introducing a feature that allows its users to effectively “mute” political advertising including issues-driven advertising on their main social-Web platform as well as Instagram.

This feature will be available to USA-based accounts as part of Facebook’s voter-information features for the 2020 Presidential Elections. That includes information on how and where to register along with where and when to vote, including early-voting (pre-poll voting) and postal-voting information. It underscores Facebook’s role as part of Silicon Valley’s effort to “get out the vote” in the USA.

Personally I am not sure whether this setup will provide information relevant to American expats who have moved to other countries like how their local US embassy or consulate is facilitating their vote. It is because in most cases these expats will still have voting rights of some sort for US elections.

The option will be available in the “Ad Preferences” option for your platform’s user-account settings on both Facebook and Instagram. Or both platforms will have a contextual option, highlighted under a stylised “i”, available for political ads allowing you to see fewer ads of this type, This can be set up using your Web-based user experience or the official native mobile-platform apps that you use for working these platforms with.

Of course, there won’t be the ability to regulate editorial content from media organisations that is posted or shared through Facebook or Instagram. This will be an issue when you deal with media outlets that have a highly-partisan editorial policy. Nor will there be the ability to control posts, shares and comments from Pages and Profiles that aren’t shared as a paid advertisement.

There may also be questions about whether your favourite politician’s, political party’s or civic-society organiation’s Facebook or Instagram traffic will appear in your platform’s main view especially if they pay to increase viewership of these posts. It can be of concern for those of us who have a strong role in political and civic society and see the Facebook traffic as a “news-ticker” for the political entities we engage with.

Facebook has an intent to roll this feature out to other countries where they have established systems for managing and monitoring political advertising on their platforms. At least they are the first online ad platform that allows users to have control over the political and issue advertising that they see while they use that platform.

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Qualcomm launches a 5G chipset for affordable smartphones

Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 5G reference phone press picture courtesy of QualcommArticles

Qualcomm brings 5G to cheaper phones with Snapdragon 690 processor | CNet

Snapdragon 690 announced: 5G comes to Qualcomm’s mainstream chip family | Android Authority

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 690 chipset brings 5G to cheaper phones | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Qualcomm

Qualcomm Announces First 5G Snapdragon 6-Series Mobile Platform (Press Release)

My Comments

5G mobile broadband technology will be coming to an affordable smartphone near you thanks to a new chipset that Qualcomm has now launched.

This chipset, known as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chipset doesn’t just have a 5G modem for this class of product but also has processing power to handle some high-end tasks like 192 megapixel high-resolution photography or 4G HDR videography. There will also be support for Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.1 technology along with support for improved artificial-intelligence / machine-learning. It is although Qualcomm haven’t built mmWave support in to the 5G mobile broadband modem.

The silicon is being rolled out at the moment and will have a low bill-of-materials price compared to premium or midrange chipsets that Qualcomm offers. This will mean that a finished Android smartphone product would be expected to retail between USD$300-USD$500 before any telco subsidies. This is compared to the Apple iPhone SE which is a4G only product going for USD$400.

Phones based on this chipset will typically be manufactured by the likes of LG, Motorola, HMD Global (Nokia), Sharp, TCL (Alcatel) and the like. This will include various original-equipment-manufacturers who specialise in selling products under a private-label agreement with the distributor, retailer or telco.

The coronavirus plague, with the various event and business shutdowns associated with it, has  thrown a spanner in the works regarding bringing 5G mobile broadband in to the mainstream. As well there hasn’t been much market interest in newer smartphone technology and there would be a strong market for affordable smartphones thanks to people concerned about how much they spend, forced by the COVID-19-driven financial downturn.

But this chipset may also be about allowing manufacturers to take less of a gamble when it comes to creating a smartphone or tablet product that embodies a unique form of innovation or answers a particular market’s needs. An example that could come to mind would be a smartphone that has its radio circuitry optimised for long-range reception and pitched for rural and remote areas. Similarly, LG could pull it off again with a smartphone that has a DAB+ digital-radio tuner that would have a greater zone of relevance thanks to more European countries running DAB+ digital radio full time.

What is being highlighted here is that Qualcomm is making it feasible to provide 5G mobile broadband technology at a price affordable for the masses.

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Hair clippings will be ending up as a source material for OLED displays

Barber shop courtesy of Tim Mossholder (Unsplash)

Hair cuttings from these barbershops can end up as a material for OLED displays in many devices
(Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)

Article

Future Flexible OLED Displays Could Be Made From Human Hair | Gizmodo Australia

My Comments

There is an increased interest in the use of OLED displays for all display applications, what with doing away with a backlight layer which means increased application flexibility and power efficiency; as well as yielding high contrast. But this technology comes at a price which may be out of the range of most commodity applications, especially equipment user-interface displays.

But researchers at the Queensland University of Technology have used hair clippings from a local barber shop to experiment with the use of hair strands into self-illuminating carbon nanodots fit for a light-emitting device. Here, it’s about breaking down the hair strands then heating it to 240 degrees Celsius, equivalent to a very hot oven to create these displays. The carbon nanodots are a form of quantum dot that can yield the bright vivid colours due to their expertise at illuminating a single primary colour.

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer detailed function display

… like displays on printers such as this Brother unit

This application may not be bright enough for a TV screen intended to be viewed at a distance but could be bright enough for an application that is intended to be viewed up close. The core applications would be smartphones, tablets and wearables. But I would also see this extend to equipment or automotive displays that give a really distinct level of brightness and contrast like the vacuum-fluorescent displays used an a lot of consumer-electronics equipment made through the 1980s and 1990s.

The advantage here is that hair is a natural source of nitrogen and carbon and can be easily harvested from local barbers and hairdressers as part of a recycling program. The applications then end up as being part of a circular economy and there is further research in to using animal hair for this same application, which may allow the use of pet hair salvaged from veterinarians, animal breeders or dog groomers for this purpose.

As well, the idea of a component of this display being cheaply sourced through recycling programs may lead to the cost of these displays going downhill and allow them to displace LCD technology as the display technology of choice for small colour displays.

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The BBC to develop its own voice assistant for finding AV content

Article

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

The BBC is working on a voice-driven assistant of its own

BBC planning Alexa rival | Advanced Television

BBC’s Beeb voice assistant goes beta | Advanced Television

BBC launches voice assistant that will learn regional accents | Mashable

From the horse’s mouth

British Broadcasting Corporation

What’s next for Beeb: The new voice assistant from the BBC (Press Release)

My Comments

The BBC have started work on the first voice-driven assistant platform that is designed in the UK and for British conditions. This platform is named Beeb which is one of the common affectionate nicknames for that public-service broadcaster.

It will be initially rolled out to UK participants of Microsoft’s Windows Insider program and is at beta stage, thus limiting it to use on regular computers at the moment. It is based on the BBC’s iPlayer content-directory effort and will be primarily about bringing up audio content like live and on-demand radio content, music or podcasts. It will also be able to bring forth local news and weather information.

UK Flag

… optimised for UK accents and likely to place the UK in the voice assistant sphere

There will even be the ability to respond from material written by BBC comedy writers when you ask for a joke, including the ability to ask for a joke from a particular show. This is thanks to the amount of intellectual property that they have built up over the years including all those legendary sitcoms and other comedy associated with British telly.

Beeb will be voiced with a male voice that has a northern English accent. As well, its initial setup will have the user determine what UK regional accent they have so it understands their accent better. This is part of an effort by the BBC to preserve local British accents in the face of other voice-driven assistants which force users to use standard British English pronunciation over regional accents.

There is an intent to roll it out to other devices which are software-programmable and it will also to be part of revisions to the iPlayer app and BBC Website. But personally, I see the BBC’s Beeb effort as a candidate for the Voice Interoperability Initiative driven by Amazon and Microsoft that allows a device to run with multiple voice assistants and respond to each assistant’s “wake word”. That is an activity that the BBC are infact a participant in.

Support for regional and local accents

But personally, I see the Beeb voice assistant as opening a path for UK companies to develop their own voice-driven assistants that respect UK language, dialects, accents and culture. It can also be an example of fine-tuning a voice-driven assistant platform to work with the various local accents and dialects used within a country or language and avoid steering the user towards what is seen as a standardised pronunciation for that language.

What will eventually need to happen would be to allow automatic detection of a user’s accent and to work with that accent automatically when they speak, rather than requiring a user to determine which accent they are using during setup. Having to determine which accent you are using during the setup phase can be a problem for households with members that come from different regions.

I would also see efforts like Beeb end up being about local-speech “modules” for voice-driven assistant platforms that enable these platforms to support a country’s or language’s local peculiarities when it comes to regular use. It will then avoid the need for people to resort to using “standard” diction rather than the accent they are comfortable with to deal with voice assistants. Similarly, it could be about different “voicings” that maintain local characteristics for the assistant’s speech.

Who knows what this could mean for making voice-driven assistants locally relevant?

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Bouygues Télécom to get rid of the set-top box through a Samsung smart-TV app

Articles – French language / Langue française Flag of France

Bouygues Telecom s’associe à Samsung pour faire disparaître les box TV | 01Net.com

Samsung et Bouygues Telecom s’associent pour faire disparaître le décodeur TV | ZDNet.fr

My Comments

The highly-competitive French Internet and telecommunications market is drawing out another key trend regarding provision of TV service. Nearly every French telco is offering a “décodeur” set-top-box along with their modem-router “box” that is above ordinary for this class of carrier-supplied equipment. It is typically part of the deal when a customer signs up for a single-pipe triple-play Internet service with these operators.

This led to some systems like the Freebox Révolution which demonstrated high “media-centre” capability and even the Freebox Delta being the basis of a France-owned French-speaking voice-driven home assistant platform. I have also seen this level of innovation raise the bar for European personal information/communication technology sector.

But Bouygues Télécom is heading towards the smart-TV approach through the use of their B.TV app that runs on compatible Samsung smart TVs. It is in lieu of a décodeur set-top box that normally is part of the deal for watching the TV channels provided as part of these services.

The single-pipe triple-play package is expected to cost EUR€39.99 per month over a 24-month contract and is available to areas that are served by Bouygues Télécom with fibre-to-the-premises technology. Bouygues Télécom are also offering a Samsung 4K UHDTV for people who are signing up to this deal. This is the Crystal 4K UHD model with a 43” variant for EUR€49, a 55” variant for EUR€199 or a 65” variant for EUR€349.

It is part of a trend affecting the highly-competitive French ISP market to telcos to have a “set-top-box as an app” using smart-TV platforms for their n-box triple-play service, with SFR also on the bandwagon. Here, this will offer the IP-delivered linear and on-demand TV content and a lean-back user interface for the TV service through the app.

Questions that will come up with this app-based approach include whether the app will be delivered to other mobile and connected-TV/set-top-box platforms; along with the availability of a set-top-box for people to use with existing TV sets. It is although these offers will be pitched towards the ownership of certain Samsung TVs but there is the reality of older TVs being pushed to secondary viewing areas. There will also be the issue of maintaining these apps even if the TV or set-top-box manufacturer declares end-of-support on their device.

B.TV is what I would see as part of a Europe-wide effort to provide “set-top-box-free” TV service for IP-based multichannel TV providers including telcos who are part of this game. This is to avoid the need to buy a huge quantity of hardware to get one of these services off the ground.

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Telstra’s latest Mi-Fi router ticks the boxes for future-proof operation

Article Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro mobile broadband router product picture courtesy of Telstra

Telstra now have a mmWave-capable 5G hotspot | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Telstra

Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro router

Press Release

Product Page – has latest pricing and mobile-broadband service contracts

5G mmWave Mobile Broadband Technology

White Paper

My Comments

Telstra has fronted up with their latest premium portable mobile broadband router for the 5G mobile-broadband infrastructure. But this “Mi-Fi” known as the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro ticks all the boxes as far as being future-proof is concerned.

Here, on the WAN (Internet) side, this device supports 5G with mmWave technology while on the LAN (local network) side, it works on the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard for 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands thus bringing your mobile network up to date with the latest standards.Of course it can work with existing 4G LTE networks and exploits what Telstra has to offer in this context.  This has a 4500mAh battery that can be removed and can run for nine hours providing full data transfer. It can be charged via a USB-C connection according to the QC 3.0 protocol and the open-frame Power Delivery 2.0 protocol, meaning you can charge it with your brand-new Ultrabook’s charger or run it for a long time using a USB-C PD powerbank.

The Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro costs AUD$599 straight up. Or you could buy this device on a post-paid Telstra service plan for AUD$24.95 / month on 24-month plan plus mobile data plan the cost of the mobile-broadband data service.

What is this mmWave 5G mobile broadband all about?

The mmWave 5G mobile broadband technology is an extremely-high-frequency variant of 5G mobile broadband technology which works between 24GHz to 100GHz. Telstra’s initial trial run of this technology at Gold Coast worked on 26GHz. The same technology has been sued with various fixed point-to-point wireless links and satellite-Internet services but is use as a mobile broadband technology is what is being identified here.

Due to the very short wavelength, mmWave 5G technology will have a short operating range of a few hundred metres from the base station. This means that to cover a significant area, the service provider will need to install many “femtocell” base stations across the area and they will typically operate at a signal strength similar to a Wi-Fi access point or router. It means that the electromagnetic energy levels are 1000 times below the maximum energy level expected for safe operation.

Therefore mmWave 5G technology is pitched for operating environments where there is a high concentration of users so as to avoid “loading” very few base stations with many users, thus denying the users adequate bandwidth. This is a situation most of us will have experienced when attempting to benefit from an Internet resource on our mobile devices while on a packed commuter train.

Here, you will see this technology be used at busy public-transport interchanges including airports; event venues like convention centres or sports stadiums; or shopping centres. You may even find it being used in high-rise residential, commercial and hotel developments where there is expected to be many people within the development.

At the moment, Telstra has to license the necessary spectrum in order to set up a mmWave 5G service and will need to see other devices come on board prepared for this technology.

mmWave 5G mobile broadband will simply be pressed in to service as a complementary technology to the existing 5G mobile broadband technologies. In this case it is about highly-concentrated operating environments with many devices.

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The two-box voice-driven home assistant setup is being made real with Bluetooth

Article

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 Bluetooth smart speaker press image courtesy of Bang & Olufsen

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Generation Bluetooth smart speaker that works with a smartphone or similar devicce to benefit from Amazon Alexa

B&O Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) Announced With Alexa Integration | Ubergizmo

My Comments

At the moment, there is the latest generation of the Bose QuietComfort 35 noise-cancelling Bluetooth headset that implements a software link with the Google Assistant voice driven personal assistants through its own app. Now Bang & Olufsen have come up with the Beosound A1 Second Generation battery-operated Bluetooth speaker that has integration with the Amazon Alexa voice-driven home assistant platform.

But what are these about?

Bluetooth smart speaker diagram

How the likes of the B&O Beosound A1 work with your smartphone, tablet or computer to be a smart speaker

These are purely Bluetooth audio peripherals that connect to your smartphone which links with the Internet via Wi-Fi or mobile broadband. This is usually facilitated with a manufacturer-supplied app for that device that you install on your smartphone or tablet. You will also have to install the client software for the voice-driven assistant platform if your smartphone or tablet doesn’t have inherent support for that platform.

The Bose solution primarily used their app to “map” a secondary function button on the headset to activate Google Assistant. Then the B&O approach had the Beosound A1 and your smartphone or similar mobile-platform device work together as if it is an Amazon Echo.

Why do I see this as a significant trend for “smart-speaker” and allied device use cases, especially as Google, Amazon and the Voice Interoperability Initiative want to extend their voice-driven assistant platforms to setups based around Bluetooth audio peripherals. Here it underscores the reality that the highly-capable host devices will have Internet connectivity via a mobile-broadband connection or a local-area network.

One is to allow manufacturers to provide a highly-portable approach towards using Alexa or Google Assistant while on the move. Similarly, this approach will appeal to those in the automotive and marine infotainment sector with the idea of end-users bringing their own Internet connection with them while in their car or boat but wanting to use their preferred voice-driven assistant platform there.

Some technology manufacturers may look at the idea of a two-piece setup with a specially-designed Bluetooth speaker that links with a device that is normally connected to the Internet like a set-top box or router and both devices working in a smart-speaker capacity. Here, it can be about a cost-effective smart-speaker platform or to enable the use of battery-operated devices that use battery-efficient technologies.

After what Bose and B&O are doing, it could be about bringing the idea of a two-box smart-speaker setup for voice-driven assistant platforms opening up some interesting pathways.

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Keeping those videoconferencing platforms relevant beyond the pandemic shutdown

As various jurisdictions around the world are “peeling back” the various stay-at-home restrictions once they are sure they have the coronavirus plague under control in their territory, we could easily see our love for many-to-many videoconferencing wane. It can be more so when the barriers are fully down and we are confident about going out and about, or travelling long-distance.

But these many-to-many video-conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype and Facebook Messenger Rooms do not need to be ignored once we can go out. It is more about keeping these platforms in continual relevance beyond the workplace and as part of personal and community life.

How can you keep these platforms relevant

Zoom (MacOS) multi-party video conference screenshot

Are these multi-party video conferences going to die out when the all-clear to meet face-to-face and to travel is given?

Family and friends

Do you have members of your family or community who are separated by distance? Here, each family cluster who can meet up at a particular venue in their local area can implement Zoom, Skype or a similar platform to create a wide-area meetup amongst the clusters. It can also extend to remote members of that family or community using these platforms to “call in” and join the occasion.

This situation will be very real with us taking baby steps to getting back to what we used to do, including long-distance travel. Initially long-distance travel will be put off due to fears of newer coronavirus infections on crowded transport modes like economy-class airline cabins along with countries putting off opening their borders and enabling long-distance domestic travel until they are sure that the Covid-19 beast is under control.

If one of us moves to a place that is a long distance away like overseas or interstate, these videoconferencing platforms become even more relevant as a tool to “keep in touch with home”. For example, once that person has settled in to their home, they could use a smartphone, tablet or highly-portable laptop computer to take those of us who are “at home” on a tour of their new premises.

Similarly, an event like an engagement or “wetting the new baby’s head” that is typically celebrated by small groups of relatives or friends who get together to celebrate with a toast to the lucky couple or parents can be taken further. Here, these small clusters could effectively “join up” as part of a larger virtual cluster involving the people whom the occasion is about in order to celebrate together.

Education

For education, distance learning can continue to be made relevant especially for people who can’t attend the class in person. This includes underserved rural and remote communities, people who are in hospital and similar places or itinerant students. There can also be a blended-learning approach that can be taken where a class can both be face-to-face and remote.

Teachers can use videoconferencing to teach classes at the school even if they are home due to illness, caring for relatives or similar situations. It is important for those teachers who place value in curriculum continuity for their students no matter what. Foreign-language teachers who are engaging in personal travel to the country associated with the language they are teaching can use aspects of the trip for curriculum enrichment. With this they could “call in” to their classes at home from that country and engage with the country’s locals or demonstrate its local culture and idiosyncrasies.

A school’s student-exchange program can also benefit from videoconferencing by having remote exchange students able to “call in” to their home school. With this the students could share their experiences and knowledge about the remote location with their “home” class.

To the same extent, a school could link up with one or more guest speakers so that speaker can enrich the class with extra knowledge and experiences. It can even help those schools who can’t afford frequent field trips especially long-distance trips to be able to benefit from knowledge beyond the classroom.

Community Worship

In the worship context, videoconferencing technology can be about allowing mission workers to call their home church and present their report to their home congregation by video link. It can even appeal towards multiple-campus churches who want to be part of these video links.

This technology is still relevant to those small Bible-study / prayer / fellowship groups that are effectively smaller communities within a church’s community. Here, these groups could maintain videoconferencing as a way to allow members separated from the group on a temporary basis to effectively “call in” and participate during the meetups. In some cases where one of these groups becomes too large that they “break up” to smaller groups, they could implement the many-to-many videoconferencing technologies to host larger group meetups on an occasional basis.

Of course there are the key occasions that are part of a religious community’s life like the weddings or funerals. Here, it could be feasible to provide a video link-up so that people who can’t attend the services associated with these events in person due to ill-health or long-distance can view them on line.

As well, the supporting parties associated with these events can become global shared celebrations comprising of multiple local celebration clusters using video-link technology. This is more so with families and communities who are split up by distance but want to celebrate together.

Other community organisations who thrive on being close-knit could easily see the multi-party video-conference as being relevant especially for members who are far-flung from where they usually meet. As well, those who have presence in multiple geographic areas can exploit the likes of Zoom or Skype to make ad-hoc virtual meetings that don’t cost much to organise.

What can be done

Increased support for group videocalling on the big screens

If a mobile-platform vendor has an investment in their mobile platform along with a set-top-box platform (that’s you, Apple with your iOS and Apple TV, and Google with your Android and Chromecast), they could work towards enabling their set-top platform towards group videophone functionality.

Here, this idea would require the smartphone or tablet, which has the contact list and the user-interface for the videocalling platforms like Facetime, Zoom, Skype or Facebook Messenger; to be able to manage the calls while a camera attached to the top of the TV is linked to the set-top box which works with the videocalling platform as a screen, camera, speakers and microphone.

I wrote in a previous article about this idea and the two ways it can be done. One of these is to have a lean software interface in both devices that link the smartphone to the set-top box and have the caller’s face and voice on the TV with the camera linked to the set-top box bringing your face and voice to the caller. The smartphone would then run the videocalling platform, allowing the user to control the call from that device.

The other is to have the videocalling platform software on the set-top box with the ability to use the smartphone to manage accounts, callers and the like from its surface. This is similar to how DIAL is being used by Netflix and YouTube to permit users to “throw” content from smartphones or computers to smart TVs and set-top devices equipped with client software for these platforms.

Conclusion

The videoconferencing platforms of the Zoom, Skype and Facebook Messenger Rooms ilk can be of use beyond the pandemic shutdown, serving as a way to bridge distance and bring communities together.

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An unmanaged Ethernet switch engineered for media streaming now available

Article

English Electric 8Switch audiophile Ethernet switch press picture courtesy of The Chord Company

English Electric 8Switch audiophile Gigabit Ethernet switch

English Electric’s NEW 8Switch Audiophile Ethernet Switch | Audio Bacon

From the horse’s mouth

English Electric

8Switch (Product Page)

My Comments

I have covered on HomeNetworking01.info the fact that the home network is being considered part of the home audio and video scene, even in the context of high-end applications where excellence is considered paramount. This is due to the rise of  audio-video content-streaming services including Spotify and Internet radio; along with the use of DLNA/UPnP-AV to facilitate the use of network-attached storage devices to share multimedia with dedicated home AV equipment. Have a look at these articles, and this one highlighting the Naim NDX audiophile network media player in order to see what I am about with this trend.

Naim NDS network audio player

… fit or audiophile network media players like the Naim NDX and NDS network media players

In the UK, where there is a significant small industry around esoteric hi-fi, a company has come forward with an unmanaged Gigabit Ethernet switch optimised for streaming multimedia, especially high-end music content. It is one of the first network-infrastructure devices targeted to the home or other small networks that is optimised for this purpose.

English Electric, a historic electrical-engineering brand resurrected by the Chord audiophile hi-fi connections brand, has answered the reality of the home network being part of a hi-fi setup. This is due to streaming content services like Internet radio, Spotify and Tidal along with the use of NAS units and DLNA-compliant network media players to play master-quality audio files through hi-fi setups.

Dish Joey 4K set-top box press picture courtesy of Dish Networks America

or set-top boxes and smart TVs associated with Netflix and similar online video services

This switch, known as the 8Switch, has been engineered for high data-packet reliability and resistance to electrical noise and mechanical vibration.

It uses a power supply of a similar standard to what would be used to power medical equipment in a hospital which is about providing clean reliable smooth power to the device while keeping AC-borne electrical interference out of the circuitry and network. The aluminium housing is designed to isolate the circuitry from surrounding mechanical vibration to assure reliable operation. Even the Ethernet sockets are optimised for high reliability and low noise in order to satisfy demanding audiophile/multimedia applications.

The clock circuitry that sequences the flow of data through the switch is specially optimised for real-time media streaming. This is thanks to a highly-optimised custom-designed crystal oscillator that assures high accuracy and reduced electrical noise, which yields reduced jitter and packet loss.

At the moment, the English Electric 8Switch is available in the UK for GBP£450 and is being sold through some UK-based hi-fi boutiques who sell Chord high-end audio cables. They will even throw in one of Chord’s audiophile/multimedia-grade Ethernet patch cords so you can connect it to your home network or a network AV component with the right cable.

Chord initially pitches the English Electric 8Switch being pitched to be used as a regional switch to interlink a cluster of network-enabled AV components include a NAS like a ripping NAS used primarily for storing multimedia content. It would be uplinked to your existing home-network router for Internet access when it comes to using streaming services or the rest of your home network.

I also see it of benefit for small-business and community-organisation audio/video setups that are heading towards using IP networks as an interconnection method. This would include those churches heading towards online livestreaming of services or small production teams using the latest network-based audio-video technology. It can even appeal to broadcast-LAN subsystems like Sat>IP where you are using multiple devices and want assured reliability for your devices’ network connection.

The English Electric 8Switch is another example of a home-network Ethernet switch that has been designed for a specific niche and devices like this could pave the way for companies to design network-infrastructure hardware that answer these specific needs.

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