Teleworker Alert: Home Networks Are Growing More Sophisticated

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There are two obvious reasons-and perhaps a few more under the radar-for businesses to pay attention to developments on the home-networking front.


More complex home networks suggest the growing sophistication of the general populace. This clearly comes into play when designing systems for people to use at work. The other-and perhaps more important -- realization is that home networks will be used by teleworkers as well as consumers.


Both telework and home networking will be hot issues this year. The increased emphasis on broadband infrastructure that will come with the Obama Administration will make it possible for more folks to work from home.


There also has been a spate of home-networking news. At the end of December, Parks Associates released a study suggesting that mobility is the next frontier in home networks. Half of those queried want to use a networked digital camera and 40 percent want a networked digital photo frame. The release on the report, entitled "Digital Media Evolution," says there is a growing desire for ways to transfer media and communications between portable and fixed devices.


The idea that home networking is becoming a significant arena is well captured in this 2008 review. The writer says IPTV is the driving force-he writes for FierceIPTV, after all-and presents good information. The idea is that the attractiveness of IPTV is being enhanced by the growth of sophisticated IP-based home networks. Home networking will be the hot item in the near future as home theater was in the recent past. In a nice phrasing, the writer says telcos have bought into the idea of being "the IT department for the consumer home."


Apple's interest also is a sign that the market will get hotter. MacNewsWorld offers an instructional piece. The writer begins by explaining Apple's AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule base stations. The former is basically an 802.11n router that can be used with earlier 802.11 variants and the latter is a similar device plus a hard drive compatible with Mac OS X-based backup. The balance of the story describes the nature of networks based on these devices, including the extension to Apple TV.


Hewlett-Packard is a smart enough company to know that Apple has a unique genius for consumer electronics interfaces. This week, HP said its MediaSmart ex485 and ex487 home servers, based on a Microsoft platform, will accommodate Apple as well as PCs in backing up and sharing media files. The bottom line, according to eWeek, is that the devices will automatically back up Macs running the Leopard operating system. MediaSmart servers also will be compatible with the iTunes music program.


Anyone needing more evidence that there is tie between home networks and the enterprise should consider that Cisco is getting into the game. Last week, Contentinople reported that the networking giant is on the verge of introducing a number of products aimed at consumers' homes. One product will enable easy music sharing throughout the home. The piece correctly notes that Cisco, through the acquisition of wireless equipment maker Linksys in 2003 and cable technology vendor Scientific Atlanta two years later, has at least some background in the consumer sector.


Home networking and telework go hand-in-glove, and the dynamics will be positive for both are this year. Companies with significant numbers of folks working from home should follow these trends closely, since there are great potential gains -- and some dangers -- if their homebound workers operate in highly connected environments.