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The connected home evolves

The idea of a connected home is now a reality. In fact, the home network has evolved to the point where a variety of entertainment devices, connected to a network, work together to enhance sharing, viewing and streaming of digital content, says KHALID WANI of Western Digital.

Over the past decade the Internet has become part of our everyday lives and connectivity more widely available for a lower cost, revolutionising the way we work, play and communicate. From a time when a home with an Internet connection was a rare exception, we have evolved to the point where Internet connectivity at the home is now the norm. As this evolution has continued, connectivity has spread from computers to mobile phones and even televisions, enabling us to use a variety of new technological advances to network entire homes into powerful content sharing portals – the connected home.

The journey towards the connected home centres on connectivity, and began with a single computer with a single Internet connection, shared between users who had to take turns to access the web. As the price of computers and notebooks began to drop, we saw an emergence of multiple devices in single homes, but these devices could still only access the Internet one at a time. WiFi emerged as the solution to this, enabling homes to create a wireless network for multiple computers to access the Internet, but connectivity began to evolve into so much more than just a way for computers to access the web.

With the emergence of Web 2.0 and the growing trend towards content creation and sharing along with live media streaming, downloadable media content and the sheer proliferation of network enabled devices, demand for home connectivity has fast grown beyond just the ability to connect computers to the Internet. Technology now allows home users to stream connectivity and entertainment content easily to any network enabled device throughout the house, using wired or wireless connections or any combination of the two.

From centralised storage and access to personal content from any device, anywhere in the world to Ethernet over power connections that allow wired connectivity without the wires, and even media players and media centre hubs for streaming of content, technology has changed dramatically in the past few years. Using this range of home entertainment devices that plug into the home network and work seamlessly together, the connected home enhances sharing, viewing and enjoyment by enabling easy streaming of digital content including videos, music and photographs.

Home network attached storage (NAS) drives enable you to store digital media collections on a wired or wireless network by creating a personal cloud for centralised storage and sharing of content to all devices on a network. This media can then be shared via wired or wireless connections within the home, streamed to individual devices or media centres. Computers, tablets and smartphones can backup content wirelessly and automatically for added security in the event of loss or theft, and through mobile applications files can even be accessed remotely using a web browser, anywhere in the world.

The contents of the personal cloud can also be streamed to a networked media player, which when connected to network enabled televisions can broadcast brilliant full high definition (HD) movies and videos as well as photographs. The media player can also connect other devices, such as laptops, tablet PCs and smartphones, allowing for streaming throughout a home, and allows for Internet connectivity straight to a TV for access to social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook, podcasts from news broadcasters and any other online content.

In order to combat the inherent issues with wireless connectivity, such as short signal range, lack of signal between floors or through walls, jitters and interference from other electrical devices, Ethernet over power adaptors can be used. These turn any electrical outlet point into a streaming-ready, secure high-speed Internet connection, anywhere in the home, in effect creating a wired network without the need to actually lay the wiring to connect a router and up to seven networked devices.

Taking the connected home a step further, the latest technology to be introduced to the mix is a networked media centre, combining up to a terabyte of storage with the power of a media server. These devices allow you to store and play media content in virtually any format from USB drives, network drives and so on, so you can watch movies on demand, listen to streaming audio or personal music files and access the Internet straight from any network enabled HDTV, or stream content to any screen anywhere in the house.

With the evolution of the network and the proliferation of connected devices, homes have never been more connected. And as new devices emerge with connectivity capability, they will be able to slot easily into the connected home for added convenience. The future of content is all about sharing, and the connected home is the next step.


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