Home Networks Reach for the Cloud
The move to cloud computing isn't just for businesses. At CES, home network giants D-Link and Netgear are showing a range of equipment that leverage cloud services to give consumers more access to and control over home networks--and network content--from mobile devices.
Cloud features don't have to cost much. D-Link’s $40 Cloud Router (DIR 605L) lets you use the free MyDLink iOS or Android app to check up on what's using your network, what sites they're browsing, and whether a firmware update is available; you can also block unauthorized Wi-Fi users. The Cloud Router is a basic, two-antenna 802.11n router operating on the 2.4GHz band only and delivers top speeds of 300 megabits per second; it's available now.
At the other end of the price/feature spectrum, the Netgear Media Storage Router (WNDR4700) bundles 2TB of storage with a fast, dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) router that supports Netgear ReadyShare and Apple Time Machine automated backups and streams media to DLNA-compatible devices as well as the Netgear Genie iOS app (which, like MyDLink, also has features enabling remote network management). Netgear's ReadyShare technology also lets you turn any USB-connected printer into a Wi-Fi printer.
The Netgear Meda Storage Router won't be available until summer; price has not yet been determined.
D-Link had some high-end innovations, too. The Amplifi HD Media Router 3000 (DIR-857) with SharePort Cloud boasts hardware-based quality of service technology (called HD Fuel) designed to improve streaming media performance over a Wi-Fi network.
D-Link also showed a new hybrid Wi-Fi/HomePlug AV router (DHP-1565) that can leverage both wireless and powerline technology simultaneously in order to optimize performance. D-Link's first poweline/Wi-Fi hybrid, the DHP-1320, didn't attempt to interface with the network using both technologies simultaneously.
D-Link's cloud-computing lineup also included a couple of new network cameras, which let you monitor your home or office remotely. The D-Link Cloud Camera 5000 (DCS-5222L) delivers 720p HD video and offers remote controls for panning and zooming as well as a microSD card slot for people who wish to record the video they capture. It's due this spring and will cost about $250.
An Enhanced Day & Night Network Camera, meanwhile, builds on D-Link's existing $100 network camera by adding a microSD card slot and improved motion detection; it costs $150 and is already shipping.
D-Link also showed a nifty new accessory for tablet and smartphone users who need a way to access content stored on a thumb drive. The All-in-One Mobile Companion, about the size of a iPhone or iPad charging accessory, plugs into a standard wall outlet on one side and has USB and Ethernet ports on the other wide. It connects to your network via either Wi-Fi or Ethernet; you can then access content from a plugged-in USB drive using an Android or iOS mobile device equipped with D-Link's free SharePort Cloud app. You can configure the app to automatically sync the content.
The All-in-One Mobile Companion can also function as a Wi-Fi access point, and a charger for USB devices. It's slated to ship in April for $75.
Netgear joined a growing parade of CES exhibitors who as inviting third-party developers to create mobile apps for their devices. The company expects to see apps that afford consumers even more fine-grained control over their network devices (assuming these are all Netgear products).
D-Link did not announce a third-party developer program, but said it planned to expand its cloud services over the coming year.
Netgear's other product announcements address some commonplace home networking problems. The Universal Dual Band WiFi Range Extender (WN2500RP) extends coverage of 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks simultaneously (other range extenders traditionally haven’t supported both frequencies at one). Netgear also announced the Powerline 500 Nano (XAVB5101) HomePlug AV adapter, which the company bills as one of the smallest HomePlug AV adapters on the market.
For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2012.