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In early 1998, the term "home networking" emerged on the IT scene as the newest buzzword in the growing lexicon of hot, new-generation technologies. Yet with the increased hype and media exposure came confusion as consumers struggled to figure out exactly what home networking was and how it would affect their lives.

With Jetsons-like images of robotic butlers and voice-activated appliances, the spin-savvy journalists quickly positioned home networking as the new revolution. The pragmatists, on the other hand, focused on more immediate and practical benefits, like sharing files between multiple computers without having to retrofit an entire home with new wires. Consumers remained confused and largely unresponsive.

Almost overnight the traditional home automation and control technologies, like X-10 and CEBus—which existed long before the media blitz—were thrown into the mix with a new breed of technologies that touted the ability to use phone lines, wireless RF (radio frequency), and AC powerlines for high-speed data networking in the home. At the same time, the expansion of broadband connectivity started bringing continuous, high-speed Internet access to individual households.

Still, home networking meant little to the consumer, and the response was lukewarm.


While interconnecting PCs is a useful and welcome solution for many people, the truly revolutionary potential of home networking lies in its ability to extend the Internet directly into the hands of everyday consumers. Making Internet access available everywhere hints at what many people are calling pervasive computing.

When the pervasive computing movement is in full force, it is only a question of time before all of the electronic devices within the home have some type of embedded intelligence that can share high-speed data. And with their new brains comes the impulsive need to communicate, not only to other smart devices but more important to the people who are using them.

The home network is the convergence point of the next generation of digital devices with the next generation of digital infrastructure. It is a key strategic technology that will enable the new-breed information appliances to connect to, and communicate over, the rapidly expanding digital telecommunications network.

The large service providers and network operators—including telcos, cable companies, ISPs, and electric utilities—have now begun positioning themselves around the home network market, contemplating the next strategic move that could determine their success or failure.

For technology companies, the increasingly competitive environment depends on the strength of the connection to the customer. It's not so much a question of new or better technology, but rather an issue of survival for a company. For these players, the home network represents a critical link in the connectivity puzzle—a way to extend the Internet not just to PCs but to all of the smart devices that will soon exist within the home.

In this sense, it's true that the vision of pervasive computing—essentially the vision to provide consumers a seamless connection to the Internet from any time, at any place, through any device—will not only change the way we view technology, but it will fundamentally change the way we live. Companies realize that the stakes are high, and they'll do just about anything to own a customer.

Consumers are, and ought to be, hesitant about using new technologies.

The Essential Guide to Home Networking Technologies covers some of the most important issues involved in bringing the vision of pervasive computing to fruition. Mr. O'Driscoll has lent his expertise to create this "must have" reference book for anyone who wants to better understand the technologies, business drivers, and industry players that are shaping this quickly growing and constantly evolving market.

This guide will help consumers to wade through the coming onslaught of digital promises and focus on being digitally connected.

Ian O'Sullivan

Director of Strategic Marketing

Enikia, Inc

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