Monday, 4 July 2011

Cloud and the Connected Home World Summit 2011

At the Connected Home World Summit last week there were some interesting discussions on what comes under the heading ‘connected home’. We tend to think of digital media sharing. But there are more features out there that can be added to the chains of connectivity in the home, such as: automated lighting and power control, security and heating control and even some aspects of health care such as panic alarms and other monitoring.

The issue of wireless around the house was discussed in depth, during one of the early morning briefing sessions. An example of where the construction industry needs to meet the connected home industry, as homes are still being built with aluminium backed plaster board, meaning WiFi doesn't stand a chance between one room and another. A prime example of inertia and how many things simply do not move in "Internet time".

Cloud computing was one of the hot topics at the summit this year, especially as Apple has now announced iCloud. There were many discussions around how the cloud relates to the connected home. Is data stored in the cloud, the home network, or both? Should each device try and stream from the cloud or some form of p2p network around the house, as one audience member provocatively suggested? I can see tremendous amounts of data from the home moving to cloud storage and cloud processing in the long term (10 years – maybe 5 years at best), but I just don't see this as realistic over the next few years. Why?

• Users are being asked to place absolute faith in the reliability, security and privacy of cloud storage – but not even Apple is making remotely strong enoug statements to convince me that this area is adequately addressed to be considered appropriate for 95% of Internet users. Could I have absolute confidence telling my parents' that it is sensible, safe and fast enough to have the only of all their photos in the cloud today? Simply put - no

• Upload bandwidths are still not comparable to download bandwidths. Even though it may only be comparatively short term pain, I don't think the vast majority of users are at the point where uploading 100 GB (say their music and photo collection) is going to be viewed as trivial. On top of this there would be a distinct absence of "instant gratification" that the Internet services are generally promoted as. If home video is included, 100 GB can easily become 1 TB or more

So what are the implications? Data originating in the house will tend to stay in the house – at least as far as the master copy is concerned. Data (video) that originates outside the house (broadcast and other content owners) can move to the cloud much easier. Music collections, a la iCloud, are probably the hybrid for the next few years.

By David Fell, CTO, ANT

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