Two distinct markets are emerging for home gateways, based on the latest crop of product introductions. The first type lets multiple PC users share a broadband Internet connection. The other integrates shared broadband access with centralized home-control functions.
Panasonic and SOHOware recently introduced products that fit firmly in the former category; the latter has been targeted by such companies as Honeywell and UStec.
Secaucus, N.J.-based Panasonic plans November shipments of the $299-suggested-retail KX-HGW200 Broadband Networking Gateway, a desktop device that uses 10Base-T Ethernet, Home-PNA 2.0 phone-line technology, and wireless 802.11b HR technology to let up to 32 PCs share a broadband Internet connection.
The wireless technology is enhanced with Sharewave's WhiteCap technology to prevent interruptions of audio and video streams, said Frank Lasorsa, home-networking assistant general manager.
Significantly, the device lets multiple users share the same IP address, making additional monthly service fees unnecessary for each PC.
Santa Clara, Calif.-based SOHOware recently launched a series of products available in CE stores, including Best Buy. They include a $289-suggested CableFree NetBlaster bridge that, when connected to a broadband modem and the company's $179-suggested Internet Gateway, delivers wireless PC networking and shared Internet access. The bridge uses the 2-Mbps 802.11b wireless standard. Wireless PC Cards and PCI cards retail for a suggested $189.
Broadband-access/home-control gateways are more custom-install-oriented. UStec of Victor, N.Y., for example, recently launched its iLAN series of modular structured-wiring enclosures, which can be equipped with modules that provide an Ethernet local area network and shared broadband access. Other modules distribute audio, video and phone service, and one distributes security-camera images.
With its portable WebPAD Internet appliance, Minneapolis-based Honeywell offers something for over-the-counter sales and custom installation. The $995-suggested-retail Windows-CE-based device consists of a 10-inch speaker-equipped color touch screen that communicates via Proxim's Open Air wireless technology to a base station, which in turn connects via a separate broadband modem to the Internet via any ISP.
For custom installers, Honeywell designed the device to access, via the Internet, its Home Controller Gateway, which serves up Web pages that enable users to control select home subsystems from the device or from any browser-equipped PC, said Melissa Lindholm, senior business leader for home systems.
The Gateway talks to X-10 products, to HVAC systems that use Honeywell's open EnviraCom control protocol, and to two major brands of security systems.