Have you ever taken a moment to consider how far the automobile has come? In the 1800s, a lot of experimenting was going on to develop transportation that didn’t require horses, cows or donkeys. Early versions of the automobile (horseless carriage) were steam-powered, loud and dirty, and some were even electric with crude batteries and short ranges. With the invention of the internal combustion engine, automotive transportation began to take off. Still loud and dirty, it helped to be rough and ready to be the proud owner of one of these hand-cranked wonders. Even so, demand was high. Somehow, people just craved owning these ill-mannered beasts, seeing they would make life easier, better.

Over the last century, the automobile has developed into more than just transportation. No longer loud and dirty, we ride in comfort and luxury with all manner of safety, communications and entertainment systems to accompany our speedy journeys. Developments continue with new hybrid designs that utilize both the internal combustion engine and the electric motor – improving both fuel economy and performance. Current design efforts for the next decade leave the internal combustion engine and conventional fuels behind, trading a nearly exhausted resource for abundant hydrogen. It won’t be long and cars will be running on water, kind of.

Our desires for speed, comfort, convenience and safety have been the driving forces behind automotive innovation over the decades – but not just automotive innovation. Those desires have also driven innovation in other areas of transportation and life, such as housing and communications. Our modern homes are filled with all of these things while the dreamers of tomorrow promise us even more.

Over the last half of the 20th century, we enjoyed the increasing comfort and convenience of radio, TV, home entertainment systems, the rise of the Internet and personal cellular communications. By the turn of this 21st century, we were enjoying music on CDs, movies on DVDs, digital radio/TV with surround sound, immediate information access and the convenience and safety of personal cellular communications.

We are now about to enter a whole new era of electronic fantasy turned reality – an era of communications sophistication, yet simplicity, that parallels the arrival of our luxury sedans. All forms of electronic media are now converging in a totally digital world. No longer will our communications, information and entertainment systems exist as separate entities. We are at the cusp of a great merge, a whole new level of comfort, convenience, safety and speed.

The home of the near future is one in which control, communications, information access and all forms of media content are available in any and all locations throughout the residence. Some call this the great Triple Play – voice, video and data everywhere in our homes. The whole-house broadband network is arriving with plug-and-play convenience to comfort us with all of our media, information and communications wants and needs.

Imagine having instant access to your broadband Internet connection, outside streaming media (music, high-definition and standard definition video), surveillance security system, voice communications Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and an in-house media server, or Personal Video Recorder (PVR), with all of your favorite music and videos from any location in your home.

How will this be possible? Will we have a totally wireless in-house network? Not exactly – wireless access points cover zones in a home or building, leaving gaps and weak, low-data-rate areas in between. However, some see whole-house networking using wireless nodes (access points) interconnected by Cat-5 Ethernet cabling, which has to be installed and left behind when you move, a real problem especially for renters.

Others see a faster, less costly and easier-to-implement solution using a rapidly maturing technology that simply uses the existing AC power wiring throughout the home. It is a broadband network offering direct access via the AC outlets everywhere in the home. No new wires are needed. In fact, existing TV cabling in the home may also be used if desired and a wireless access point can be added anywhere to accommodate notebook, tablet or PDA mobility.

AC powerline and coax cable both networking together is what Intellon Corporation calls a hybrid network, sort of a parallel to the hybrid cars of today – both have two means of conveyance adding to the overall power.

What’s more, all of our network-enabled equipment (PCs, TVs, radios, PVR/media server, VoIP telephones, video surveillance and more) will either have an embedded adapter or simply use a plug-in-the-wall module to access the powerline Ethernet network throughout the residence. Nothing could be simpler.

Powerline Ethernet networking technology has been maturing for over a decade. Rallying the troops and leading the way in this arena of innovation is the HomePlug® Powerline Alliance, an international community of visionaries from hardware/software designers to network operators and service providers. Member companies on the HomePlug Alliance’s Board of Directors include Intel, Sony, Comcast, RadioShack, Cisco-Linksys and Sharp, among others. The Alliance develops performance and compatibility standards and its mission is to enable and promote rapid availability, adoption and implementation of cost effective, interoperable and standards-based home powerline networks and products.

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance’s HomePlug 1.0 standard was released in 2001, offering data rates as high as 14 Mbps, similar to the performance of IEEE 802.11b-based wireless. Intellon Corporation’s enhanced HomePlug 1.0 with Turbo has elevated data rates to as high as 85 Mbps, out-performing IEEE 802.11a/g wireless networking devices. Intellon’s ‘Turbo’ ICs are being used now in the first wave of products for whole-house broadband network deployment.

In September 2005, the Alliance announced and released the HomePlug AV (Audio/Video) powerline-networking standard, which drives data rates as high as 200 Mbps. The content throughput rates over the entire in-house powerline network are actually higher than any cable, satellite or telco-based xDSL pipelines that bring the content and Internet to the home (optical fiber to the home excepted).

What this means is, the HomePlug AV standard, and resulting HomePlug AV certified equipment, is the enabling technology to make the whole-house broadband network fantasy a reality, including the in-house distribution of high-definition TV/video. Service providers of all kinds are extremely interested because the services they provide can now be made available everywhere in the home with no additional truck rolling or expert manpower to deliver it and set it up. It’s all plug and play. That takes additional costs out of the picture, making it more affordable for all.

Telco and cable TV companies have long competed for subscribers to their Internet access services. This competition is expanding as telephone companies are adding Video on Demand (VoD) Internet Protocol TV (IPTV). Combined with whole-house powerline networks, you will be able to watch any TV program from anywhere in your home. Instead of all of the channels coming into your home at once, as is done with cable TV, you will simply select your desired channel and it will come to your home from an outside program server over the phone network using your High- or Very-high-data-rate Digital Subscriber Line (HDSL/VDSL) modem. The goal is for this IPTV VDSL to support the streaming of a couple HDTV and a few SDTV channels at the same time. The HomePlug AV whole-house network will then easily carry these streams throughout the residence. How’s that for a luxury sedan?

Yes, we’ve come a long way from the early days of driving the ill-mannered beasts to the smooth, fast, comfortable and safe luxury machines of today, some sporting new hybrid power and efficiency. And, as you may have guessed, I’m not just talking about automobiles. So, keep your seatbelts fastened and enjoy the ride with high-speed ubiquitous access to all content from anywhere in your home. Cigar anyone?

Stay Tuned … Next Issue Intellon will go into more detail about the future Powerline Networking
The Next Big Thing – Part 1

Intellon is a registered trademark of Intellon Corporation. HomePlug is a registered trademark of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. www.intellon.com www.homeplug.org