The digitalization of the living room has been taking place since the first time you heard a Compact Disc.
Soon after you heard that gloriously clean CD sound – free of scratches, pops, and hiss – you could listen to those same CDs on your computer, and rip and burn became part of our common vocabulary. It was the first widespread use of digital content that bridged the entertainment and computer worlds.
That was the moment we all began wading in the pool of digital convergence.
Long before the CD got to market, numerous inventors attempted to send communication signals over a power line. Why? It made sense; everything plugs in. But the noisy and unpredictable electrical wires were suitable only for low-speed non-essential applications. High-speed Power Line Communications was a technological dream that engineers continued to pursue because they knew it was possible.
Now that all things digital are positioned throughout our homes – from PCs, DVDs, broadband connections, gaming systems, PDAs, and cameras – there is a compelling need for a pervasive, whole-house, high-speed backbone to support them. Power lines, thanks to modern communications methods, are capable of serving these digital devices with not only power, but data as well.
The HomePlug Powerline Alliance, formed to develop specifications for in-home powerline communications, announced the availability of the HomePlug 1.0 specification in July of 2001. Claiming a 14Mbps data through common electrical wires, the HomePlug-certified products that followed were well reviewed by somewhat surprised journalists.
For those watching the industry, HomePlug technology was now included in the list of growing technologies for the home, alongside Ethernet, HomePNA (phoneline) and various flavors of wireless. And all of them had the capacity to stream that CD; in fact, most of today’s home networking applications require a bandwidth of less than 5 Mbps.
But there were bigger fish to fry: Digital Video.
Video, especially the new High-Definition video, was the outlying application. It required very high speeds and sophisticated communications methods in order to meet expectations of the viewer. More importantly to some, high-definition video is the application that will drive consumers to adopt a high-speed home network.
At the CES 2004 conference in Las Vegas, the HomePlug Alliance openly demonstrated a strikingly clear HDTV picture, which received its input from a PC that was streaming a high-definition file over power lines. This event heralded an era where the only connecting cable on any digital device is the power cord.
HomePlug AV is the next generation of the technology from the HomePlug Alliance. It was designed from the ground up to be a technology to be used in homes by people who had neither the time nor the desire to be a system administrator. “Plug it in and that’s it!” became the motto for its designers.
HomePlug AV is an easy-to-use, easy-to-install, home networking technology that offers up to 200Mbps – enough bandwidth to cover all applications for the home, including multiple HDTV streams. Security is built-in and turned on to support privacy and Digital Rights Management concerns, and most importantly, only HomePlug AV technology has designed-in Quality-of-Service that ensures a consumer receives a great experience no matter what they’re using HomePlug AV technology for.
The development of HomePlug AV is entering the specification phase, where HomePlug-member companies sort out the details of the technology and write the specification. This process is expected to last into summer, and silicon will be in the development concurrently. There are expectations that next CES will display the first HomePlug AV products with the technology built right inside.
The goal of all this effort is to ensure that consumers can enjoy the benefits of networked digital entertainment, high-speed internet connections, content sharing, and integrated services like VoIP, in an easy-to-use and easy-to-install package.
The networking of the Digital Home will be complete – and with only a single, simple power cord acting as the backbone.