Home Networking refers to the wired, wireless or combined infrastructure that provides Internet connectivity throughout the home and supports other systems which rely on being able to share data, command and control – namely home automation. The most basic of these is typically a wired/wireless router. A modem connects your Internet service provider to this router, which in turn connects to one or more computers in the home – some via wired Ethernet cable and others using Wi-Fi. Smartphones, laptops and tablets often rely on a stable wireless connection, allowing the user to stay connected anywhere in the home. Local machines or those that can connect to the router by cable are also “on the network” and can share information with other machines on the network.
Moving on from this basic configuration, the same infrastructure can support a host of other applications and hardware. Smart TVs and content providers are increasingly utilizing network connections for streaming media, connecting to services and interacting with other components in the system. Home automation comes in many flavors, ranging from a basic lighting control system to a full-blown, whole house solution where many devices perform specific functions as part of a greater whole. All of these must ‘speak’ to each other via this home network, and the home network in turn connects out to the World Wide Web, providing remote access and data as called for.
When a new home is under construction, deploying a whole-house network is easy. The walls are open, and it is recommended to wire every room to a central ‘distribution’ location with Cat5 or Cat6 cable. Whether all of these connections is used or not, having them available once the home is finished offers great latitude in the types of equipment that can be used downstream. If the home is already finished, much of what needs to be done will operate in the wireless domain with the use of Wireless Access Points and other distribution hardware. Many automation systems are designed to function using wireless connectivity, so it just becomes a matter of selecting the proper hardware for your environment.
The bottom line is that no network can really ever be ‘too big’. As consumer electronics develop, more types of ‘connected’ equipment warrant a robust home network. The home of the near future may even have refrigerators that automatically assess the state of their contents and advise you with an alert to your smartphone!
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