Networking the Home by Size


Discussion: Use Cat6 cable for creating the low-voltage home control, security, and entertainment network in new home construction.

Home networking - typically means using a cable or DSL modem, and connecting it to a router. And then enabling wireless communications. The router ports can be distributed to other ethernet switches located throughout the home, or as an inbuilt or connected switch situated with the router. Wifi access points (AP’s) can be enabled by running category cable to the ceiling (or other) locations, providing both power and signal through Power Over Ethernet (POE). This network will interconnect and serve the home’s connected devices, and multiple access points can insure 5 bars of wifi. And yes, as long as we are talking about 5 bars - a wifi booster for cellular strength makes sense in many homes.

A key requirement for home success is to be skilled at networking, so polish up your skills, or hire it out. Selecting and using the same brand for all components might help ease setup concerns. Training courses are available also, and today we have ... youtube for training. There are some telecomm brands that target the general consumer, some the commercial IT space, and some the home market. Netgear, DLink, Linksys, Asus, Tp-Link are a few of the consumer brands. Some of the CE Pro brands are Luxul, Pakedge, and Cisco.

Again, if you are able to select a single consumer telecomm brand with a single support structure, you might be better served. As an example, D-Link has a broad range of products, including routers, switches, access points, powerline adapters, networked storage, cameras: http://us.dlink.com/home-solutions/ . Similar momentum exists with Netgear, TP-Link, and other brands.

Many of these familiar brands should be (and are) adding multiple radios into their devices. But for them it is critical to maintain focus on the internet protocols also and not sacrifice their ability in this area. They are telecomm devices at their core. If the company has the resources, then broadening their offerings makes sense. The consumer can really appreciate the progress in wireless 802.1xxx over the last few years, from Wireless G, to Wireless N, and now Wireless AC that is enabling video streaming.

Yes, it can be a challenge to be expert on the many radio protocols, such as wifi dual band ac, bluetooth low energy and long range, zwave, zigbee, powerline, insteon, thread, etc. etc. etc. If you had to choose one – the pervasive radio is wifi. Then bluetooth. If you are a manufacturer - you may not have the luxury of choosing just one radio. A manufacturer focused on Home Automation looks to ZWave and Zigbee, but here comes wifi and bluetooth (look on the shelves at Home Depot).

Many of the consumer electronics brands are adding a fashion and design component. Today’s fashion statement is made through your personal electronics. Does fashion double the selling price of a prodcut? Maybe. In my day – it was your levis and buggy whips.

Big consumer brand names are fighting in this space, including Google, Apple, etc. They want their brand throughout your home (Samsung is the current quantity leader here with tv's, appliances, hubs, cameras, etc). Speaking of fashion - look at the Google branded On-Hub from Asus and TP-Link. And the Amazon Echo … voice control of the home is just beginning and will be massive. Homes have lagged in technology when compared with automobiles and mobile phones. Not now. In fashionable computers - look at the NUC from Intel, the curved IPS monitors from many, etc.

Google On Hub

Small footprint Intel NUC Amazon Echo - "Alexa, turn off the lights."

A really brilliant young company combining fashion into a multi-radio device is Securi-Fi: https://www.securifi.com/almond . If you choose to use their device (Almond 3 delivering 2nd quarter) you get multiple radios. They have intentions to add voice control, but for today this would come from the Amazon Echo. The Almond, as a very fashionable, easy-to-use device, and hopefully they have the dollars behind to competitively pressure and push forward others, including big players like Google, and like Apple. A small company with many radios - you hope they have brilliant tech. support.

The interesting question is, will one pervasive app be able to control the various protocols in an easy to use fashion? How many apps does one need to accomplish home control functions - could it be one and make life simpler? Or - will your phone have a gazillion apps? A separate app for each device? Yikes.

SecuriFi Almond 3

Today’s new homes (and existing ones) involve a “network build.” The network becomes the backbone for communications, security, control, and entertainment. By thinking in terms of RJ45 ethernet connectors on Category cable ("Cat 6"), complexity can be reduced (although still complex). By thinking in terms of wireless strength of signal, communications can be improved with careful planning. The placement of telecom devices becomes important to insure signal strength. Also, taking advantage of the latest wireless router improvements, such as MU-MIMO, and proper setup are critical. For many, it makes sense to update your router frequently to insure the highest level of performance (this could be every year or so).

Keep in mind the revolution that has and is occurring in home entertainment. Amazon Fire TV 4k, Roku 4, the Apple TV – these are examples of where most every home is headed. Small electronic streaming appliances will be and are common, or - that capability will be built into the home owner's tv’s. The connected devices all require bandwidth and speed. We are only at the beginning of this revolution – which means the home owner must have high-speed connectivity for the desired viewing and listening experience in their home.

Audio – can you say Sonos? Or Pandora? How about a combo. bluetooth speaker and LED bulb that plugs into a lamp outlet (or can light)? https://www.sengled.com/product/pulse-solo. Stream your music to it. Your digital music library ... Of course, you better have your digital library and memories (music, pictures and videos) also stored and connected to the home network. Networked attached storage, or "NAS" has never been more capable when attached to one of those router ports. Oh the heartbreak when your stuff isn't redundant and safely backed up, either on the NAS or in the cloud. Some are just a virus or hard drive failure away from losing one-of-a-kind memories. Don't let it happen to you. Those data recovery places charge a bundle for pulling hard drive platters out and building a new custom hard drive. Yikes.

The way the home wiring world lays out - incoming utilities terminate on the new home, typically by the garage. These utilities may well include satellite, cable, phone line, electrical (of course others also like water, sewer, gas, etc.). From the structured panel, cables can further distribute these signals to internal panel(s) in key central locations. Otherwise, a structured panel on the corner of the home faces longer distances to communicate the signals and more possible transmission interferences..

From the structured panel(s), a network of RG6 coaxial and Cat6 cables connect to outlet wallboxes throughout the structure. These are ideally four port, “grade 2” low-voltage outlets including 2 Category 6+ and 2 RB6 ports. Additionally, a new construction job should consider running additional low voltage cabling into the attic, and possibly crawl space or basement panel for later device additions. Popular later additions might be satellite tv, OTT antennas, POE cameras, sensors, etc.

Future Proofing: Technology is rapidly moving forward on a variety of communication fronts. Running Category 6a cable with proper installation and testing are critical, and a true “no-brainer” on new construction. Also, paying attention to new, emerging devices and their communications options and requirements are important. For instance, on the home entertainment front, the emergence of HDBaseT for video distribution has cabling implications down the road:

http://hdbaset.org/installers/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Dos-and-Donts-WP.pdf

Here are some home sizes, and how they might simply be configured for optimum communications today:

Smaller Home Profile: 900 – 1600 sq. ft.:

Overview:

  • WiFi typically used on cell phones, tablets, and computers

  • Small number of connected devices

  • Few smart devices / IOT devices

  • AV streaming

Typical Devices on Network:

  • Laptops, smart phones, printers

  • IP cameras, smart tv’s, alarms

  • Media players, wireless speakers

  • Dimmers, shades, thermostats

  • Smart hub / controller

Network Components:

  • Router with AC wireless

  • POE switch

Med-sized Home: 1600 – 2500 sq. ft.:

Overview:

  • WiFi typically used on cell phones, tablets, and computers

  • Medium number of connected devices

  • Medium number of smart devices / IOT devices

  • Simultaneous AV streaming

  • High speed broadband a necessity

Typical Devices on Network:

  • Strategic placement of access points for signal strength

  • Laptops, smart phones, printers

  • IP cameras, smart tv’s, alarms

  • Media players, wireless speakers

  • Dimmers, shades, thermostats

  • Multiple smart hubs / controllers

Network Components:

  • Router with segmentation (VLAN’s)

  • POE switch(s) (can be hidden, require power)

  • AC wireless access points

Larger Home: 2500 – 4000 sq. ft.:

Overview:

  • WiFi typically used on cell phones, tablets, and computers

  • Large number of connected devices

  • Large number (and increasing) of smart devices / IOT devices

  • Simultaneous multiple users AV streaming

  • High speed broadband a necessity

Typical Devices on Network:

  • Strategic placement of access points for signal strength

  • Laptops, smart phones, printers

  • IP cameras, smart tv’s, alarms

  • Media players, wireless speakers

  • Dimmers, shades, thermostats, etc.

  • Adding more devices; innovation is occuring – sprinkler controllers are an example

  • Multiple smart hubs / controllers

Network Components:

  • Router with segmentation (VLAN’s)

  • Multiple switches, managed and unmanaged

  • Management of multiple switches from one interface important

  • Remote network management and support important consideration

  • POE switch(s) (can be hidden, require power)

  • AC wireless access points

Luxury Home: Above 4000 sq ft.:

Overview:

Well served by established CE Pro vendors. A key way this $600k plus market is flourishing is through low interest rates, and with a somewhat improved economy, it is strong in 2016. A luxury home is like a small business – proper networking is very important.


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