Netgear pitches connected homes for the rest of us

The home networking company wants 50 million to 100 million homes to have the technology in 10 to 15 years

The connected home is shaping up as a big theme at this year's International CES, but Netgear Chairman and CEO Patrick Lo thinks a lot of people are getting left out.

Borrowing the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Lo said Netgear plans to bring Internet-connected appliances and home automation to the 99 percent. Only a small, wealthy subset of the population can afford to control systems such as home security and lighting via the Internet today, Lo said.

"Everything in the house that is powered by electricity should be connected to the Internet," Lo said as he kicked off a press conference at International CES in Las Vegas on Monday. He admitted that's a long-term vision: It will take 10 to 15 years to get such products out to 50 million to 100 million homes, Lo said. Cost is just one issue, because most consumers need professional help to install such systems today. Netgear is pushing for a 10-minute self-installation.

Netgear is doing its part to proliferate connected devices here at CES, though its announcements on Monday were slim on pricing information. On Monday, the company introduced a wireless night-vision camera for home monitoring, higher performance Wi-Fi routers and new features and versions in its NeoTV line of smart-TV devices.

In keeping with Netgear's theme of democratization, the NeoTV line is designed to make an existing TV smarter with the addition of access to online video channels and other sources of programming. In addition to unveiling the NeoTV Prime, with Google TV capability, Netgear also announced it is adding Slingbox to its entire NeoTV line for streaming of live TV to multiple sets.

Netgear also introduced an IEEE 802.11ac router with an integrated ADSL2+ modem, a dual-band extender for in-home Wi-Fi networks that supports Apple AirPlay, and the addition of beamforming to both of its 802.11ac routers. Beamforming finds a client device and points a stream of data to it for higher performance. Its latest IEEE 802.11ac routers can deliver up to 867M bps (bits per second), Netgear said.

At CES, the company is also showcasing its latest Push2TV product, called the PTV3000. With that unit, Netgear is jumping on the bandwagon for Miracast, a video streaming specification based on Wi-Fi Direct. The technology is already included in many high-end smartphones, including the Google Nexus 4, LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy S3 and Sony Xperia T and TL. Other home electronics vendors are also adopting it, including Panasonic, which introduced two Miracast video streaming devices on Monday.

The PTV3000 connects to a TV via USB and can talk to a smartphone, tablet or PC via either MiraCast or Intel WiDi, the technology used in earlier Push2TV units.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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