The home networking market has been touted by many as one of the last frontiers for integrators. While everyone has heard of the Internet fridge and the smart toaster, Cisco has teamed up with 17 companies and the NSW Government to unveil its first fully networked house.
Dubbed the iHome, Cisco is out to drum up as much end-user demand as it can and, in the process, force the issue for consumers to adopt broadband Internet access.
"Today is about building demand for the iHome [home networking] industry," said Terry Walsh, managing director of Cisco Australia, at a press conference held last week in Sydney's Pyrmont, where the house is located.
The iHome features a host of connectivity devices to network a household's security, shopping, entertainment and home office needs. Everything that can be controlled, is controlled, through an iHome Web portal that enables users to open and close blinds, download movies/videos over the Web, order the weekly shopping, see who's at the front door while their at work, or simply time the kettle to boil before they wake up. The iHome portal can then be accessed from any Internet-enabled PDA, PC or WAP device.
While Walsh claims every piece of the technology used in this iHome is currently available, he did concede it was out of the reach of most "average Australians". The other inhibiting factor noted by Walsh is the expense and lack of broadband Internet access to the consumer market.
Speaking at the opening was Kim Yeadon, NSW Minister for Information Technology, who slammed the cost of broadband to rural NSW labelling it "inadequate". The Minister claims the NSW Government is providing incentives to carriers to boost services in these regions.
Cisco in the meantime has been busy signing alliances and forging relationships with Australia's growing list of telcos, on the eve of what Walsh is tipping as a "substantial" increase in Broadband adoption.
Cisco teamed up with construction giant Bovis Lend Lease for the construction of the house, while AAPT donated the broadband Internet access. Other notable technology partners included Clipsal, Compaq, Sony, audio integrator Len Wallis Audio, cabling company Panduit Network Connectivity Group and white-goods manufacturers Whirlpool Australia and Sunbeam, chiming in with their respective technologies and investments.
An iHome for the channel?
Cisco's iHome heralds untold opportunities for the channel according to Cisco marketing director Kip Cole, who argues the market is largely untapped.
"The good news for the channel is there is a range of technologies a service provider must integrate to roll out a [home networking] solution," said Cole. "And this is not, in any way shape or form, Cisco's market."
Cole believes two distinct home networking channels will emerge; one being home services, which will provide telecommunication, electrical and power services. The other being home networking, which will include traditional networking integrators and specialist cabling, or electronics companies that currently provide services such as home security or home entertainment systems.
Cisco is hosting tours through the iHome for its channel and integrator partners until the house goes under the auctioneer's hammer on March 30, 2001. Cole is encouraging resellers to get in contact with their account managers for a tour.
The company is also building an iHome industry development platform for partners to learn more about the opportunities in the home networking market, claims Cole. The centre will be operational in Q1 next calendar year.
l -24x7 broadband Internet connection to multiple points in the home, including a video projection unit in the living room, two 42-inch wall-mounted Sony Plasma screens, and connection from anywhere within the house to Cisco AirConnect wireless network - which operates at the IEEE 802.111 standard.
l -Net-enabled cameras in each room, above each Plasma screen and over the front door, for constant streaming of who's doing what, in which room - centrally controlled through the iHome portal. Plus video conferencing through these cameras.
l -A fixed wire PC and wireless PC for the home-office, networked with a printer and Cisco Internet phone.
l -Every power point is a "smart socket", which enables power to be activated on or off to a device such as a kettle, or iron - again from the iHome portal interface.
l "-Centrally controlled blinds, lights, locks, watering system, entertainment system and air conditioning which can be pre-programmed for "holiday mode" - which turns lights/TV on and off, and opens and -shuts blinds to create the illusion someone is home.
l -Whirlpool Internet-enabled fridge - one of 10 in the world.
$750,000 for house alone, plus up to $250,000 worth of home networking technology and services.