Enterprise Wi-Fi technology comes home

Illustration: Sam Woolley,  Image from Gizmodo report, 6/10/16.

Illustration: Sam Woolley, 

Image from Gizmodo report, 6/10/16.

We have been touting the benefits of enterprise-class Wi-Fi networks (security, speed, coverage, reporting) when compared to consumer Wi-Fi options, but there is a whole new class of router systems coming out that are bringing these solutions home.

As the Internet of Things continues to evolve, most people would agree, the one key ingredient left out of this recipe for Jetson’s bliss has been a smart Wi-Fi router. Typically, we have one router in our home. Many have tried extenders to increase coverage and speed, with little success. The challenge lies in the fact that Wi-Fi signals are, at their core, just radio signals. And, radio signals are not good at passing through hard surfaces like walls, ceilings and floors. As one gets further away from the router, the signal gets weaker.

For years Sinu has solved this issue for our customers using several Cisco Meraki wireless devices (depending on the size and configuration of the office space) to create a network of Wi-Fi hubs. Consumer companies are now introducing a similar “mesh” network, allowing for much better speeds throughout the house. Gizmodo explains the mesh network: “Although not an entirely new idea—especially when it comes to business IT—the premise is that instead of piping through just one access point in the home, you use multiple access points for complete, reliable coverage.”

In concert with its investment in Alexa, earlier this year Amazon invested in Luma “Surround Wi-Fi”.  Forbes reports, “Amazon and Luma are looking to integrate the router into Alexa-based products like the Echo, Amazon’s popular tube-shaped speaker with the voice assistant.” For Alexa consumers, that’s one more loop toward building a full smart home circuit (and making more voice-controlled Amazon purchases).

Google Wifi, eero and Starry are some other prominent players in the mesh network (Google Wifi will be available for preorder in November and goes on sale in December). Each system comes with different means of blanketing the house while providing parental controls and analyzing web speed and usage data.

The key with all of these innovations is the impact smart technology is having on even the most basic ways in which we interact with the Internet - in this case, the router itself. Historically a blinking black box with all the technology within the hardware. These new routers bring the advantages that come with cloud technology. They "talk" to each other and can adjust their network depending on the environment to provide the fastest, most reliable connections. They also provide real time information about Internet usage and how much speed is being delivered compared to what is being paying for.

Further, traditional routers were self contained with setup and configuration done manually by connecting to the device. This new generation of routers are controlled by cloud software. The software updates automatically to better protect against security breaches and can act as a website filter providing parental controls at the network level similar to some enterprise router solutions. It also adds possibilities difficult to do with the previous generation of self-contained devices, such as checking on your Nest Camera while across the country or adjusting the guest Wi-Fi settings at home while at work. Mobility is introduced when cloud control is baked into these new Wi-Fi solutions. Most of the systems are controlled through a smartphone app with varying features.

These new home Wi-Fi mesh network solutions start at $129-$500 depending on the brand and number of routers. As consumer demand for smart Wi-Fi routers increase, the costs will likely decrease and we can bet that the enterprise versions will follow suit.