While much new technology for the connected home in recent years was intended to connect consumer entertainment devices to the home network, ABI Research believes the next frontier is the merger of the digital home network with mobile devices. Today consumer product vendors, content providers and mobile operators are developing solutions to allow consumers to access their personal content over the home network locally through Wi-Fi, or through the mobile network.
“In recent months we have seen a number of announcements and proof of concept demonstrations from major players in the mobile and consumer electronics markets that tie the consumer’s mobile devices to the home network,” observes Michael Wolf, principal analyst of broadband and multimedia for ABI Research. “Whether they are more basic ‘cache and carry’ solutions such as Motorola’s Follow Me TV, or more evolved products such as systems from Sling Media and Orb Networks for transferring live TV, cached video and music content to mobile phones, mobile devices are fast becoming critical emerging clients on the media network in the home.”
The connection of the mobile client to a consumer’s premium video content signals a potential shift in usage scenarios that could be disruptive to wireless service providers in the long term. On the plus side, the consumer’s ability to connect to a wireless service’s premium video content in the home could result in new demand for both advanced mobile phones and mobile data plans. More ominously for carriers, these novel capabilities could create new and attractive alternatives outside of the “walled garden” video services currently being offered by mobile carriers.
Other examples of merging mobile and home networks include solutions that allow multiple PCs to connect on a Wi-Fi network and access a mobile high speed network. Linksys’s new mobile router is one device that enables such a scenario, allowing multiple users to access a wireless carrier’s high speed data network–such as Sprint’s EV-DO Power Vision Network–through a local area Wi-Fi connection.
“The media network has evolved because consumers want to be able to connect to all the devices in their lives and access all their content,” says Wolf. “The merging of home and wide area wireless networks is the next natural step in this evolution.”