Most of the tablets, TVs, ultrabooks and smartphones on display at International CES this week ultimately are bound for someone's home, where they'll have to talk to each other. Six major home networking technologies to make that happen will be on display at the show, some of them making significant strides to keep up with the demand for instant information and fun.
Consumers who can't get by with just a Wi-Fi access point most often use technologies that send signals through TV cables or electrical wiring. Both types will be on hand in Las Vegas, with their proponents sharing a demonstration area called the TechZone to show off what they can do for a hypothetical home. The HomeGrid Forum, a relative newcomer, will demonstrate the power of products based on the G.hn standard, which spans both types of wires as well as phone lines.
If home networks have a sexy side, it's wireless, and that segment will be crowded, too. Wi-Fi is how most consumers connect to their networks no matter what else they may be using. It's getting faster, while two other wireless systems -- WiGig and WirelessHD -- also are jockeying for position to carry high-definition video.
Video viewing on phones and tablets is a big driver of home networking demand, said Parks Associates analyst Brett Sappington. While consumers prefer wireless, the data-heavy content that carriers and cable and satellite operators are delivering boosts the need for bandwidth within homes.
"You're typically going to have a blended wired and wireless connection in the home, simply because through the wired connection, you can get higher throughput," Sappington said. The effects of walls and other objects on wireless signals can also make wireless systems less predictable.
Though consumers can go out and buy many home networking products themselves, anything beyond a Wi-Fi router is typically prescribed and installed by a service provider, he said.
"Doing wired home networking is still technically challenging," Sappington said.
Here's are some of the main technologies out there to tie all your stuff together: