Residential Gateways

This chapter suggests the need for a "residential gateway" (RG) - a single hub through which all data transmitted to or from the residence would be managed.

This gateway is seen as an evolution, from the modem that provided an on-demand connection to a single device; to the router that provides 'near-always-on' connections for several devices; to a RG that provides security management and dynamic delivery of services to a broader array of devices in the home.

EN: Another way of looking at it: it is currently possible to install a timer on a lamp to make it switch on and off at specific times. But doing this throughout a house, every lamp in every room, would be inconvenient to set up and maintain. It would be more useful to have a central control station through which all could be controlled and coordinated. The author is addressing the same problem, for a wider range of devices.

A key consideration is whether the RG is located on-premises (at the residence) or off-premises (a provider manages the gateway and provides a single "line" to a hub that is on-premises).

However, the authors predict that the RG will reside on-site, as the Internet has led to a generation of 'disruptive customers' who are accustomed to having greater control and facing greater difficulty (hence the fall of bundled services such as AOL in favor or an array of independent resources), with some optional "bundling" of services.

Of critical importance to its widespread adoption and commercial viability is that an RG must provide a wide array of devices and be easy to configure (perhaps even plug-and-play). Currently, manufacturers who are considering making their devices network-enabled are often doing so independently, developing proprietary protocols and connections, but some work is being done toward standardization:

Another important consideration is pervasive computing, a theory in which the association between an individual or a location is no longer married to a device, but to an independent "account" regardless of which device is used. By this example, a user wouldn't need their own cell phone to place a call, but could log onto any phone and access their account.

Likewise, pervasive computing can divorce a device from being locked to specific functions: a single "gadget" could function as a cell phone, PDA, and even a television remote control, depending on the environment and the user's needs and preferences.

There is a significant amount of discussion about the Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGI), which is an independent nonprofit that is working to develop specifications for delivering services via networks and devices.

EN: My sense is that one or more of the authors is involved with OSGI and is attempting to "sell" the concept as the perfect solution, so I don't consider this discussion to be unbiased. Not does it add any new information to that which was mentioned above.

The authors purposefully refrain from musing about the "home of the future" and the wondrous devices and applications it might contain - in their mind, this would be premature, as the necessary "next step" is the development of a standardized RG that would facilitate the development of such devices.

They also mention that it may be a decade or more before a standard is widely adopted. Looking at other technologies, there were always competing standards, and early adopters paid a significant price premium until the bugs were worked out, a single standard emerged, and was more widely adopted. All of this must happen before it is worthwhile for device manufacturers to attempt to exploit these capabilities, so it's catch-22. However, they seem confident that these differences will be hashed out, as they have been in the past for virtually every technological innovation.