In the home, there’s been a flurry of activity in various forms of appliance networking, going well beyond the popular X10-based power-line-based control blocks. Today, the power line is still widely used, but phone lines in the house are also contending for the job as the medium to transfer digital information. Today, devices that connect to power or phone lines can transfer data at almost Ethernet speeds, making it possible to pipe music and even video around a house without adding special cabling.
Although most of the limitations of power-line and phone-line wiring have been overcome, many believe that a totally dedicated solution should be used. As a result, lots of activity is centered on creating the "wired" house, which includes wiring or optical fibers to carry IEEE1394 data streams from room to room. Wireless technology employing standards such as 802.11b, g, and the higher-speed 802.11a implementations is also being incorporated, especially when personal computers constitute one or more of the nodes in the network. Bluetooth is making some inroads, linking to other network interfaces to provide connections to cell phones, PDAs, and even cars parked in the garage. This connectivity would allow music, maps, and other information to be transferred from the home’s data repository to the mobile devices.
In trying to integrate it all for the homeowner, Leviton Integrated Networks (www.leviton.com) came up with a structured media infrastructure. It can handle multi-line telephones; facsimile, modem, and other residential communications; high-speed Internet sharing (DSL, cable modem, and satellite); digital TV (cable and satellite); video security monitoring; multi-room video and audio; optional connection to a home security system; and system management via a media control panel (See Figure). The system employs the Decora Home Controls (DHC) home automation protocol. DHC incorporates a wide range of dimmers and switches for every location in the home, as well as handheld wireless RF and IR controls, keychain transmitters, computer and Internet interfaces, and more. Although few homes have this level of networking, installations should become more frequent as users discover the convenience of manipulating the flow of audio and video programming, or how easy it is to control everything from lamps to major appliances.