With the explosion of connected devices in our home and more web-based services running in the background, foreground and even in the actual ground if you have some kind of Wi-Fi based garden sensor system, your router may be the most essential piece of equipment you don’t know that you own. Most people tend to stick with the wireless router their broadband provider gave them, but between MIMO, dual-band offerings and fancy software, they’ve come a long way.
And the new StreamBoost technology from Qualcomm Atheros wants to take them even further. Qualcomm Atheros is adding intelligence to the router as well as a cloud-based service that will allocate your limited home bandwidth to certain applications. Alienware and D-Link are the announced partners that plan to use this technology in their gear, and the technology should be available in commercial routers in spring. The cloud-based service tracks how much bandwidth applications like YouTube or Skype needs to show something in HD versus SD, and knows what devices you have and how many megabits per second they need.
Using this information it attempts to parcel out your home broadband to give the best quality to all of the apps you are running in your home –from iTunes downloads to BitTorrent downloads and uploads. The technology comes from Qualcomm’s acquisition of Bigfoot Networks in 2011. Killer had been well-known a controller card used inside PCs to reduce network latency. It later took that technology to other endpoints, trying to optimize network performance. But now, they are taking that experience to the router with an algorithm that can predict what app you are using and what speeds and latency it needs.
Instead of each app trying to grab as much capacity on the connection as it can, the router allocates only what it thinks the app needs. The big issue for users will be Qualcomm’s assurances that its StreamBoost technology stays up-to-date so when a site tries out anew HD codec the bandwidth is available. The technology also includes a nicer interface for the router that lets the consumer see what capacity is allocated for what apps.
Others are also trying to improve the home Wi-Fi experience using smarter router technology. We covered an academic effort to bring software-defined networking and GUI interface to help with the problem of too many devices and an overburdened connection. Basically, router technology needs to improve to meet the demands we’re placing on home networks.