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Summary:

The Wi-Fi router may soon become the hub of your home network management and security strategy as router makers roll our technology and apps designed to give you network admin-like capabilities over your home.

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TP-Link, a Wi-Fi router maker, has launched an app called Tether that will change the way its customers manage their home Wi-Fi network and broadband usage. While, the app is confusingly named, the goal is simple — it gives the homeowner the ability to see all the iOS and Android devices on their home network and control how those devices access the network.

So if your kid has an iPad, for example,  you can white list sites that they can visit and shut off the iPad’s access to the network after 11 pm. These are capabilities that corporate network admins have had for a while, but with more devices coming into the home it makes sense that homeowners get more capabilities as well. And while some routers have let people manage this if they are confident enough to mess around with the router firmware or want to log into their router via a poorly designed web site, an app makes it far more accessible.

And that is something I’ve been eagerly waiting for.

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Unfortunately my router doesn’t work with TP-Link’s Tether app yet (more routers will be supported over time), but I also think this app needs more robustness. It only can manage resources for iOS and Android devices, as opposed to anything else connected to the network. It does however, allow you to plug in movies and other content via a USB drive into the router and stream that content to other devices thanks to DLNA support. This isn’t something I’m keen on, but others may find it useful.

However, I’m honestly far more interested in technology from Qualcomm called StreamBoost that is in certain D-Link and Alienware routers. That technology goes a bit deeper allow the network administrator to set prioritization for select apps, so I can make sure my daughter’s future video chats don’t interfere with my Netflix viewing. It also works on more devices. I’m supposed to get a demo soon. Other router makers such as Asus offer customers controls via a web interface accessed via a browser, and are making those more customer friendly.

The Asus web app interface.

The Asus web app interface.

I’m excited to see router makers rolling out more controls (and easier controls) for homeowners. As we start connecting not just mobile and computing devices to the network, but sensors and devices like door locks, having the ability to finely control the network should help prevent some heartache and contention. The hard part will be getting people to upgrade their routers. Maybe if ISPs rolled out gigabit networks that forced people to move to 802.11ac?

  1. True. This is a good thing. Per-device access and bandwidth controls, etc. will go a long way in ensuring that only allowed devices talk to the internet, but are free to otherwise work on the internal network.

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  2. I like your article on how the simple overlooked home router is evolving into a valuable tool that can give us more control over our networks. As an IT professional I have been seeing this need grow every year. So I am happy to see router manufacturers rolling out more control features for their customers. Here’s a cloud based product from Skydog: (www.skydog.com). This router is controlled from the cloud and provides all the fine tuning network features you review in your article. I use it in my office and support a number of customers using the product now who are very happy with it.

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  3. Finding that sweetspot between usability and customization is still a holy grail for many a tech company. I’m all for attempts to make the lives of users more convenient, even if it means the first few goes aren’t quite as polished yet. Thanks for the article and the heads up.

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  4. Regarding the StreamBoost feature. That is already available in some routers and is called Quality of Service (QoS) and can be added to others by using third firmware like Tomato or dd-WRT.

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