I’m a self-confessed tech nerd (a real built-my-own-computer nerd not just a guy in thick glasses) but not even I can get excited about routers. I love everything to do with Internet but the mechanics of how it gets into my house don’t generally excite me. So when Cisco invited me to spend half an afternoon being wowed by the latest and greatest in routing technology I was worried that I might fall into an involuntary nap, never to recover.
How wrong I was. Cisco pooled their engineering might and did the unthinkable – made routers exciting.
Wifi is everywhere. Cisco expects that in 2016 there will be 19 billion connected devices globally and that 1.2 million minutes of video will be viewed online every second. I’ve spent the past few days setting up wifi scales, wireless speakers, TVs and more. Now granted I’m a tech journalist but these things will be worming their way into your living rooms soon. I’ve seen a wifi fridge with a touchscreen panel attached. The future is clearly on its way. But setting up wifi devices is a pain. It’s easy to get a laptop online but a speaker with zero buttons is much more fiddly. And with more and more strain being put on your one wifi you don’t want your bathroom scales slowing down your Netflix streaming.
Cisco have made all of this easier. The new Linksys Universal Media Connector makes it a doddle to connect wired devices such as Smart TVs and game consoles to Wi-Fi networks to enjoy the magic of streaming. The connector operates in the 5Ghz band and has four gigabit ports.
The new Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router EA6500 has blazing fast AC technology but is backwards compatible with prior wireless networks and devices using 802.11a/b/g/n. The router contains six internal 3D antennae that are designed to insure the same performance whether placed on a desktop or mounted against the wall (apparently this was a popular configuration for people). And it still looks pretty slick.
Cisco showed off a SimpleTap function, enabling you to connect devices by swiping an NFC-enabled smart phone over an NFC tag to connect to the network (great if you want to hook people up to a guest network), and they are working to jam this into as much consumer tech as possible.
Even better was Cisco Connect Cloud, a cloud platform that has been designed to provide convenient anytime, anywhere access to the home network and its connected devices – from a web browser or mobile device. This means it’s easier than ever before for normal people to control their Internet service. Most routers have powerful QoS etc technology built in that are never used as it’s way too complicated. Cisco have “changed the game” in terms of opening up functionality to “civilians”. It’s easier for parents to hop in from their smartphone (Android or IOS) and block certain websites. You can also see various Internet services and throttle them or block them at certain times (“No Facebook till you finish your homework”) or make sure that your downloads in one room don’t get in the way if you suddenly want to stream a movie on Netflix.
The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router EA6500 is targeted for availability in September at major retailers, as well as the Linksys online store. The Linksys Universal Media Connector is expected in October at the same outlets.