Consumers unaware of router importance in home networks

Consumers have yet to realize the central role of routers in supporting user experience for connected consumer electronics, says a Cisco Systems executive, who foresees routers to become the nerve system of networked homes in the future.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, Ulrike Tegtmeier, international president for the networking giant’s consumer products, noted that users initially only connected to their router to access the Internet and send e-mail, and did not mind if the connection was through a cable or wireless. Over time, users preferred to be free from cables and opted for wireless connection, Tegtmeier explained.

Today, instead of using their wireless connections only for PCs, users are also connecting to other devices such as cameras, TVs or picture frames, she said. Despite this development, not many people realize they have a home network that can connect all these devices, said the Germany-based executive.

“A lot more people don’t know that, to use these [connected] devices in the best possible way, the router can be the one part that does not allow them the full benefit,” she noted. For example, if users buy a smart TV hoping to enjoy the advanced features available, they may not realize the router is unable to support the TV and end up spending money on something that cannot be used, she said.

Hence, Cisco is working on educating consumers as well as training sales representatives of consumer electronics to ask consumers if their routers can support the connected devices, she added.

Router the center of connected homes

Tegtmeier believes that eventually the router will become the “center of everything”, especially as more electronic devices are enabled to “talk” to the router.

She noted that manufacturers are already integrating functionalities that allow users to access their appliances remotely, while away from home.

The next step in the development of connected devices will be to allow users to control power consumption. This is also where networks will play a big role, she added.

According to Tegtmeier, one challenge persists–consumers still perceive networks to be difficult to manage.

After the installation of the router, “as long as it works”, many users are reluctant to tweak their network, she said. She attributed this fear to older routers which require users to “do a lot of work” to manage the device, such as knowing the exact protocols and subnet mask of the service provider.

She noted that Cisco aims to address this with its software which simplifies the setting up of a router by managing “90 percent” of the settings in the background.

Tegtmeier added that cloud will be an important trend to watch in the home networking scene as users want the capability to access information at anytime and anywhere.

However, the executive noted that vendors need to take into consideration how quickly consumers are willing to adopt new technologies.