I've been having a blast building an experimental wireless media facility in my home. The rules are simple: I need to be able to do everything one would do in a home theater and home office environment, but only the ac wires already in place are allowed into the room.
The data networking was easy: five access points, all on different channels, and cordless and cell phones. Video was another story.
I settled on a MIMO-based WLAN and a public-domain video server for DVDs. The WLAN gives me more than enough throughput, even through two floors, to provide excellent DVD quality. But I still missed being able to watch cable TV.
The solution there came in the form of the Slingbox, from Sling Media. This rather ugly I'm not crazy about the industrial design product sits between your cable box and network. It includes an IR blaster and an application to control the cable box. And it lets you watch TV anywhere in the house indeed, with MIMO, anywhere in the neighborhood.
Still, something is missing: HDTV. It's very difficult to go back to SDTV once you've seen HD. But the Slingbox doesn't do HD; indeed, it's optimized for Internet-based video so you can watch TV while on the go. What's needed are higher-bit-rate capabilities for those of us who would rather save the TV for home. Given today's high-performance WLANs, however, I'm sure this can be addressed without too much trouble.
The bigger issue is integration. I'm concerned that the worlds of networking and home entertainment/consumer electronics are merging without much thought to the mere mortals who represent the vast majority of the market. Can we really expect someone's mom to open ports on a router, set an IP address and set up an IR blaster? The ultimate limit to this opportunity won't be networking or compression technology, but how simple we can make setup.
It's the giving season, and wireless media makes a great gift for that engineer on your list or, of course, for yourself. With that, best wishes for the holidays and the New Year, and we'll get back to raw technology in January.
-Craig J. Mathias (firstname.lastname@example.org), principal at Farpoint Group (Ashland, Mass.)