Intel: The Evolution of the Home Gateway

intelExclusive Broadband World Forum guest post from Stephan Prücklmayer, Director Telco Segment Marketing, Intel Connected Home Division

If you were a piece of digital media, say a home video or a premium movie, your life was pretty chaotic a few years ago. You were frequently contained to a single device, either shared manually or authenticated on an individual device. And often, streaming of the digital media was wrought with buffering or stuttering issues, or simply could not occur due to stringent digital content protection.

However, the progression of home gateways, devices designed to manage traffic flows of data and digital content into and within the home network has made the life of digital media much easier, allowing consumers to get the content where and when they want it, all while protecting the content holder’s rights.

A home gateway is much more than simply a broadband modem. It provides digital media a means to be shared with the proper viewer, seamlessly within a protected environment, on any number of screened devices from smart TVs to tablets to PCs to smartphones. Consumers are also demanding increased simplicity of sharing their own content with the users and devices they choose. For example, a home video recorded on a device can now be stored within a Home Cloud and then streamed to other devices within a home network.

Similarly, the life of protected digital media must share an equally seamless and easy process, the difference being this type of digital media must be authenticated and initially downloaded or streamed from an off-site location. As PVRs (Personal Video Recorders) become more ubiquitous within the home, digital rights and the protection of content copyrights must be upheld. Protected content can only be displayed to an authenticated users on an authenticated device. Increasingly, there are two forms of protected content streaming, one from the cloud (from a content provider) and one from within a home network (previously authenticated and downloaded to a PVR or digital storage device).

Another way to look at the life of digital content is to think about an even more common daily task: using a debit card. There is authentication of the user: physically having a debit card and authenticating via a PIN, password or token on an appropriate device like an ATM or at Point of Sale (POS). Once authenticated, cash can be “downloaded” and used locally at a later point at a different location, much the same way premium content can be downloaded and viewed at a later time. Or, at the POS, a digital transaction takes place, exchanging digital currency for a product or service consumed immediately, much like streaming premium content. Obviously, with banking and protected content transactions, security is involved – from secure infrastructure to hardened devices at both ends and along the way.

For digital media within the home, a home gateway solution provides more than simple routing of bits and bytes of data, it also must handle a growing number of connected devices including IoT and smart appliances. It must be scalable to handle new communication protocols which support increasingly higher throughput. It should be intelligent enough to know the difference between secured and unsecured digital media. It must protect content providers’ monetization channels. It must be flexible to handle new types of access like DSL+LTE, a hybrid form of broadband access. Above all, it should provide end users a simple yet rich experience when consuming content.

Delivering an easy-to-understand and powerful screen experience to customers is also paramount. If the experience is disjointed, troublesome or non-intuitive, the content providers suffer through lost revenue or even customer erosion. Operators and provides must also remain cost conscious – the more set-top boxes within a home means more capital expenditures as well as more devices they must manage. In an ideal scenario, a single device like a smart home gateway should be able to service multiple screens whether they be set-top or hand-held. It also must be able to either store content locally within the home-network or stream from an external cloud. And, above all, it must be able to handle and distribute both protected and unprotected content.

Yes, the life of a piece of digital media has evolved. It has been freed to be displayed simultaneously and on multiple devices with different screen form factors. It is protected to be shown to only the proper audience. In essence, the home gateways has increased the value of digital content by enabling new channels, new audiences and new capabilities.

At the Broadband World Forum 2015 in booth #B60, Intel will showcase several Home Gateway solutions demonstrating how digital content within the home has taken on a new life. From hybrid broadband services to digital rights management to increasing Wi-Fi and Ethernet throughput within the connected home to enabling the storage and streaming of protected and personal digital media, Intel Connected Home products provide end-to-end solutions for end-users, content providers and operators alike.

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