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Today’s home is a technological marvel. Almost every electrical device is, or will be, connected to the internet, or local home network. With the advent of streaming content over the internet for audio and video signals, there is a need for increasing the amount of data communications that occurs and improving the performance of the home network.

With the number and variation of devices that are communicating over our home networks, there is a huge issue that is mostly unaddressed… the more devices that are sending and receiving signals, the slower a network becomes. This is true for both wired and wireless signals.

Add to this, by default, every device broadcasts a signal to the network, which is received and responded to, by every other device. When you consider that the modern home communications network now includes laptop and desktop computers, tablets, smart phones, streaming audio and video, VoIP telephones, gaming systems and now smart appliances, there is a need to direct traffic. In homes that have control systems, that include systems such as lighting control, automated window coverings, HVAC control, Security and CCTV systems, whole home audio, etc., the issue is magnified.

Imagine a road network without stop lights, stop signs and directions. This isn’t such a big deal in a small town, where there are only a few vehicles on the road. When we move to a big city, however, traffic grinds to a near halt. What would happen in a city like New York? It could take hours to go one block.

The effect of all your devices communicating throughout the home without any restrictions creates the same effect. Streaming content is jumpy, telephone calls have drop outs or lost calls, and file downloading takes minutes instead of seconds. You end up paying more for premium internet services that yield speeds that are not much better than basic plans.

Fortunately, there are solutions. By properly segregating your network, so that devices only share data within a defined group, or Virtual Network (VLAN), you can increase the speed of your data exponentially.

Groups should be divided by type;
• Computers, tablets and the data portion of smart-phones
• Voice communications for VoIP
• Audio and Video streaming
• Home Controls
• Appliances

While these groups become segregated for the majority of their communications, they do need talk to each other. In order to facilitate the communications between the VLANs, it’s necessary to add an extra layer of communications with VLAN aware routers. These act as dedicated messengers, passing along only the required information between the groups.

Finally, some forms of communication need to have higher priority in data communications than others. Having a file download take a few seconds longer, because the traffic on the network is overburdened, is unimportant. Having a phone conversation drop out, or a big glitch occur right at the most important part of a movie, is a major annoyance. A properly designed network gives priority to the devices that require seamless communications, without compromising the integrity of data throughout the home.

This type of performance improvement does take a level of expertise. I’d recommend that you consult with someone who is familiar with the details of building a computer network.

Ian McIntosh

Entertaining Interiors