The new touchscreen WiFi router from Securifi combines the functions of both a WiFi computer network router and a home automation hub into a single attractive package.
The WiFi router portion of Securifi’s Almond+ touchscreen device conforms to the soon to be released 802.11ac WiFi standard, as well as supports ZigBee or Z-Wave home automation networks. According to industry sources, 802.11ac isn’t even an official standard yet, so why should you upgrade when your current devices only support 802.11n? Good question, let’s find out.
Not Official, But Support Is Forthcoming
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is the international governing body that recognizes, analyzes, and approves standard for electrical and electronic devices that ensure that these devices are able to work with each other. According to published materials, final approval for the 802.11ac standard won’t come until early 2014, so why the rush to go out and buy something that supports a standard that isn’t really a standard yet?
Well, I could give you the “Dilbert reason” (I’ve got to have the newest and best technology before anyone else), but that would be somewhat silly (yet, for me, also somewhat true). The current standard for WiFi communications, 802.11n supports normal communication speeds of up to 54 Mbits/second per link and maximum throughput (data transfer rate) of up to 600 Mbits/second. According to the IEEE’s published material, the 802.11ac standard will support single-link speeds of up to 500 Mbits and total wireless local area network (WLAN) throughput of one gigabit/second.
But why buy it now? There are two reasons I can think of. The first is that while it supports an as yet unreleased standard, the IEEE writes what is known as backwards compatibility into every new standard. What this means is that every new product works with every old product. So, even if you’ve got a dinosaur notebook computer that has an 802.11a wireless adapter, your 802.11n and this new 802.11ac router will work with it.
The second reason is that although we will have to wait until February for the IEEE to formally ratify the standard, there are companies that are currently manufacturing devices that will leverage the new standard and that will get them to market prior to the ratification of the standard. In other words, you’re not going to have to wait until February of next year to be able to buy products that will take advantage of these higher speeds.
“OK, but why do I need a router that works so much faster than my Internet provider’s maximum advertised speeds?” Again, great question. However, I’ve been reading stories about how some of the country’s major providers (most notably) Comcast, are upgrading their cabling networks to support speeds of up to gigabit to the home.
Touchscreen WiFi Router Makes Network Setup Easier
The small touchscreen on Securifi’s Almond+ touchscreen 802.11ac WiFi router makes setting up both the home computer/Internet network and the home automation easier by making the setup graphical. The old saying about pictures being worth a thousand words definitely holds true. If you’ve ever configured a home router, especially for WiFi, you know how “fun” that can be. Now imagine if everything you want to do is represented by a picture. Yeah, much easier.
Configuring the home automation network is also made much easier because you’re given a graphical representation of all devices currently registered on the network and those the hub can identify but that aren’t registered.
Reviews of the Securifi Almond+ Touchscreen WiFi Router
I haven’t seen this product available on any shelves yet, so I haven’t been able to play with it, but I did find it for sale on Amazon for $80, making it comparable in price to most 802.11n WiFi routers, but much more capable. Going back to the “why buy it” question, the fact that you won’t be paying much more for more capability is another good reason. Add that to the fact that most home automation hubs cost well over $100 by themselves, and you can see this as a cost saving investment in the future.
One of my favorite sources of information about new tech products is AnandTech and they have a very good review of the Almond+ touchscreen WiFi router up. One of the best things I’ve discovered about this device is that Securifi is releasing the software development kit (SDK) so the general public and user community can write their own control programs for it as well as developing their own sensor systems to be used on the ZigBee and Z-Wave home automation networks.
Most home automation products available right now require a monthly subscription to let you control the system over the Internet. There are plans to release Android and iPhone apps that will give you complete control over the home automation network without a subscription. There’s another cost savings.