Yesterday's Ideal Home Show at London's Earls Court was the setting for BT's demonstration of its Home of Possibilities, giving it the chance to show off its broadband applications and announce the launch of its home networking products.
The telco giant was eager to promote its support of broadband, recognising that in order to reach its 2006 target of six million subscribers it needs to be focusing on content rather than cost. BT estimates its new broadband products and services will contribute over £100m to its retail revenues in 2004/5.
"At the heart of our vision of the Home of Possibilities is the idea that there's more to an internet connection than just access to the web. What some of our new services show is that your internet connection is there to deliver real practical benefits in the home," said Angus Porter, managing director of BT's consumer division. "The price of broadband is unlikely to change dramatically over the next few years and it's now up to us to justify those costs with content [that people need]."
First Porter announced the launch of BT's Home Monitoring service, a web-based wire-free home monitoring service that can help to protect households against break-ins and fires. Any interference with the system, such as an alarm going off, will trigger a call to the monitoring service which then immediately alerts the user in the way they have selected — through a choice of text message, telephone or email alerts.
The 'system in a box' will be available from May for a one-off payment of £299.99 and offers a free 12-month subscription to the internet monitoring service. When the year is up, users will have to shell out £5 a month to retain the service. BT said it was working on further extensions to the system, including web camera and remote access applications, which will be announced later this year.
The networked home, where all our devices run from one central hub, has long been heralded as the future, and BT insists the technology is almost here and almost affordable. The company's initial step towards this is the Home Network 1200, the first plug and play home networking solution.
Launching in April, the device allows up to 10 PCs, gaming consoles or other internet-enabled hardware to be connected to one broadband line for simultaneous web surfing, with no need to pay for more than one broadband connection. Of course, there's the initial purchase price of Home Network 1200 to factor in too — a not inconsiderable £249 — but the kit does have plenty of other practical applications. Parents, for instance, can use it to monitor their children's online activities.
The company also showed off its DMP (Digital Media Player), which launches this summer. The rather clunky device allows users to stream music from broadband-enabled PCs to any room in the house from any radio station in the world. It will be available for £159.99.
BT said it would now be focusing its energies on creating a home hub with the power to control all household devices.
"The home needs a central hub at the heart of the network, which we are currently developing to [allow such applications] as file sharing and integration of telephone services, it needs to be more than just a router," added Porter.
For more information on network monitoring, our sister site Techworld has a comprehensive network monitoring resource page.