The recent entrance of computer and telephone companies into the residential technology market further strengthens the concept of structured wiring within the home.
It used to be that a stunning kitchen layout was the key to clinching the sale of homes in the U.S. But that sales feature may not hold a candle to the demand for a technology infrastructure that brings the family into the information age. According to Jeff Lubar, V.P. of Public Affairs for the National Association of Realtors, "In the new home market, we're seeing more and more demand for the prewiring of property for everything from cable TV to high-speed modems. For existing homes, which is 80% of the market, it's an added benefit if the wiring is already in place."
Study reveals interesting statistics. A study by the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) reveals that 96% of home offices have a computer and 25% of them have more than one. About 60% of these households have Internet access, of which 93% use e-mail. The CEMA study also notes that 30% of households with home offices have more than one telephone line.
In addition, a recent survey by ZDNet (www.zdnet.com) suggests that the increasing demand for high-bandwidth content (such as downloading music, video, and games) will drive the adoption of high-speed Internet services, otherwise known as broadband technologies. A large number of those surveyed say broadband would affect their telecommuting and shopping habits.
The ZDNet study indicates the number of users with high-speed access to broadband content via cable or digital subscriber line (DSL) technologies could nearly quadruple over the next 12 months. The result: the number of users will go from 2.3 million (4 %) to 8.6 million, or 15 % of the estimated 58.4 million users who have an Internet connection in their home.
How about a home technology rating? This trend has sparked CEMA's Integrated Home Systems (HIS) Division to begin developing a rating system to help consumers identify technology systems and capabilities of a home. Intended for use by contractors and real estate agents, it will allow consumers to compare properties based on their technology rating.
According to CEMA, integration of communications systems within a home offers two benefits:
• Homeowners can access electronic information for work or entertainment anywhere in the home, and
• They can use an integral system to monitor and control various functions from any location.
CEMA expects its HIS rating to include telephone and cable access, built-in security, lighting, and audio/video wiring as well as data and Internet services.
We're entering a digital world. At the same time we're on the threshold of a transition from an analog dominated world, where devices operate independently (phones and CATV), to a digital world, where devices are "intelligent" and can easily communicate with one another.
One example is the IEEE 1394 (FireWire) standard, which allows a homeowner to easily interconnect intelligent consumer devices (TV, camera, VCR) over short distances in the home.
Looking further to the future, we can see inevitable use of a centralized residential gateway for all incoming services, and then the need for a single uniform residential wiring solution. The media may be a combination of Cat. 5 twisted-pair copper conductors and optical fiber coming into the home. Effective distribution can be through some type of hybrid copper/fiber cable, or a hybrid twisted pair and a coaxial cable.
We can expect that properly wired new homes will become a common occurrence among residences priced above $100,000. Lucent Technologies is also active in this market and is poised to take advantage of the rapid growth.