MANILA, Philippines — In an increasingly connected world with many Internet-capable devices, wireless routers no longer just provide Wi-Fi access to users, they now also come with apps to better manage your network at home.
This was the future that Linksys, a networking products vendor owned by enterprise networks provider Cisco, envisioned and unveiled along with three of its new wireless router products on Thursday.
The apps, which are either embedded onto the routers or are provided by third-party developers, allow consumers to control every aspect of their home network, from the devices connected down to the applications used by users.
The apps are accessed through a central portal Cisco recently launched globally called Cisco Connect Cloud, which allows router owners to control various aspects of their wireless networks via the Internet.
In contrast, wireless routers today can only be configured when one is within the router’s range, and often come with cumbersome and too-technical settings that tend to alienate the typical Internet user.
With apps, Linksys is providing a familiar and easy-to-use interface for users to drill down and manage their wireless networks, even at the most granular level.
“The world has changed,” boldly claimed Tang Boon Ping, regional sales director for Asia at Cisco. “Consumers are getting more and more connected, and are demanding more in terms of the experience they have when accessing content.”
App-ifying the Wi-Fi router
By signing up to Cisco Connect Cloud, users can access a Web interface similar to their router’s settings page even when they are at work or abroad and manage their wireless network at home.
Cisco Connect Cloud also comes as an app for the iOS and Android platforms, so managing wireless networks is also possible even while on the go.
The cloud application comes with six other embedded applications, which allow for a more flexible management of the network through a user-friendly graphic interface. These apps are:
- Device management, for viewing and managing of permissions of WiFi-enabled devices currently connected to the network;
- Parental controls, for managing permissions to access particular websites or restricting access at certain times of the day;
- Guest access, for giving temporary users access to the network without necessarily giving them the main network’s password;
- USB storage, for connecting hard-disk drives or USB flash disks to become network drives, allowing access from wireless devices connected to the network;
- Media prioritization, for configuring a priority list of users and applications to control the bandwidth at the pipe level; and,
- Speed test, for checking the current bandwidth speed of the network.
Cisco has also opened up their new routers’ software development kit for access by third-party developers so that they, too, can create innovative mobile applications that can be used with the router.
Currently, there are six third-party applications that Cisco launched along with the new routers, which include apps to let you control IP cameras in your network; browse online video services and beam them to your Smart TV or AirPlay devices; and protect your network from malware by blocking security-flagged websites.
These apps are available for download at the App Store and Google Play and can be used with new Linksys router, beginning from the recently launched EA Series.
Privacy issues hound new cloud service
But Cisco’s venture to the cloud didn’t come without a bit of turbulence, as its initial launch was plagued with customer complaints that range from automatic updates without permission from the user to serious privacy issues.
When the company launched Cisco Connect Cloud last week that shifted router management from the local network up to the Internet, some users in other countries who already bought the EA series of routers automatically received the update as automatic updates were, by default, set to on upon shipping.
This reportedly irked some customers, who were left with a few settings on the local network configuration pane and were summarily migrated to the new cloud interface.
“Consistent with Cisco’s practices, Cisco Connect Cloud does not actively track, collect or store personal info or usage data for any other purposes, nor is it transmitted to third parties,” clarified Brett Wingo, general manager of Cisco Home Networking.
“Cisco Connect Cloud and Cisco Linksys routers do not monitor or store information about how our customers are using the Internet and we do not arbitrarily disconnect customers from the Internet. The Cisco Connect Cloud service has never monitored customers’ Internet usage, nor was it designed to do so, and we will clarify this in an update to the terms of service,” Wingo added.
The Cisco executive further stressed that signing up for a Cisco Connect Cloud is an optional process when setting up the new routers, adding that they can still manage their network even without an account at the new cloud service.
New app-enabled routers
In this series, three available Wi-Fi router models vary slightly from each other.
The Linksys EA2700 is a dual-band router with Gigabit that can provide speeds of up to 600 Mbps, and is ideal for surfing the Web, connecting multiple devices, and casual gaming.
Meanwhile, the Linksys EA3500 comes with Gigabit and USB ports and can deliver speeds of up to 750 Mbps. This one is ideal for streaming high-definition video and adding network storage.
The Linksys EA4500, on the other hand, also comes with Gigabit and USB ports and can reach speeds of up to 900 Mbps. It can also act as a DLNA server for use with smartphones and tablets, and can handle faster high-definition video streaming across a wider access range.
The three new routers will retail for P5,550, P7,850, and P9,950, and will be available at major technology hardware stores nationwide. All three are app-enabled and can give users access to the Cisco Connect Cloud.