We were invited to speak at the 4th IEEE International Workshop on Network Appliances (IWNA4), held last week in Gaithersburg, MD. The speakers addressed many aspects of networked appliances, including architecture, protocols, security and applications.
In our speech Setting a Context for Networked Appliances ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/presentations_archive.html#iwna4 ) we observed that broadband networked PCs are establishing a context for networked appliances, and we suggested that designers of such appliances leverage the evolving broadband home ecosystem. We said that "networked appliances seem more likely to succeed as members of the evolving 'broadband home' ecosystem than as members of competing ecosystems or as stand-alone systems". We suggested that appliance designers assume that homes have broadband connections, home networks and UNnP capable control points -- probably but not necessarily PCs.
There were many interesting speakers at the conference. We were particularly interested in the paper by Steve Ungar of Telcordia on what is now called the Versatile Home Network. VHN is an EIA standard for a "home intranet" to "tie together other home LANs ... allowing any device on a home network to communicate with any other device." Since we think there are going to be multiple networks in a home (see the CES article above), we agree there's a need for a backbone network playing this role. VHN is not competing against other protocols; instead, it incorporates them. The next version, to be issued soon, incorporates IEEE 1394 (the standard for interconnecting digital video devices like camcorders, digital set-top boxes, and digital TVs); UPnP (for device discovery and control); SIP-based telephony; OSGi (for open services); and HAVi (home audio-video interoperability).