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Updated 3/4/2006

Our Broadband Condo: Media and Communications Needs

The second phase of our project got under way in August 2005 as we started remodeling our condo. In this phase, we tackled present and future needs for media and communications.

We were moving walls and rewiring, so we had a great opportunity to think about what equipment we should install now, what equipment we might want to install later and what wiring we would need both for now and for the future. We wired our New Jersey house nearly ten years ago; much of the technology and applications have changed since then, so we viewed this project as a "second chance" to improve on some of the ways we did things back then.

As with our home, we chose to plan and manage the project ourselves rather than hiring an integrator. As industry analysts, we have the benefit of hearing many people's views of the future. In planning the cabling and equipment, we wanted to apply our best judgements of future needs and technologies.

User Needs

As with the PC and Internet planning in phase 1, we first considered the user needs and the current environment at the Pointe Santo condo complex.

There are two broad sets of user needs: what we want to provide for guests staying in our condo, and what in addition we want for ourselves. We expect to address some of these needs now, and more as new technologies become available.

For our guests

We'll have guests renting our condo, and family and friends who are visiting. We'd like them to have the media and communications they are becoming used to at home, and the ones they'll get over the next ten years. This includes support over time for:

Telephone Services

  • Local and long distance telephone service on one or two lines
  • Provision for a separate fax line
  • Ability to dial 911 for emergencies
  • Ability to hold, conference, intercom, call forward, transfer to voice mail, mute, speakerphone
  • Ability to record messages (voice mail or answering machine)
  • Caller ID
  • Portable phone plus at least one wired phone
  • Ability to connect a wired phone in any room
  • Support for broadband telephone service, digital telephones and video telephony in the future

Audio

  • Provision for loudspeakers in the living room, kitchen, and both bedrooms
  • Ability to play music in all rooms or only in specific rooms
  • In the bedrooms, ability to play audio from a central source—CDs, TV, radio tuner, MP3 players and computers—and from local sources such as TVs and digital media adapters
  • Ability to adjust volume and mute in each room individually
  • Ability to select the music source from each room
  • Ability to connect a portable music player (such as an iPod) and have it play over the loudspeakers
  • Support for networked digital audio in the future

Video

  • High-quality screens to watch TV in the living room and both bedrooms -- preferably flat-panel screens
  • Ability to receive and display digital TV -- and high-definition TV as it becomes the norm
  • Ability to watch DVDs and VHS tapes
  • Ability to use our Windows Media Edition PC as a personal video recorder (PVR), and to use a PVR from the cable company
  • Ability to watch recorded video on any of the PC or TV screens
  • "Multi-room PVR": ability to start watching a video on one screen and continue watching on another screen
  • In the bedrooms, ability to watch from a central source—DVD, VCR or computer—and from a local cable source using a cable-ready TV or a cable set-top box
  • Ability to select the video source from each room
  • Universal remotes so that each room can use a single remote control for all functions
  • Support for networked digital video and portable video players in the future

PC and Internet

  • Ability to connect and use a portable PC or game player in any room

For us

Since our condo is mostly occupied by renting guests, it's important that guests be able to use all the media and communications equipment at the condo without calling us for help. We'd like

  • The equipment at the condo to be easy to learn and use without complicated instruction manuals;
  • To remotely diagnose and fix problems with the equipment at the condo;
  • To have everything we install in the condo be relatively unbreakable by our guests and their children;
  • Future support for home automation—for example, to adjust the thermostat remotely.

The Current Environment

The Pointe Santo complex does not allow satellite dishes, so our television services all come from Comcast, the local cable provider. The complex provides analog cable service to all units. Comcast also offers digital cable, many high-definition channels, cable modem and digital telephone services.

We subscribed to cable modem service soon after buying our condo. We expect to subscribe to digital cable and high-definition television as part of this project, and may want to subscribe to digital phone service in the future.


Next: Key Technologies for Media and Communications