Getting a consistent and reliable Wi-Fi signal throughout your entire apartment or house has always been difficult. We’ve got some Wi-Fi tips for you, but they aren’t flawless. If you put the router in the living room, then Netflix may stutter in the bedroom. If you put the router in the bedroom, then you may have trouble searching for a recipe when you’re in the kitchen. And all bets are off if you’d like to browse the Internet or stream some music when you’r sitting on the back patio or the front porch.
But a new class of Wi-Fi routers aims to solve that problem, and take the frustration out of setting up a Wi-Fi network for your home. Michael Brown reports for TechHive that these new routers blanket your home with Wi-Fi coverage using multiple access points. There are two major competitors offering such a product to users: Eero and Luma. Neither one is expected to start shipping until early 2016, but it’s not too early to think about how a new kind of router could solve a number of common Wi-Fi annoyances.
Both routers are dual-band devices based on the 802.11ac standard. And both are designed not to look like a traditional router. Each device will be sold individually and in a pack of three, and both systems aim to make it easier for the average consumer to set up a router, and deploy additional access points to extend the network’s range and reliability.
One of Luma’s major selling points is that it comes from a team with extensive experience in building Internet security businesses. Luma will be able to perform a security audit to ensure that every device connected to the network is password-protected, and to scan for the presence of malware on the network. A management app enables you to assign users to devices, and limit or extend the amount of time that an individual user is able to spend online. You can also control what sites users are able to view, and monitor what every user is doing on the Internet.
While the robust parental controls might sound appealing to people with young children to supervise, others are uneasy about the app’s ability to show what websites the people in your house are viewing. Jacob Kastrenakes reports for The Verge that while enabling users to manage the Luma entirely through the companion smartphone app is a user-friendly move, the monitoring options are problematic in that “you can only sort of turn this off.” Luma’s activity-tracking is placed front and center in the app, which shows everyone’s activity, with snapshots of the sites that they visit, presented “like an Instagram feed.”
Each user’s history is recorded for a year, and while the network administrator can tell Luma to hide certain users’ activity, so that it won’t be displayed in the app, there isn’t a way to lock that setting in. Instead, the administrator can unhide the activity later. Kastrenakes writes, “Watching every site your child visits is overbearing at a minimum, but the app could also allow one adult to spy on another, since only one person can be Luma’s administrator. That’s a huge issue.”
Among Luma’s security features are the ability to scan devices to see if they’re set up with default passwords, which it will prompt the administrator to change. And when you have friends over, you won’t have to give the network password out to anyone. When they try to connect to your network, they’ll get an interstitial popup, the same kind you see when you connect to the Wi-Fi network at Starbucks, which will remain onscreen while you decide whether to grant them access. In Kastrenakes’s estimation, Luma’s business-style approach to your home network goes a little bit too far.
If you don’t need or want that much power over your home Wi-Fi network, then you can consider the Eero. Eero has an app to handle guest users and security, but doesn’t show you everything that users are doing on your Wi-Fi network. Eero is designed to route the traffic on your wireless network to reduce buffering and avoid dead spots in your home, and, like the Luma, you can use one unit or multiples to create a mesh network to cover your house or apartment. Eero’s software considers the constraints of the network when handling traffic.
Sarah Buhr reports for TechCrunch that Eero recently made several announcements, including an official FCC approval, a delay in shipment until early next year, and new VC funding. The company cited manufacturing challenges as the reason behind what Re/Code’s Ina Fried notes is the third time that it’s delayed the shipment of its routers, though orders are expected to ship by February of next year.
Eero’s goal has been to do for the wireless router what Nest has done for the thermostat or what Sonos did for home audio: create an affordable, reliable system that is not only easy to set up, but offers you better performance and easier management. Once Eero is connected to a cable or DSL modem, it pairs with users’ smartphones over Bluetooth to complete a five-minute setup process. After one device is connected, all you have to do is plug in another Eero router and it will automatically connect.