Community Networking by Tom Bunzel

Home Networking or the sharing of high speed storage and other resources, as well as printers and an Internet connection ---was the subject of no less than two panels at the Venture Forum run by Red Herring Magazine at the Comdex Show in Las Vegas.

Really they go together, getting devices and computers to talk the same language, and have a central Brain in the home to collect and administer the information.

Passport from Intelogis is a home networking product operating at 350 Kpbs. Passport is still a lot faster than most modems in use around the U.S.A., and incredibly, it uses the existing electrical current in a house or office to enable multiple computers to share printers and files, as well as access the Internet.

Passport adapters are 3.5" by 5" external LAN ports that plug into an electrical outlet. Computers connect to the Passport through their parallel ports, making it unnecessary to open the computer to enable connectivity. Then you load software and youre ready to share files and printers.

Other solutions are on the way- some using the copper phone lines within a structure, others still like IBM's Home Director Pro becoming a complete central switchboard for security, entertainment as well as bits and bytes.

But -- what happens when lots of homes have this capability? When there is a "critical mass" of connected homes?At that point the Internet takes on a whole new level of functionality -- because of a new phenomenon -- Intelligent Communities.

Think of one set of homes (community) connected to their kids' school.

Another set of homes is connected to common security facilities.

Another set of homes is connected to medical emergency care facilities.

Many homes will share a connection to a power company that will enable them to keep consumption down, and their costs will be dramatically reduced. This is called load sharing and shifting.

Still more homes sharing common areas of interest in sports and/or entertainment.

Under these conditions millions of important messages will be passing through "intranets" -- these virtual areas of common interest -- and they will need to be weeded out from useless information. Otherwise information consumers will move to competing architectures so only those intelligent communities with workable messaging protocols and systems will survive and thrive.

New facilitators of information transfer are moving into this fast growing space. For example, Community Vision is a ground breaking (literally) intranet venture located in Summerlin, Nevada, a few miles outside of Las Vegas, offers a one stop intranet solution that features intelligent messaging capability between connected homes.

Started by Doug Blattner, a savvy programmer and systems integrator with a staff of award winning graphic designers, writers and technologists, Community Vision first secured the contract to design and host the web site for IBM's home networking product, Home Director Pro.

That product was launched via a live webcast on Community Vision's website. But what Community Vision is truly about is enabling the intranets of shared interest which will inevitably emerge from the next wave of connectivity home networking.

Such common interest webs will enable the passage of messages and other information (weather, medical, education, etc.) among residents of connected communities using pre-set profiles and the native intelligence of the homes themselves. The infrastructure is getting put in place -but the software is just now emerging.

The company's NextTropolis(tm) Intranet solution enables the administration of intelligent messaging through connected homes using TCP/IP (Internet) connections. The patent pending technology provides a means for these home networks to set parameters for which messages to receive and which to transmit.

An aptly named SynapServer(tm) technology is a central clearinghousefor all of this information -- relaying only that information that is appropriate to those home networks that are entitled to receive it, and ensuring a secure environment for message retrival.

This sort of intelligent messaging is just around the technology curve from home networking -- but it is also way beyond the current scope of Chat or Email. It requires new protocols, which Community Vision has developed, and modes of administration and implementation.

(Tom Bunzel is computer consultant, writer and trainer residing in Los Angeles. He has written numerous articles for national technical trade journals and his book, "Digital Video on the PC" was published in 1997 by Micro Publishing Press.)