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CTOs talk home networks, energy use
By Carol Wilson

Jun 18, 2008 11:38 AM

Managing what Verizon calls “the fourth network” – the one inside the home, is a challenge to all service providers, the industry’s top technology executives agreed Tuesday at the ATIS TechThink CTO panel.

While standards such as TR-69 have enabled service providers to do more remote monitoring and diagnoses of in-home devices and networks, more standards are needed as more things are hooked up to the new IP networks within the home, said Chris Rice, executive vice president of shared services at AT&T.

“The consumer electronics piece looks like a lot of new network elements,” Rice said. As more devices are added, they compete for bandwidth on the home network, and service providers need to help determine ways to prioritize services and to isolate the offending equipment or service in the case of trouble, Rice added.

Service providers are “trusted entities” to their customers, said Qwest’s CTO, Pieter Poll. “We think there is a future around home IT services, because consumers reach out to us a first choice for help. But it’s important that we know what we are doing – the home could be a Microsoft ecosystem or an Apple ecosystem.”

Verizon is hoping new home router or gateway devices will also become a central place for new service opportunities, to include home surveillance and security solutions, said Mark Wegleitner, senior vice president-technology at Verizon. “There is a lot of runway ahead of us here in how to take advantage of,” he said.

Wegleitner admitted there had long been talk of such home automation projects as the networked refrigerator which reads bar codes on stored foods and notes when an item is removed, sending a text message to a mobile phone where the missing item is added to a grocery list. “But we are much closer to that being real now,” he said.

There is a major opportunity to help consumers control costs and reduce energy consumption with systems that monitor heating and air-conditioning and lighting, Rice added.

All three men said their own companies are working hard to be more environmentally friendly, in terms of their own power consumption and use of more fuel-efficient vehicles, and in making their data centers operate more efficiently.

Poll cautioned, however, against coming down too hard on data center power consumption, given the fact that “computing in the cloud” can be more efficient than having a lot of computing power distributed.

“We need to look at efficiency per bit per second” to make sure there is consistency in controlling data center power consumption and costs, Poll said. He and Rice agreed that there needs to be some industry standardization so there is a consistent way to compare equipment and technology on fuel efficiency.

Wegleitner referenced Verizon’s recent announcement of its own energy efficiency standard, the Telecommunications Energy Efficiency Requirement, and its request that vendors reduce by 20% the amount of power consumed by any equipment Verizon buys after Jan. 1, 2009.

“I don’t know that we can achieve that but we wanted to put a stake in the ground, and we want to work with our suppliers to see if we can do that.”

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