Digital Home Networking Standard

One of the longest-running nightmares for home entertainment fans could one day come to an end, thanks to a new standard announced in late July by the Home Networking Committee of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

The standard, which will be called CEA-2008, the Digital Entertainment Network Initiative (or "DENi"), should insure universal compatibility for coming generations of audio, video, computer, and telecommunications gear. In the process of formulating the standard, the CEA's committee collected data on hundreds of electronic devices which employed more than 60 different standards, with the aim of establishing consistent interoperability between disparate devices. The result should make it easier for consumers to hook up and operate any sort of equipment in the future, as well as simplifying the setup of a home network.

Many previous standards have happened by default or through inheriting interfaces from earlier equipment. By comparison, DENi is "a precedent for [the] CEA as it demonstrates the viability of a new standard development model," according to the trade group's engineering director Virginia Williams. "Broad support for CEA-2008, and our collaboration with the DENi consortia, resulted in increased industry interest and rapid adoption of the standard. We're pleased with the flexibility and ease-of-use that the DENi standard will help deliver to consumers and their home networks."

"Plug'n'play," long a Holy Grail for both the computer and consumer electronics industries, could become a reality if the initiative can sustain its momentum. In August, the CEA will host a "plugfest," in which manufacturers of all types of devices will be invited to bring prototypes for testing.

DENi is a "generational leap forward for home audio and video products," said John Gildred, engineering vice president for Pioneer Research Center USA, Inc. "With DENi, consumers will be able to choose compatible home networking products from different CE manufacturers and literally plug-and-play them together with no user setup required." Gildred, who serves as chairman of the CEA R7.6 subcommittee that developed the DENi standard, noted that the next step is to incorporate content as seamlessly as possible.