Only three years ago, talk of a 'home network' or a 'wired home' was the preserve of Bill Gates and excitable technology evangelists on Tomorrow's World.
Networked computers were found in offices and universities, not in kids' bedrooms and parents' home offices. But broadband internet connections and low-cost PCs have made the networked home much more commonplace.
So far, so good. But if high-speed web access is being distributed through the home - just like electricity, gas and water services - do you want that service to be always on, always available to go anywhere, to any website, for any user?
Surely some control is necessary - if you like, an internet fuse box or stop tap that can control the flow of web access when it's appropriate to do so.
The need to protect internet users, particularly children, from content such as porn and violence has been increasing in line with the wider use of the web. With this potential danger has developed a growing recognition of the importance of filtering technology wherever web access exists.
Home filtering has traditionally been done at PC or ISP level, but the advent of home gateways gives a new opportunity: filtering at the gateway firewall level.
Some US firms have incorporated gateway-level filtering technology into their home-networking solutions. This combined technology enables multiple service operators and broadband ISPs to deliver managed services for home web security including firewall protection and family URL filtering.
Ease of integration has been a key factor in the take-up of home-gateway-level filtering, with the solution intercepting website access requests from each computer in the home, assessing them for authority and deciding whether to block access.
Think it's all a little too much? Then consider this: take-up of broadband subscriptions has risen to 30,000 per week, and one in 10 UK homes with internet access use broadband services, according to Oftel.
With fears about inappropriate internet material drawing increasing debate from the government, the detailed control provided by gateway filtering can only attract interest. The opportunity for gateway providers is there to strengthen their stance in an increasingly competitive market.
Nick Lamidey is director at OEM Technology Partnerships Asia.
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