A few years ago, there were so many acronyms associated with home networking that it could cause one’s eyes to cross, trying to sort it all out. There still are quite a few acronyms, but the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) has risen to top of mind. The organization says it has certified more than 9,000 devices to date. Even Tony Werner, Comcast’s executive vice president/CTO, mentioned it in a blog post in January after the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

"DLNA marches on with more and more devices connecting and discovering content easily over home networks," wrote Werner. "Additionally, home networking continues to improve both in wired and unwired. MoCA 2.0, Powerline, Wi-Fi and wireless HDMI all continue to improve and reduce in cost."

The DLNA aims to promote wired and wireless interoperable networking of consumer electronic (CE) devices. As a CE communications standard, DLNA represents content negotiation and sharing between disparate networked devices. DLNA sits above other networking technologies and allows the user to discover the devices that have media content.

DLNA-certified devices include TVs, PCs, set-tops, routers, game consoles, tablets, Blu-ray and DVD players, smartphones and audio receivers. According to ABI Research data, more than 440 million DLNA-certified devices had been installed in users’ homes by the end of 2010. At CES, DLNA increased its buzz by unveiling a software-certification program and a protected-streaming-certification program.

Currently, the DLNA is certifying software that is sold directly to consumers through retailers, Websites and mobile-application stores. With DLNA-certified software, consumers can upgrade products from within their home networks that may not be DLNA-certified and bring them into their personal DLNA ecosystems.

Consumer Convenience

"Typically, when we talk about software certification, we’re talking about the function that enables the sending or receiving device to do the DLNA functionality," says Bob Brummer, vice chairman of the DLNA’s board of directors. "It helps the consumer to play one file to another device."

Adds ABI practice director Jason Blackwell, “ABI Research believes the DLNA’s software-certification program is a significant step that will provide a powerful stimulus to the adoption and connection of devices in consumers’ home networks. By vouching for the interoperability of devices using certified software, the DLNA will foster confidence among consumers that if they purchase certified hardware and software, their systems will work as advertised.”

In addition, the DLNA’s new protected-streaming-certification program leverages securely shared commercial movies between products in a consumer’s home network. The program helps to preserve the rights and interests of copyright owners and content providers, and it has been recognized as an international standard by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), an organization that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies.

"If the content is flagged to be protected, cable operators offer in-home networking," says Brummer. "But let’s say you only have one cable box. It (the DLNA’s protected streaming) would allow you to stream to a second device in the home that wasn’t hooked up to a second cable box. The guidelines facilitate that use case."

Need A Friend?

But no matter how useful DLNA is, it still needs to be user-friendly for consumers to connect their devices with DLNA software. Brummer says that while his own mother has a brand-name TV with DLNA built in, her mobile phone doesn’t have DLNA, and she would like to be able to send pictures from her phone to the TV. DLNA-certified software could do that for her. But is it easy to do? "Sometimes you need a friend to help set things up," says Brummer.

While the DLNA continues its efforts to make fixed-mobile convergence easier for the end user, at least it can celebrate its success with providers and CE manufacturers. Anna Enerio, marketing director at the DLNA, says the type of questions she was getting at the DLNA booth at CES 2011 were very different than in previous years: In the past, people wanted to know what DLNA did. This year, they wanted to know how they could become a member.

Linda Hardesty is associate editor at Communications Technology. Contact her at lhardesty@accessintel.com.

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