Jun 28, 2013

HANA and DLNA home networking comparison and coexistence

Developing a home network is not simple. To be broadly accepted by consumers, manufacturers and service providers, it must operate over existing wiring, protect the high value content being exchanged and connect a wide range of devices and services. The real challenge is to make it simple for home owners to install and use.

The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) and the High-Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance (HANA) are both working on home networking solutions that can distribute video entertainment. Both recognize that simplicity is the number one goal. However, the definition of 'simple' in the PC world is not the same as it is for watching a TV.

HANA & DLNA: The differences

DLNA approaches home networking from a PC perspective. Though a PC is not required, the DLNA network was created to solve many of the issues a PC deals with. Those issues have roots in the vast array of devices that come not only from different manufacturers and service providers, but also from different industries, each with their own way of doing things. Connecting to these devices requires a set of protocols and device drivers that constantly change with each new generation of devices, processors and operating systems.

Television is a very well defined and unified platform. Cable, satellite and online content providers, as well as CE manufacturers, all come from different industries. However, the rules are already well defined and rarely change.

The second difference comes from the ways in which PCs and TVs move data between devices. The PC has traditionally received a file from some source such as the Internet, CD or DVD, and then either used the file itself or moved it to a printer, MP3 player, or other devices to use. The TV operates in a world of real-time streaming. Whether it's over-the-air broadcast, cable, satellite, DVD or PVR, the TV receives an uninterrupted, real time stream of bits. Any interruption in the stream means an interruption in the viewing or listening experience.

Another difference is in security. We are all aware of PCs' security problems including viruses and hackers. Operating systems and other programs are constantly updated to plug security holes. The potential for a hacked system to allow content theft or illegal copies to be made is a major concern for content owners who zealously protect their products.

Protecting content in a PC environment is extremely difficult and often carries with it many restrictions on usage. The end result has been for most hardware and content providers to use proprietary solutions that only work on their platform, such as Apple TV, TiVo, and NetFlix. On closed systems such as TVs, DVD players, or set top boxes, protecting content is far easier than in a PC environment.

Finally, in a world of software and firmware updates, consumers are never certain that two devices can work together. Even if they are compatible, issues may arise, due to the ever-changing software and device configurations.

By contrast, the TV viewing population can be relatively certain that if something does not work, it's not an incompatibility or missing software issue, but a question of correctly connecting and controlling the devices.

With TV having less complex problems, HANA has been able to focus its efforts on creating a standardized solution with one network connection (FireWire -- the industry name for IEEE 1394), one remote control and one consistent User Interface. (See Why HANA, Why Now for additional information.)

Thus it is the starting point -- PC versus TV -- that defines the problems that HANA and DLNA attempt to solve, and that creates the difference in their definition of 'simple'.


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