Digital Living Network Alliance broadens guidelines

The Digital Living Network Alliance has extended its interoperability guidelines to include printer and mobile device functions.

The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) has expanded its device interoperability guidelines to include printer and mobile device capabilities.

On Tuesday, the DLNA announced extensions to the guidelines to cover a variety of new device types and protocols. The extensions are intended to help consumers bring phones and other mobile devices, as well as printers, into their home networks. For example, they might send images from a camera phone to a DLNA-certified TV for viewing or print them on a DLNA-certified printer, said Bob Taylor, a DLNA board member, in a webcast.

A certification and logo program for products that support the extensions should begin later this year, according to Taylor.

Key additions included in the extensions are support for the MPEG-4 video standard, which is well suited to mobile devices, and for the Bluetooth short-range wireless protocol. The guidelines already encompass wired Ethernet and the IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN specifications. The extended design guidelines also call for support of 802.1q, an Ethernet mechanism for prioritizing types of traffic that need high performance, such as video. And for the first time, the extensions add the capability to send content to a TV instead of just streaming it from the set.

The current specifications are intended primarily for use of private content around the home network. Next up for the DLNA are provisions in the guidelines for protecting copyright content provided by broadcasters and other service providers. Those should be available around the middle of this year, Taylor said.

The group will probably start with simple link protection, which will let users stream video or audio from one device to another in the home, and later move on to support of full DRM (digital rights management) to cover copying or synchronizing of protected files to another device, he said. DLNA has met with backers of the major emerging DRM standards but has not chosen one to use, he added.

One thing the DLNA hasn't done is set up guidelines for the actual infrastructure products, such as Ethernet switches, that provide connectivity in the network. The group does provide recommendations to makers of those products, but it is considering setting up guidelines and certification for them, Taylor said.

The group was formed in 2003 to help make home networks of PCs, consumer electronics products and mobile devices work easily together. Since then, with members such as Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, and Sony, the group has started testing and certifying products according to design guidelines. About 30 products have been approved so far, with the first of them hitting the market last September, Taylor said.

Now numbering 282 member companies from 20 countries, DLNA is just starting to see stationary networked devices for the home proliferate, and it expects to see many more mobile products to work with those networks soon, Taylor said.

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