Matsushita unveils home network protocol

Matsushita Electric Industrial, better known by its Panasonic brand name, has developed a networking protocol that it says will make it easier to control future networked home electronics devices via the Internet.

The protocol, called "Kebab," was designed to get past the problem caused by changing IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of domestic broadband connections, the Osaka-based company said Wednesday in a statement. Such high-speed network connections don't usually have fixed addresses but rather are assigned a unique IP address each time they are connected to the Internet or are forced to renew an address after a certain period of time.

Internet connections made from home don't cause any problems because the traffic originates from the transient IP address and carries a return address so that a reply can be received. However, when it comes to connections originating outside the home, for example, when users want to program their hard-disk based video recorder from their cellular telephone, a problem occurs unless they know the IP address in use at that time.

The same problem can also occur within the home network when devices are moved around the house and receive different local address when they are reconnected to the network.

Kebab gets around this by having each device connect initially to a central server managed by Matsushita. The server keeps a map of each device and its current IP address and location on the network. When users outside the home want to connect to the devices, the server provides the current location on the network.

This isn't a big problem now because very few consumer electronics devices can be connected to a home network but the number that can is growing steadily.

The system has already been built into several models of hard-disk based video recorders recently released by Matsushita. Future products that are intended to be networked will also offer support, said Wilson Solano, a spokesman for Matsushita in Tokyo.

The protocol is also supported by Kurashi Station, which is a central hub unit for Matsushita's Kurashi Net wireless network system for home appliances, such as washing machines, air conditioners and refrigerators. The hub links the appliances together and provides connectivity to the Internet.

The company is looking to license the system to other electronics manufacturers. A detailed licensing plan, however, has yet to be decided, Solano said.

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