A new piece of networking hardware from PowerCloud Systems recently emerged on popular crowd-funding site Kickstarter. Aimed at consumers, the Skydog router is paired with a web interface and mobile application that makes managing your home network extremely accessible.
The Skydog router hardware itself has already passed regulatory certifications, and the super early bird backers will each get one of 250 pre-production units. The router features five Gigabit Ethernet ports (one port is for the WAN), a USB port, and a dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi radio. The Wi-Fi radio can operate on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands simultaneously, and has a maximum rated throughput of 300Mbps per band. The router chassis measures 17 x 11 x 2.5cm and includes a number of blue indicator LEDs on the top-front edge. The USB port is not currently supported, but is there for future feature updates.
Where Skydog differentiates itself from the crowd is in the software. After connecting the router to your modem and computers, you can log into the web interface. It will prompt you for either a Google or Skydog account, and then will reportedly automatically configure itself. The software supports Quality of Service (QoS) features that will allow you to prioritize certain traffic and/or to give bandwidth priority to certain users. The web interface will show you network statistics, connected devices, device signal strength, track and notify users of network issues (for example, the internet going down) via the Skydog mobile app, and track and restrict the websites users visit. Further, the administrator can set up schedules on a per-user basis. The schedules can restrict usage by approved time slices and by bandwidth limits. It will notify users when they are approaching the allotted time or bandwidth limit via the mobile app. Real time notifications include ISP connection issues, guests requesting access to the network, and the above-mentioned bandwidth limit notifications.
According to the Kickstarter FAQ, the Skydog Home Network (which consists of the router and management software) will cost approximately $149 for three years or $199 for five years without a monthly fee. The wording suggests that a model with a lower hardware cost but monthly charge might also be available. The cloud service is a bit worrisome, and I'm not sure if I like the idea of essentially renting the router via monthly or yearly fees. This router is not going to be for everyone, but it does have some useful and inventive features for families. This would be a router that I could see the various ISPs offering up as a rental device and that I might set up for my friends or relatives with kids so that they could easily manage the network and restrict the kids access to certain times of the day and age appropriate sites.
With 29 days left in the Kickstarter, the project has 543 backers, and $51,905 pledged of the 75,000 goal. It certainly looks like it is going to be funded, and I hope that the Kickstarter leads to a successful retail product launch.