Linksys EA4500 - Cloud Control
While similar systems are expected from Cisco rivals in the near future, it is no exaggeration to say CCC is a revelation. Routers have a well deserved reputation as intimidating devices you setup once and hope to never touch again, but CCC overhauls their complex, aged interfaces with a slick, graphically driven UI that even the most technophobic user will understand. In practice this means a simple list of functionality down one side: 'Device List', 'Guest Access', 'Parental Controls', 'Media Prioritization', 'Speed Test' and 'USB Storage', router settings below that and, to the right, simple widgets.
These widgets show at a glance information which becomes more detailed when clicked, but never does it break from its raison d'être: be simple. A good example is Media Prioritisation - a complex task on most routers - here it involves two sections: High Priority and Normal Priority. Connected devices are shown in Normal Priority (with editable names and representative icons) and you just drag them to the setting you want. Applications and games can also be added via the dropdown menu while techies are not left behind since custom settings, port ranges and protocols can be specified.
Similarly Guest Access (Internet without access to other computers or devices on the network) is connected to via a separate wireless SSID and password. Should you want you can alter each with a single click as well as specifying the total number of guests you will allow. CCC removes the fear factor associated with router settings allowing you to do more.
Extending this further are CCC mobile apps (currently for Android and iOS) which beautifully mimic its UI for smaller screens and, interestingly, third party applications. These are made via an official API released to developers and a particularly impressive early example is Block the Bad Stuff. This simple app lets you remote switch between three filter levels for your network while another Netproofer let you apply blocks for specific websites. In future you will be able to monitor the surfing of each connected device and even remotely kick off devices which shouldn't be connected. The parental potential here is huge: block Facebook after 10pm or before homework is finished, disconnect the Xbox, turn down the filter after children have gone to bed… to name just a few.
Other apps include HipPlay (yet to be released in the UK), a media aggregator which combines DropBox, Facebook & home media content for remote viewing and Gemini IP Camera Viewer which enables remote viewing of compatible IP cameras. What the long term take up will be is currently unknown, but the potential for apps for connected devices (turn the oven on/lights down/open the garage door) is virtually limitless.
Again we stress other router manufacturers are heading down a similar route, but CCC is an extremely impressive debut. Will techies feel it is all somewhat dumbed down? Possibly (notably only three devices can currently be set as High Priority for Media Prioritisation) and the roll out of the service hasn't been entirely smooth, but overall it is a huge change for the better. Techies themselves will also appreciate being able to log into a less savvy friend or relative's router remotely and take control.