Plume Unveils Router-Killing 'Pods' for Home Wi-Fi Access
For years, the standard way to access Wi-Fi connectivity in your home has been to plant a wireless router in some central part of the house and hope its signal reaches into every corner. Palo Alto-based Plume, however, has come up with an alternative approach: relatively low-cost, router-free little "pods" -- access points, essentially -- that you can plug into power outlets around your home to ensure you can connect from any room.
Yesterday, Plume announced that it is ready to begin taking advance orders for its pods ahead of their expected arrival on the market this fall. Priced at $39 for now (the price will increase to $49 upon launch), the pods use what Plume calls "adaptive Wi-Fi" to deliver dynamically responsive and cloud-assisted access to Internet services.
Established in 2015, Plume is led by several networking industry veterans, including co-founder and CEO Fahri Diner, who previously founded and led Qtera and was also the director of product line management at Siemens.
Targeting the 'Last Few Meters' Problem
"Most of us today get pretty awesome broadband delivered to our homes," Diner wrote yesterday in a blog post on his company's Web site. "I've been frustrated though, after experiencing first-hand what it takes to bring speedy broadband to the home -- that something goes terribly wrong in the 'last few meters' over Wi-Fi." Diner said Plume was launched "to take the 'Why?!' out of Wi-Fi."
Instead of providing wireless connectivity with a router, Plume decided to take the approach of offering little Wi-Fi communicators that could be plugged into outlets anywhere in a home. The pod system is managed with the help of a mobile smartphone app, and uses cloud services, optimization algorithms and self-learning technology to monitor a home network and adapt as Wi-Fi conditions change.
'Obsessively Testing' Ahead of Launch
Diner said his company is currently "obsessively testing" its technology in preparation for the fall product launch. "We have an Internet service provider partner who is trialing parts of our solution in thousands of homes as we speak," he noted. "Plume is a self-learning system that gets better and better over time."
Plume's system resembles a similar approach taken by another California-based startup: Eero. That company has also turned to the use of multiple devices rather than a single router to deliver Wi-Fi connectivity across a home. Working together, several Eeros -- priced at $199 each or available in a three-pack for $499 -- create a wireless mesh network to eliminate dead spots and provide blanket coverage in a home.
By contrast, Plume's pods, which come in three colors: champagne, silver and onyx, cost significantly less. The pre-order campaign is aimed at determining how many pods the company will need to manufacture on "the first go around," Diner said in his blog post. "[W]e'll keep the initial quantities fairly small so we can grow methodically and not get ahead of ourselves," he added.