I was pretty excited a few months ago when I bought a new Femtocell device from my cellular service provider. My wife and I had noticed that we had begun having problems connecting to the network and calls were dropping more frequently so I swallowed my pride and paid $250 solve my carrier’s coverage problem. I expected to get maximum “bars” in my house easily and seamlessly. But my experience was far from plug and play. Actually when I called the carriers help desk they said something to the effect of “oh it doesn’t work with data plans yet. You’ll need to turn off the data portion of your Blackberry each time you walk in the house.” I promptly packaged it back up and returned it to the retail store. I figured I’d wait a generation or two before trying it again. Maybe the price would come down in the meantime.
While I am still not ready to try again to solve my carrier’s coverage problems, I must admit my interest in femtocells is revitalized. At a recent CommNexus San Diego SIG focusing on “Femto Services” I got a glimpse into the future and like what I see. If femtocells live up to expectations it could become the link between your mobile phone and embedded wireless devices in your home such as your TV, HVAC, and utilities. Via a femtocell, you will be able to remotely communicate with your house to manage every embedded device such as turning on the oven, or responding to a SMS reminding you that you left the lights on. There will also be presence enabled capabilities that detect your phone as you walk through the door and immediately turn on the TV, air conditioner and appropriate lights as you move throughout the house. In addition to knowing when your kids are home because their phone comes within range of the femto, you can also leave them a “digital post-it note” reminding them to clean their room as soon as they get home.
There are several devices vying to be the hub of the future digital home but unless those devices connect to your smart phone then they won’t work. I can see a combination Femto/Wi-Fi device controlling those connections in our future homes where we live just like the Jetsons.