The hottest new problem the tech industry is trying to fix doesn’t sound interesting, but it can make using the internet at home a much more pleasant experience. The problem? Routers! Routers can only route so much data so fast, and thanks to the proliferation of laptops, desktops, tablets, phones, and now smart home devices, they’re starting to chug a bit. Then, there’s the range problem, still leaving dead zones in some parts of the house.
The industry has found a few ways to address this — the Securifi Almond3 routers (among others) work together to create a mesh network that covers more areas of those house, while others simply work on increasing the speed and using dual-band connectivity to increase bandwidth. Plume has another idea, and it’s something that carriers like Verizon and AT&T have been working on to improve the quality of their networks — optimization. Using algorithms that can tell a streaming video from web browsing, for example, they can prioritize more demanding traffic, letting less data-intensive demands stay in the slow lane. Optimization can improve streaming video and gaming performance in particular, but it hasn’t been the focal point of a cheaper home Wi-Fi solution until now.
Plume does it by leaving the router part to you — instead of replacing your old router, they make it work better. Plume Pods are little hexagonal devices that plug straight into electrical outlets and can be connected to your home Wi-Fi network using a companion app. From there, the Pods apply Plume’s optimization algorithms to route your home’s traffic more efficiently while cutting out outside interference that could be slowing your connection down. They also work as range extenders for your router, although that will come at the cost of some speed.
Of the pods, Plume CEO Fahri Diner said, “Single router systems can no longer meet the WiFi demands of most homes today. While the latest generation of multi-router systems can improve signal strength, they tend to choke the overall system capacity, they can’t adequately respond to changing conditions, and they are very placement sensitive. We’ve been gathering data from thousands of homes to tune our optimization algorithms and profiled the average WiFi capacity of single-router homes. Because of WiFi limitations, we’re seeing that a huge percentage of homes are not able to enjoy what they are paying for” When Diner says that multi-router systems (like Almond3) choke system capacity, he means that each unit is acting as yet another device attached to your network, contributing to slowdown. By introducing optimization algorithms, the Plume Pods mitigate that problem.
It’s not a perfect solution. The best out there is probably Netgear Orbi, which connects two router units with a dedicated band that doesn’t interfere with your usual Wi-Fi connection and is also capable of some optimization. The downside to Orbi, unsurprisingly, is that it’s very expensive — a set of two runs you $400.
Plume Pods are a little cheaper, although we wouldn’t exactly call them cheap. Each pod is $70, with $180 for three and $330 for six. They’ve also got a little style to them, coming in champagne, silver, or onyx. Plume had already opened preorders for their Pods, but today’s the day they start shipping out. Orders can be made directly from Plume.