PowerCloud Systems, a Californian-based outfit, recently provided me with a demo of a very interesting solution for the parental control market. Skydog is a combination of software and hardware that enables parents to manage profiles and devices within a home network. The management is done through a dashboard app that is accessible both online and on mobile, and essentially allows the user to customize Internet access of every member of a home network, across all connected devices. The hardware piece is essentially a gigabit router with up to 3 wireless and wired virtual networks for separate service zones. The smart router offers a number of functions, including bandwidth management controls for each user. The software part is a web-based application, which allows for a combination of both active and passive features. On the active part, the software offers filtering, blocking and restrictions on time, usage and access. Passive features include remote monitoring, notification, and activity tracking. Skydog also includes a nice array of security features as well, with a built-in firewall (with SPI and NAT), malware and phishing protection, unknown device connection blocking and automatic device fingerprinting, among others. The whole package leverages the power of the cloud, so that remote access is possible and no software installation is required on the different devices.
Skydog appears to be a unique product offering emerging in a space where there is demand for a specific technical solution but where technical knowledge is still relatively low. Skydog addresses a number of different areas that have not traditionally been offered to the consumer, but which are becoming increasingly relevant in the context of child online protection:
- Network and device visualization and oversight
- Multi-network and multi- device management
- Access control and authentication
- Profile and identity management
- Policy settings and control
- Monitoring, logging and configuration
- Filtering and blocking
- Data visualization, alerts and notification
- VLAN firewalled service zones
The combination of these features should allow for a highly malleable and customized management of a home network, connected devices, and user profiles. The potential of such a management system is huge – and not just for the parental control market. While the current market for child protection software is ripe for revenue-generation, the emergence of the Internet of Things will drive demand for control and oversight by all individuals with regards to the growing number of connected devices in their possession (smartphones, tablets, ultrabooks, wearables, etc.). The connected home is a great example – multiple connected devices (computers, printers, home entertainment systems, gaming consoles, white goods, heating, electricity, and water systems, etc.) will mean a dynamic surge in the number of connectivity points within an individual’s control. The current generation of children and young adults has grown up with constant, always-connected presence of at least one personal, smart, mobile device. As they mature, and their purchasing power increases, the demand will be for solutions that offer management capabilities for these devices, and for the data contained and flowing through it. Eventually, each individual will have their own personal network of devices, in which they will want to manage access in the simplest, most streamlined and central way possible.
Skydog offers a first glimpse into such a system – with a cloud-based service that can enable remote control even while away from the home network, and a central management platform. The router provides the oversight from a network perspective, offering additional security and access control features. Certainly PowerCloud Systems is putting to market a comprehensive product for parental control but where the potential application has some very far-reaching possibilities.