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New device streamlines home networking

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Gary Barbour's a "techie," capable of stringing together his own home network. But helping the grandparents and kids in his life do it — and witnessing their frustration — convinced him people needed something "simple, easy and inexpensive."

Barbour's a founder and the board chairman of Lugh Networks, a Salt Lake-based design and development company that creates home powerline networking solutions. Lugh products let consumers set up multimedia audio, video and data networks using the electrical outlets in their homes and offices.

A lot of people who have more than one personal computer in their homes simply use them for different tasks, according to company president Clay Epstein. Getting them to work together or share information has been too complicated for the average person.

The truth is, he said, people "want the infrastructure of home networking to be like the phone company. You plug the phone in and get a dial tone."

It's not an unreasonable request, he said.

Lugh's solution was creation of a device that lets the consumer tie the two (or more) computers together by plugging them into an electrical outlet. Stereo speakers can be linked in the same way, with a module placed in the back of a stereo and plugged into an outlet. Then any electrically powered stereo with an amplifier can be plugged into an outlet anywhere in the house.

Lugh's "technology enabler" looks like a surge protector, but they've added USB or ethernet connectivity. That means the printer, personal computer, scanner and other devices can be networked. And it doesn't have to be a surge-protector, either. A node works.

It's a world, said vice president of marketing Craig Rathbun, where "you will still plug the VCR into the wall, but those other cables are gone. You connect the VCR and television by plugging both into the outlet. It's nothing new. We're just making it work. We can show it. We are able to commercialize products."

The privately held company, which has 27 employees, has not tied itself to any one design. It plans to work with different types of chips and different designs. The operative word, Barbour said, is "work."

During the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Lugh announced it has incorporated fellow Utah company Inari's chipset into a fully functional product to make setup of a home-powerline network easy. The two companies plan to work together to promote a robust powerline marketplace.

Lugh will license its hardware designs and proprietary Home Network Manager software in combination with the Inari chipset to original equipment manufacturers so they can create peripherals such as plug-in nodes or adapters. The licensed designs also can be placed in products like personal computers so they are powerline-network ready. Lugh also is partnering in Inari's Power Developer Program.

More information on Lugh Networks is available online at (www.lughnetworks.com).

E-MAIL: lois@desnews.com