Amazon recently announced the purchase of Mesh WiFi maker Eero for an undisclosed amount. A lesson we all should have learned by now is that when Amazon makes a purchase of a device that goes into your home, we should all be listening. In this article, I will review my Mesh WiFi system, compare it to the Eero WiFi and discuss some of the implications of Amazon’s purchase.
During our home renovation, there were times when conditions were difficult. Mornings without water and days without electricity are certainly challenging for a family. However, only when the WiFi was disconnected did my children condemn the home as uninhabitable.
When families are renovating or building homes, the most frequent question I receive is, “What is the most important item to prepare technology-wise?” My answer is always, know your WiFi plan. as it is the backbone of everything else you will add to your home in the future. Consumers often pay high fees for faster internet service from their providers. They feel compelled to do this when they find some of their devices buffering and assume it is the WiFi speed rather than inadequate signal coverage around the home. When I ask how they broadcast these signals, the answer is often from the basement with whatever router the ISP provider supplies. And these inadequate routers come with a monthly fee which can be a big money maker for the ISP but fall very short of your home’s needs. A Mesh WiFi system, in many cases, can be a much better solution.
If you live in a studio apartment in a city, you probably don’t need to worry too much about your WiFi coverage. However, if you are a homeowner with multiple floors, even if your home has not been featured in the Wall Street Journal’s Mansion section, chances are you will have areas of your home without an adequate signal. If you are Amazon and want an Echo in every room of every home, it is in your best interest to ensure that consumers have reliable WiFi. Additionally, if you are looking to be the nucleus of all devices in a home automation setup, controlling the WiFi and all the devices connected to it is of paramount importance. Not to mention all the data that can be collected by controlling consumers’ home internet traffic. In hindsight, Amazon’s purchase of Eero seems obvious.
I do not own Eero mesh devices, but I do run my home network off the Google Mesh WiFi, which is one of Eero’s biggest competitors and a very similar offering. I purchased the Google WiFi over Eero with a little hesitation. Do I really want Google to know that much more about me? Perhaps sharing the same data with a smaller company like Eero would provide me with more privacy. I ultimately threw my hands up in defeat with the reality that Google likely knows everything about me already anyway. Now I also realize that it is often only a matter of time before a tech giant comes along to purchase any smaller company that has valuable data. These are real privacy issues that we all will need to come to terms with before making a purchase. I ultimately purchased the Google WiFi because of the lower price point ($249 Vs. $399-$499 for 3 units). It will be interesting to see if this price gap narrows with Amazon being the new owner. Both services allow you to buy one central router that connects to your ISP and then add other WiFi points around your home. Each WiFi point simply requires an AC power source so you can place them anywhere around your home where you have power. The WiFi points all link to create a single mesh network giving you the ability to have reliable WiFi in all corners of your home.
Both Mesh WiFi systems have easy to use Apps with many useful features, some of which families will be wise to take advantage of. Firstly, you can identify each device on the network. Knowing the device allows you to prioritize it if desired. If I need the bandwidth for work and my family is streaming video on other devices, I can prioritize my device, so I don’t experience any degradation of performance. From a parenting perspective, you can also pause your children’s devices at certain times of the day.
I won’t preach about children and internet access, but I will share some of the internet rules I enforce with my own kids using my Google Mesh WiFi. During prime family and homework hours, I pause my daughters’ phone but not her school issued iPad. I also have a schedule that turns off internet access for all her devices at a certain time of the evening until the next morning. If my parents had a way of doing this when I had a radio beneath my pillow listening to late night baseball games when I was in grade school, I probably would not have fallen asleep in class so often — especially after extra inning West Coast games.
There is also a site blocking feature that filters millions of explicit websites. This is particularly nice to have at the router level, so it is not necessary to install a filter on each device separately. Eero offers a similar but perhaps more advanced set of features with their Eero Plus subscription which comes at an annual fee of $99. I hope Amazon will eventually include these features with the growing benefits of Prime membership. While I am sure all these precautions are still not the perfect solutions for monitoring your children’s internet safety, they are meaningful steps toward a healthy internet household. Finally, if your teenager is the network administrator of your household, these devices might be the way for you to take back control as they are easy for almost anyone to administer. If all these suggestions have your children yelling at you not to mess with the WiFi, just smile and say I did not mess with the WiFi, I meshed with the WiFi.