Stop me if you've heard this before: a secretive startup is promising to solve every problem you've ever had with wifi, from poor connections to ugly hardware or impossible software. This one might be worth a listen, though.
Luma is a secretive and well-funded startup that's been working on a 'mesh' wifi solution for the last two years. Rather than rely on a single master router and crummy range extenders, its system uses multiple routers, scattered around your house to blanket everything in sweet 802.11ac.
All the routers are controlled from an Android or iOS app, which promises simple setup and control. Just plug one or more Lumas in, and you can set everything up from your phone.
Mesh networking makes a lot of sense in terms of physics. Because of the way radio signals can be blocked and bounced around by a building and all the stuff in it, getting consistent coverage with one single router is always going to be difficult, no matter how many antennae you slap on it.
Unfortunately, tying multiple wifi routers into a single seamless network is pretty damn difficult. Corporate systems manage it with a bunch of ethernet cables and money. The rest of us suffer through with wireless range extenders, which are often glitch-y and just bad.
There's no guarantee that Luma's system will actually work, of course. Shipping is promised in 'early 2016', and there's no working demos as of yet. We're just going off the word of a bearded man in a Vimeo video, but the list of founders and investors does make for good reading. Google Ventures, the company's investment arm, is on board, and Luma itself was founded by Paul Judge and Mike Van Bruinisse, who between them have a history of successful security and networking startups.
All in, none of these ideas are new.
A lot of the ingredients that Google has put into its fancy OnHub routers are here. An app controls the entire system, not just trying to make setup easy, but letting you control who is on the network, and what kind of content they can see. There's also options like setting an internet time limit for your kid's device, or blocking people from connecting to your wifi with a Tinder-style swipe. Also, mesh wifi networks have been proposed before by startup Eero but have been stymied by extensive delays.
But if Luma can successfully tie the components together into a package that actually works — and that's one hell of an if — people might just pay an astronomically high price for a wifi network that finally works well.
And that's the catch: It's not cheap. At full retail, Luma will cost $US200 per router or $US500 for a pack of three, though they will cost half that for the next month. They will also only be available in the US and Canada upon initial release, but we hope they'll eventually make their way to Australia. Pre-orders open today through Luma's site or Amazon Launchpad, with $US250 getting you a set of three routers, delivered sometime in 2016.