PowerCloud Systems is fulfilling the promise from its Kickstarter campaign by shipping its Skydog Wi-Fi router to more than 1,000 of its crowdfunding supporters. That means the Skydog and its companion mobile app are shipping on time.
Skydog is a new home network router that you can control with your smartphone. It promises to simplify and secure home networking for families. It monitors all of the traffic on your home network and tells you whether your kids are surfing the web during study hours or visiting places they shouldn’t be. In short, it’s a nice way to spy on your family, or, if you prefer, make sure that everyone is viewing appropriate content. After shipping its first units to Kickstarter backers, PowerCloud will ship its official products in October.
The router’s design is a response to the growing intricacy of home Internet usage on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. The system tells you some useful information without requiring you to be a technical wizard. It can, for instance, tell you exactly when your Internet access goes down and whether you need to fix something at home or contact your Internet service provider. In doing so, it will help demystify the process of making sure your Internet works when you want it. The company bills it as “the best thing to happen to the home network since Wi-Fi.”
Palo Alto, Calif.-based PowerCloud Systems is a startup that spun out of Xerox’s famous Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), the research think tank that invented the personal computer.
The company’s backers include PARC, Qualcomm Ventures, Javelin Venture Partners, and Walden Venture Capital. PowerCloud Systems was founded in 2008, and it has already been shipping its CloudCommand platform for deploying and monitoring Wi-Fi networks and services for businesses such as hotels, retailers, and healthcare providers.
The home network package includes a mobile companion app, which works on any tablet, Windows PC, Mac, or smartphone. Skydog offers real-time visibility into the network. It tells you who is online, which devices are being used, what web sites are being accessed, and how much bandwidth is being used. If a guest is seeking to access the network, Skydog will send you a text alert. And it will put the guest outside a firewall, so your network remains protected.
You can easily use the app on a mobile phone to classify all of the devices that are authorized to use your home network. That includes phones, laptops, computers, and other gear. You can categorize the devices by user and limit what your kids can access. You can allow your kids to access the Internet for homework during certain hours of the day. You can also determine what times of the day they can view entertainment sites. Kids won’t like that, but parents will appreciate the reassurance it offers about how their kids are using the Internet.
Many parents try to do this already by setting rules for kids to follow, but they have no control over what the child does when the parent is at work or somewhere else. Skydog will send alerts when a child has exceeded the allotted play time or is accessing a site they’re not supposed to visit. You can assign permissions based on holidays, weekends, or weekdays.
Skydog will also send a mobile alert if the Internet goes down. And it can check your Wi-Fi signal’s strength and remotely restart the router. The router is a dual-band 802.11n wireless device with a built-in 5-port gigabit switch.
PowerCloud Systems has patented the cloud-based platform that Skydog uses. The hardware is a Wi-Fi router. Skydog also manages your broadband usage by assigning priority bandwidth access to certain users, such as a work-at-home parent. Or it can give priority to apps that need bandwidth, such as a movie-streaming service that displays video on the family TV.
PowerCloud Systems has raised $8.5 million, not counting the $121,812 it raised on Kickstarter.