The common internet router. Most of us have one. Whether hidden under a desk or shoved next to the TV, this ubiquitous chunk of plastic and wires may be functional – but it certainly isn’t sexy.

However, a new generation of ‘designer’ home routers will do far more than flash randomly and deliver the web to our computers.

Goldsmiths, University of London - world renowned for design and innovation - has been working with the country’s largest home broadband provider, TalkTalk. Together, they have been exploring what the Routers of the Future might look like and how they could take pride of place in our households.

TalkTalk asked Goldsmiths to consider four factors: signal strength, home style, energy efficiency and, finally, pure enjoyment.

Said Mark Schmid from TalkTalk: “Routers represent a passport to one of the greatest communication revolutions ever – but you’d never know it from looking at them. Working with the design boffins at Goldsmiths, we wanted to transform the humble router into something that people would want to shout about. With the very first Routers of the Future collection, our vision of making the router an integral part of our customers’ lifestyles and interiors comes to life.”

Members of the public are being invited to visit www.futurerouters.com and vote for their favourite – and broadband company TalkTalk will consider the winning design for production.

ROUTE O’ CLOCK

This 24-hour clock creates a picture of the varying signal strength throughout the day, so people can make the most of their internet connection.

TalkTalk: “We have tons of juicy data about your experiences online. For example, we know the best times to connect to the web throughout the day. As demand for bandwidth grows, this information becomes increasingly useful. So, what better way to bring the subject to life than through our beautifully designed Route O’clock? Complete with twenty-four glowing segments, the display indicates signal strength as time passes. In future, our customers could be able to choose the very best times to enjoy bandwidth-hungry activities like watching internet TV, or playing online games.”

Goldsmiths: “This router is essentially a twenty-four hour clock divided into half hourly segments. As a reaction to the broadband signal, a different traffic light colour indicates bandwidth strength at each interval.

“It is, in design, an object of reflection – helping the user to manage their time online more efficiently, understanding and making the most of bandwidth strength in the local area throughout the day.”

HYBRID ROUTER

The Hybrid Router combines traditional craftsmanship, classical lines and modern technology. For the first time, the router becomes an elegant and practical addition to users’ homes. A 60’s revival style statement, the handmade Hybrid Router seamlessly integrates the guts of a traditional router with a funky hardwood side table.

TalkTalk: “Routers often sit in a prominent place in our customers’ homes, yet they can be a real eyesore. So, we asked Goldsmiths to transform the common wireless router into a practical piece of furniture that would proudly sit in any contemporary living space.

“The team came up with a Hybrid Router that is a practical, sexy side table and a bold style piece, whilst still fulfilling its raison d'être as a fully functional router.”

Goldsmiths: “Contemporary homes have to deal with the mess of wires that come with a high-tech lifestyle. So we created a stylish side table that can hold and disguise our router cables, as well as other objects – making it a multi-functional piece of furniture.

“Flashing lights, hidden behind frosted acrylic, signal the presence of the router embedded within the base of the table, and add a subtle glow. It’s an ambient object, integrating classic lines into a modern living space.”

ENERGY SAVING ROUTER

This intelligent router switches off automatically when not in use, saving both energy and money.

TalkTalk: “It’s no surprise that ‘always-on’ wireless routers have been so successful. The convenience of uninterrupted internet access has almost killed off the poor old dial-up modem. But when you think about it, do we need our routers on 24/7? In fact, we could save power during sleep, or when nobody’s home. A great compromise is the ‘always-on-when-you-need-it’ router. That way, we only consume energy when absolutely necessary.

“We love the thought and innovation behind the Energy Saving Router. Team Goldsmiths’ execution is based on house-key hooks; on when you’re in, off when you’re out. Plus there’s an integrated timer for long downloads. We look forward to exploring this further – it’s a very interesting concept.”

Goldsmiths: “Although shared living spaces have many advantages, there is plenty of waste from objects that are continuously used – like routers.

“We identified house-key hooks as an appropriate indicator for the presence and absence of people within the home. So, we programmed the router to switch off automatically when the last key is taken off of a hook. When someone returns home and re-engages a hook, it then switches back on in time for them to start surfing.

“To make the object more adaptable, a timer allows for extra hours of download time after the last key has been removed.”

JELLYFISH

This high-tech router is inspired by nature. It has been designed to become the centre of attention; a talking point which brings people together.

TalkTalk: “There’s no rationale behind the Jellyfish and that’s precisely why we love it. This router is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Goldsmiths really showed us what can be done with the innards of a router and a healthy dose of creativity.

“Interestingly for a project based on wirelessness, the cables form a key part of this piece, encouraging users to connect with the router and each other when they surf”

Goldsmiths: “This is our craziest design and we were given full creative license. We wanted to place the router at the centre of the community, at the heart of the house. We wanted to come up with a router that would live and breath; an organic element inspired by nature that would be emotionally engaging for its users and become a real talking point.

“The inspiration for this unit grew out of the study of fluorescent properties in jellyfish anatomy and their smooth movements through water. We have embodied this notion into a glowing breathing sequence, which indicates bandwidth strength.

“The unit has the potential to carry eight Ethernet cables, becoming a centre-point of communal attention. Multiple users can plug into the device which is situated in the centre of the space, and share time together.”