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More Intelligent IoT Ecosystems
Beyond progress on the security issues, NSPs can also take heart at the gains in device connectivity and expert systems control evidenced in ecosystem developments led by GreenPeak, which is seeding the world with ZigBee-enabled remote controls and IoT devices. ZigBee, alone or in combination with other wireless capabilities such as Wi-Fi, IEEE 802.15.4 and Bluetooth, is now incorporated into 80 percent of WSN unit shipments, according to ON World.
GreenPeak has been shipping about one million ZigBee communications chips each month over the past year or so, including a large share of the ZigBee chips that now have become essential components of next-generation home media gateways, set-tops and remote controls for MVPDs, says GreenPeak CEO and co-founder Cees Links. “Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Rogers, EchoStar and DirecTV have all have committed to ZigBee on set-top boxes,” Links says.
As Links notes, this demand, fueled in part by CableLabs’ adoption of the ZigBee-based RF4CE MSO remote control specifications in 2012, not only reflects the fact that RF technology outperforms traditional infrared RCs in set-top management; thanks to the ZigBee Alliance’s recently ratified ZRC 2.0 standard, these chipsets can now be used to control IoT apps as well. “Service providers can supply RCs that subscribers can use to control all the home’s connected devices used with home security, energy management, turning on the lights, opening and closing curtains and windows, etc.,” he says.
GreenPeak’s new ZRC 2.0-compliant GP565 Smart Home chips support voice control, motion monitoring and other advanced features, he notes. “We use a special compression codec to enhance throughput for voice along with data transmission over the RF connection,” he says.
Beyond RCs, GreenPeak is making significant headway tailoring its ZigBee chips for use in building the backbone for highly intelligent residential sensor networks. “Today there are 600 million households connected to the Internet and ten devices per household, which equals six billion devices,” Links says. “We think there will be 600 billion ZigBee devices getting to market within the next ten years.”
As part of this effort, GreenPeak is partnering with other parties to ensure devices can interact with applications platforms that use expert systems to coordinate functions across multiple points of connectivity in the home. In its first announced foray in this direction, GreenPeak has partnered with Sensara, a Dutch company offering a Senior Lifestyle System as the first of a planned series of Family Lifestyle Solutions, to create a base of sensors that connect with Sensara’s cloud-based self-learning system, which uses advanced behavior pattern recognition and social media capabilities to allow families and other informal care givers to keep an eye on elderly family members or friends who live independently.
As described by Sensara, the system learns the normal day-to-day activities and behavior of people in their home so that when irregular behavior or exceptional situations are identified, family or friends can be notified via the app running on connected devices as well as online messaging and social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat and QQ.
With the its algorithms, Sensara says up to six separate life trends can be monitored, based on the privacy settings that users define. The user remains fully in charge of what activities the system monitors and what it does not.
Through intelligent use of sensors, a service based on the Sensara platform eliminates the need for people to wear things or for the use of intrusive cameras, Links notes. “The system understands the person the family is looking after opens the fridge every day before 9 a.m.,” he says, by way of example. “If that doesn’t happen until after 9 one day, the family gets a message.”
“We look on the Senior Lifestyle System as a prototype of a complete next-generation IoT service platform,” Links says, noting pilot trials are now underway in Germany and China, in the latter case involving connectivity to 50,000 households. “The goal is to expand these capabilities into intelligent lifestyle applications of all types with an integrated approach that links everything together at the device and platform levels.”
In this scenario, NSPs will be able to tailor the service package and its costs to each household’s needs. “Different people have different needs, but it’s hard to sell specific apps as a service,” Links says. “Now you can sell a service that employs the same level of intelligent management no matter what the specific apps and devices might be.”
Connected, sensorized devices and appliances will be able to deliver better performance attuned to events across all points of connection in conjunction with an understanding of usage patterns and changing circumstances, he explains. For example, he notes, the intelligent system will be able to radically reduce the current high error rate in home security alerts by filtering out events responsible for generating false signals. “One motion sensor connected to the cloud will know whether the detected motion means there’s an intruder or that the lights should be turned on because a resident has come home,” he says.
Or, as another example in the case of the senior lifestyle app, the system can learn which pills an elderly person takes as prescriptions change, as well as when those pills are taken, without requiring someone to program such changes into the monitoring system. “The real strength of expert systems used in the IoT environment is you don’t have to program them to make adjustments in the apps,” Links says. “The system will factor in the outside temperature to determine what the interior temperature should be when people are at home.”
Given its progress so far in enabling devices equipped with its chipsets to work in such expert system-managed environments, GreenPeak anticipates it will begin offering products supporting multi-app iterations of such capabilities in the near future. “We expect to start rollouts early next year or even by Christmas,” Links says.