The market today is witnessing the emergence of new type of consumer electronics, sensors and mobile devices that can be connected to the network. Some have the ability to connect to the global network (cellular phones, tablets, etc.,), while some remain constrained to more of a private network that could be residing inside a home.
The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) is all about creating a connected world in which devices, be it a smartphone or tablet, smart meter or thermostat can communicate between themselves seamlessly in a way that is transparent and can make our lives easier.
Let’s consider different scenarios for example:
1) HVAC system that understands and adjusts the temperature preferences depending on your mood
2) Refrigerators which sends a message to restock or recommends to change a derelict part
3) Security systems that can identify humans and employ machine learning to figure out any abnormal activity
Above all, there are still unfulfilled customer needs which includes the ability to monitor home remotely for security purpose, better manage home energy consumption, have more control over different systems at home, track family, enable elder care and manage media when out of home. This gives a clear message that it’s time for a revolution. However, interoperability between these devices is posting a big challenge due to IoT fragmentation as each connected equipment uses communication protocols that are not interconnected and often not interoperable which is the ground reality & impedes from interconnecting devices on different platforms. That’s why convergence and interoperability are critical if 'Connectivity' revolution is to live up to the expectations of every individual. To achieve the much awaited end user experience, a whole new generation solution shall be addressed in one single box to make it easy for the users that comprehends the complexity.
An Intelligent Home Gateway
The concept of Connected/Smart home requires certain challenges that need to be addressed like choice of standards based communication, security, home health, energy management, interoperability between various devices at home, and inter-working between various protocols that are followed across various types of connected devices.
Interoperability issues between the devices & the need for ubiquitous connectivity presents an opportunity where a home gateway could actually be used to create a connected home environment. The connected home environment offers an end-user the ability to actually control the home appliances and other devices.
As of now, there is no common protocol or standard available that can accomplish the level of interoperability required to support the Internet of Everything and address the real-life challenges. A pan-industry effort is needed to deliver new experiences to consumers. Consumer products like Google Home, Apple Home Kit, Amazon Alexa, Philips Hue & Samsung SmartThings support various wireless technologies/protocols which are not interoperable.
Levels of interoperability needs to be incorporated when designing an interoperability framework:
- At the device level - Abstracts the specific hardware and software features of heterogeneous devices to enable interconnection and interoperability with each other.
- At the protocol level - Allows the connectivity of different protocols and traditional communication technologies (Ethernet) and wireless (ZigBee, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi) through protocol conversion functions.
- At the data level - Uses a flexible protocol that translates all the data obtained from different sensor devices into a uniform format through data processing and processing functions. For exchange of data between the devices an open, light and optimal protocol is used for devices with few resources.Off late, steps have been taken by open standards like OpenThread, Qualcomm’s AllSeen Alliance, Open Connectivity Foundation and recently supported by Qualcomm & Microsoft with a clear vision to address interoperability challenges.
- With OpenThread, Silicon Valley leaders have joined hands to deliver the best-in-class IoT devices and technologies that will work together regardless of brand or ecosystem. And as more providers adopt Thread, manufacturers can count on the fact that they’re using proven solutions to create more choice for consumers, who can look to Thread as a sign of interoperability.
- Qualcomm supports all key ecosystems and is working collaboratively to develop interoperable solutions that enable good consumer experiences through AllSeen Alliance and OCF.
- IoTivity is an open source software framework which enables seamless device-to-device connectivity to address the emerging needs of the Internet of Things.
Google has already starting proposing *Weave* as a standard protocol to connect to its Google Assistant which is currently been adopted and supported by Samsung SmartThings & Philips Hue in their products. Google also mentions that "Belkin WeMo, LiFX, Honeywell, Wink, TP-Link, First Alert, and more" are working on adopting Weave, too.
Industry leaders are coming together to support a common framework and create device specifications that shall allow for an open development environment.
A comprehensive interoperability framework running on home gateway has been developed, which device makers (supporting various wireless standards covering Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, 6LowPAN, LoRa) can use to ensure their solutions are able to talk to every other device, thus offering customers more choice, creativity, security and satisfaction.
The Smart Home space is quickly becoming a major opportunity and turning into a focal point of Service Providers’ interest to offer additional revenue generating, value-added services to consumers. These services provide comfort, security, convenience, entertainment, healthcare and other services with overall awareness to consumers.
New Internet-based services, remote access of devices, home monitoring and energy services, will pass through the service provider’s home gateway. The position of Home Gateway (HG) as an Intelligent Gateway solution provides the service provider a point where services may be deployed, rather than being a mere bridge. This can also be used for media servers, home management & support, and allows the service provider to further take advantage of the new service opportunities.