Smart Home 2015 highlights

I don't know whether we can say that 2015 has been the year of the Smart Home. There is still a lot of work to do for mass adoption. But we can surely say that there has been a lot going on and that important steps have been taken towards a wide deployment of smart home technologies. At ModoSmart our main focus is on the design and development of smart heating and cooling solutions, and I'm mainly involved in smart home platforms and low power networking protocols. Therefore, these are the three main smart home building block which I have been closely following in 2015 and which I try to summarize in this post. Smart heating has officially taken off  Almost two years ago Google acquired Nest. The operation was declared insane and there were speculations on the fact that Google wasn't really interested in the smart home and smart heating market, but it would have rather been interested in the Nest's team skills in designing IoT products. That is partly true, but the exciting … [Read more...]

Surfing the Smart Home “Weave”

Smart home and smart building technologies have progressed enough  over the last few years and promise a considerable market in the next future. Large players like Apple, Google and Amazon, which have never been in the domain, have adopted different strategies to try to jump in the game as early as possible. In this post I'll try to briefly recap their recent moves. Apple has created HomeKit, a smart home platform with the aim to seamlessly integrate smart home devices and iOS devices. Apple's vision is that an Iphone would be able to control different devices by means of a single integrated app or by using Siri speech recognition functionality. Each compatible device has a unique code which can be scanned with the smartphone in order to be recognized in a very easy plug and play fashion. HomeKit was announced last year but only recently the first devices have started to appear. The main reason of the delay has been that HomeKit devices need a dedicated chip for strict security … [Read more...]

The battle for Smart Home networking

With the advancement of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, the smart home domain has significantly evolved over the last couple of years. Despite a report which sees a fall into consumer demand for connected home products during the last year, there are significant signs showing that the smart home is an IoT space which is surely going to be exciting in the next future. And this is the reason why there is a huge activity going on in the standardization of communication technologies and low power networking for the smart home. Last week, the Thread group announced the release of the first protocol specifications. Thread is a protocol for low power networking in the smart home announced last year by Nest, Samsung, Freescale, Silicon Labs and other companies. It is an IPv6-centric protocol stack which relies on the IEEE 802.15.4 radio link layer and on 6LoWPAN, the IETF standard which enables the transmission of IPv6 packets in networks of resource constrained devices. The release of … [Read more...]

Unifying the Smart Home…the wrong way

Last week The Information reported the news that Google is working on an operating system called Brillo. The software would be targeted to embedded devices with 32-64 MB of RAM. The IoT world has immediately been shaken by the news, which has been reported by major tech media websites, such as Fortune, ComputerWorld, The Verge and ArsTechnica. Suddenly Google has an ""OS for the IoT" (this was the main motive in the headlines) which might repeat in the IoT, and in particular in the smart home, what Android has done in the smartphone area. There is no doubt that the news is interesting and confirms the interest of Google in the smart home, started with the acquisition of Nest last year. And it's true that Brillo is relatively small. To have an idea of the devices it is targeted to, think that  Android OS runs on smartphones with at least 512 MB of RAM, and that a Raspberry Pi (which can already be considered rather "small") has 1 GB of RAM. Therefore, 32-64 MB RAM can already be … [Read more...]

On the ZigBee-Thread partnership

When Thread, the low power communication protocol for the smart home led by Nest, was announced last year, there was a general feeling that it would accelerate the end of ZigBee. A few days ago the Thread group and the ZigBee alliance announced a collaboration for running the ZigBee Cluster Library over Thread networks. The announcement says that "by working together, ZigBee and Thread can jointly provide an interoperable solution to help streamline product development and ultimately improve the consumer's experience in the connected home". It may seem that this is a strategic move for ZigBee to stay alive, while somebody might wonder why Thread has decided to "save" ZigBee from its inevitable exit from the smart home marketplace. My personal conclusions are that ZigBee has officially shut down any further development on its stack and that from now on will only concentrate on the application layer. And the collaboration also shows that this was a strategy designed even before the … [Read more...]

Will Bluetooth 4.2 dominate the smart home?

Last December the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) officially adopted version 4.2 of the Bluetooth core specification. Besides increasing the speed and improving privacy, the good news is that the new specification includes the Internet Protocol Support Profile (IPSP). The profile will allow Bluetooth Smart sensors to access the Internet directly via 6LoWPAN, the IETF standard which enables the transmission of IPv6 packets in networks of resource constrained devices. After the announcement, nordic soon released a protocol stack and an SDK for its nRF51 Series SoCs. The stack and the SDK support the ISPS for IPv6 based communication. There is a clear trend in IoT networking, especially in the smart home domain: the use of 6LoWPAN as networking technology. Bluetooth 4.2, in fact, is not the only protocol to have chosen this IETF standard as a mesh network enabler. Thread, the recently announced protocol led by Nest, will also be developed on top of 6LoWPAN. The trend is also … [Read more...]

Why ZigBee has failed in IoT interoperability

A few days ago Stacey Higginbotham published on Gigaom the announcement of ZigBee Remote Control 2.0, a standard for smart home remote control technology. The post discusses on why ZigBee has failed along the way to become the preferred standard for the smart home. As correctly mentioned in the post, the major failure of ZigBee is due to the lack of interoperability, the main reason being that ZigBee has always “messed with software profiles built on top of the radio”. Stacey says that “if manufacturers of products decide they want devices to interoperate, they use the same radios and software profiles, but in ZigBee’s case what happened was that other companies didn’t actually want their devices to interoperate because it might prevent customer lock-in, so they used different software profiles.” In my opinion, vertical domain specific profiles are in principle a good idea and are not the main cause of ZigBee’s lack of interoperability.  It is true that device manufacturers do not … [Read more...]