IoT Protocols for Connected Homes

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IoT Protocols for Connected homes:

The standards are evolving in a right pace towards a standard or protocol that will glue together and can turn a pile of cool gadgets into a system that runs your whole house for you. The leading providers working on standards unification include, Samsung’s SmartThings, Belkin’s WeMo, platforms of Lowe’s and Staples, and smart-home specialist Insteon has a line of hubs and devices. The above examples are w.r.t having a vendor or carrier decide which products can connect each other. Few newer platforms are designed to offer a broader selection of products that consumers can add on easily as a long-term solution to home connectivity. The following are network protocols enabling Home IoT.

  • Wi-Fi: The ubiquitous wireless system will remain at the heart of most home networks, but many small, battery-powered devices won’t talk to it directly because of size and power requirements.
  • Bluetooth: The familiar personal-area network tackles IoT with the power-efficient Bluetooth Smart (or Low Energy) version and is expected to add longer range and mesh capability in 2016.
  • ZigBee: A mesh network based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard and widely used in low-power home devices.
  • IEEE 802.11ah: A version of Wi-Fi with lower power consumption, due for approval in 2016.
  • Z-Wave: A low-power mesh technology licensed by silicon maker Sigma Designs and used in a wide range of connected-home devices.
  • 6LoWPAN: An IPv6-only version of IEEE 802.15.4 mesh networking.
  • Thread: A protocol introduced in 2014 and based on 6LoWPAN, with added features for security, routing, setup and device wakeup.
  • ULE (Ultra Low Energy): A recently introduced low-power version of the DECT cordless-phone network technology.
  • APPLE HOMEKIT: While not a communications protocol, Apple HomeKit is actually a software framework, allowing developers to build smart home devices that will connect directly to the iPhone and iPad and be controlled by a dedicated app.
  • Vertical specific: IEEE 1905.1-2013 – “IEEE Standard for a Convergent Digital Home Network for Heterogeneous Technologies”

Fundamentally protocols for “Connected Homes” or broadly for IoT have to enact four common communications models – Device-to-Device, Device-to-Cloud, Device-to-Gateway, and Back-End Data-Sharing. Alongside enabling above communication models, “Connected Homes” or “Home IoT” standards and protocols should address two fundamental layers which are applications and network. Applications handles how devices interact & understand each other. Application layer is focusing on developing unifiers that certify products to work well on the same standard. Few key players in the application space include AllJoyn, HomeKit, ZigBee, OIC, Brillo and Weave, and Z-Wave. Secondly, Network determines how data travels through wired and wireless connections. The protocols for network include, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, IEEE 802.11ah, Z-Wave, ULE (Ultra Low Energy) etc.

Trends driving the Protocol development:

The key trends currently defining consumer protocols for IoT in connected homes possibly include few of the following.

  1. People trends: At a generic level, increasing desire by the consumer for convenience combined with growing desire by the consumer for safety and security. This is the primo motto of developing protocols for next gen consumers.
  2. Technological trends: The confluence of several technology and market trends is making it possible to interconnect more and smaller devices cheaply and easily:
    • Ubiquitous connectivity is key to enabling connected homes: Many homes now have a broadband connection promoting device connectivity. Low cost, high speed, pervasive network connectivity, especially through licensed and unlicensed wireless services and technology, makes almost everything “connectable’’.
    • Miniaturization is the trend to manufacture ever smaller mechanical, optical and electronic products and devices. Examples include miniaturization of mobile phones, computers and vehicle engine downsizing. Coupled with greater computing economics, this has fueled the advancement of small and inexpensive sensor devices, which drive many IoT applications.
    • Computing Economics is expediting home IoT adoption: Breakeven volumes of devices getting connecting are being attained with Moore’s law continuing to deliver greater computing power at lower price points and lower power consumption
    • Widespread adoption of IP–based networking: IP has become the dominant global standard for networking, providing a well–defined and widely implemented platform of software and tools that can be incorporated into a broad range of devices easily and inexpensively
  3. Data and privacy in connected homes: The connected home has been called the next frontier for ‘data analytics’. Already, a simple smart meter can report energy readings to a utility every few seconds, compared with a standard one, which is read either once a quarter, or whenever a user or meter reader records it. Multiply that by possibly hundreds of sensors and devices in the connected home of the future – which may only be a few years away – and there will be a data tsunami. But this smart home vision, and the Internet of Things (IoT) generally, has set alarm bells ringing about consumer privacy and it’s becoming apparent that first-class data privacy and security protocols are critical if we as consumers are going to accept it
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