Links – and Ken Sinclair
Cees Links is the founder and CEO of GreenPeak Technologies. Under
his responsibility, the first wireless LANs were developed, ultimately
becoming household technology integrated into PCs and notebooks. He
also pioneered the development of access points, home networking
routers, and hotspot basestations. He was involved in the establishment
of the IEEE 802.11 standardization committee and the WiFi Alliance.
And, he was instrumental in establishing the IEEE 802.15
standardization committee to become the basis for the ZigBee sense and
In 2005 Cees started with GreenPeak Technologies. GreenPeak is a
fabless semiconductor company and the leader in the ZigBee market with
a rich offering of semiconductor products and software technologies for
Smart Home data communications and the Internet of Things.
You can contact GreenPeak at http://www.greenpeak.com.
The acceptance of WiFi enabled various industries
to start developing and manufacturing products that not only could talk
to each other, but would operate worldwide.
What is the Smart Building?
Imagine a building full of sensors of various types –
monitoring temperature, motion, light, location, presence, leaks,
noise, etc., all talking to a central gateway that has both a local
remote control or dashboard as well as an internet connection that in
turn can be accessed by a Smart Phone or smart device from anywhere in
the world. This will enable the end user to manage and control a
diverse spectrum of conditions either from within the building or from
anywhere they can get an internet connection.
Using ZigBee, a wide variety of Smart Home sentroller devices
will not only talk to each other, but to the users via a remote
control, web interface and/or a smart phone or tablet to be controlled
from anywhere in the world..
In the really smart building
, cloud based intelligence links
the various sensors and enables a single sensor to provide various
roles within the system. For example, a motion sensor in an empty
building can function as part of security solution. The same sensor
could function as an earthquake warning, triggering shut downs of gas
and water utilities. The motion sensor could also function as human
movement status alert, monitoring the movement of people within the
building to make sure they are healthy and mobile. In yet another way,
it can be used to recognize individual members and then customize the
system’s response for lighting, HVAC, entertainment and environmental
conditions to match the preferences of that specific person.
The Smart Building is rapidly being adopted. Driven by the need by the
cable operators to explore new revenue generating options such as
residential or building services, and facilitated by the arrival and
acceptance of the worldwide ZigBee standard which enables devices from
various manufacturers to all talk and work with each other.
With Comcast and other cable operators in the forefront, almost all
operators worldwide have decided to embrace ZigBee and are starting to
roll out set top boxes and internet access devices with ZigBee radio
chips inside. Even though many of the first generation boxes are
primarily using ZigBee to provide a reliable and robust connection for
local remote controls, the ZigBee connection also serves as the means
for adding many other smart home and connected devices.
Once the ZigBee network is firmly entrenched in buildings worldwide,
the next surge will occur as device makers begin to embed ZigBee in a
diverse spectrum of edge devices, appliances and sentrollers.
What are sentrollers?
Sentrollers - the sensors, actuators and controllers - are the various
components of the Smart Home and of the Internet of Things.
Sentrollers can be split in several categories. First there are the
simple sensors, for instance a motion or temperature sensor. A security
camera can also be considered as a sensor. Then there are the actuators
that make things happen: for instance a heater or a light can be called
an actuator. Actuators “act”, they (try to) change the environment. And
then there is a third category, the controllers: usually combining a
sensor and an actuator, and adding some “intelligence”. A
thermostat is a good example of a controller measuring the temperature,
“knowing” the desired temperature, and taking action. Therefore a
sentroller is a simple term that can mean: sensor, actuator or
controller, and typically these sentrollers are wirelessly connected
via a gateway to the internet, the Internet of Things. Sentrollers will
be the most common and most numerous devices comprising the IoT.
What has taken so long for the
Smart Home to be a reality?
According to a recent report from Nextmarket Insights, the current home
automation systems and services market is about 3.6 billion and is
forecast to grow to around 15 billion by 2017. Other companies and
research firms estimate 100 billion connected devices by 2020. The
trend is obvious – there are going to be a lot of devices and sensors
that connect to the web and interact with people as well as with each
One important factor in the growth of the IoT and ZigBee is that the
world’s leading cable MSOs, broadband service providers and telcos have
finally recognized the potential of the home services market and are
beginning to offer a wide variety of new home automation and connected
. These include home security, lifestyle monitoring,
temperature monitoring and control, energy management, remote locking
and unlocking of doors and windows, turning lights off and on, water
and gas leak monitoring, etc.
Most of these home monitoring technologies have existed for decades
but, until recently, their use has mostly been restricted to those
“early innovators” who could figure out how to make the various
services, hardware and components work together. However, with the
emergence and acceptance of ZigBee, there is finally a worldwide
standardized wireless communication technology that enables easy
installation and communication between the various devices.
In many ways, this is very similar to what occurred with WiFi. Fifteen
years ago, there were a variety of incompatible wireless networking
technologies that were battling for world dominance (who remembers
HomeRF?), but eventually a single worldwide standard emerged –
IEEE802.11 aka WiFi. The acceptance of WiFi enabled various industries
to start developing and manufacturing products that not only could talk
to each other, but would operate worldwide. It also allows product
companies to ship one product to the worldwide market, a major
Why are industry standards so important?
Wireless sensor applications prosper best within the sphere of industry
. Standards offer OEMs the freedom to purchase from a
pool of suppliers, competitive pricing, a common technology which
eases design decisions and inventory requirements, and most
importantly, international standards that allow devices from different
vendors to interoperate; a feature which is paramount in wireless
applications that are to be marketed and used worldwide.
The benefits of communication standards are very important for large
technology and consumer electronics companies; they require worldwide
solutions, as they are loath to develop and certify different products
(and different SKUs) for different regions in the world, as well as
open standards with multiple chip and technology providers, to
guarantee lowest cost and continuity of supply, thereby avoiding the
This ‘peace of mind’ aspect is the main blessing of standards that
makes large companies big supporters. Without standards it would be
difficult for machines or equipment to efficiently co-operate; it would
be expensive to develop workarounds to make things talk to each other.
Systems can be very complex, so every element of a large system that
can be standardized essentially removes a significant uncertainty
factor from the total system or, at least, isolates it and makes it
Furthermore a standard is usually based on a collective experience and
cooperation which increases reliability and the long term availability.
A good standard also creates an ecosystem of multiple vendors (with
competition on quality and price), all helping to further bolster this
peace of mind.
The challenge with standards, though, is that it usually takes a long
time for a standard to come together and once it is completed, it often
feels like a compromise that doesn’t fully serve everyone’s interests.
However, for wireless sensor communications for the Smart Home, there
is one standard that has overcome the negotiations and delays, and
prevails today. It is ZigBee.
What is GreenPeak’s Role in the
Internet of Things and the Smart Home?
is a chip company with a wide ranging portfolio
of low-power ZigBee radio chips. These chips go into a wide range of
Smart Home applications like central home control boxes, set top boxes
and routers as well as remote controls, which, for operators, is
currently the top application. Infrared is disappearing from remote
controls - so that end users do not have to point and shoot
In addition, GreenPeak has created a chip with an extremely low power
requirement – so that end users would not have to constantly worry
about recharging or changing the batteries in their devices. GreenPeak
has developed radio chips that require so little power that the initial
battery charge will last longer than the expected life span of the
That was the starting point and from there, GreenPeak has expanded,
working with manufacturers worldwide to integrate ZigBee radio chips in
thermostats, security devices, door locks, lights, sensors and so on.
GreenPeak is currently shipping about one million chips per week.
GreenPeak’s ZigBee chips
require less power than
competing radio chips.
GreenPeak also has an inexpensive chip to control a battery-free light
switch, creating a fully operational ZigBee environment with a light
switch where the energy is generated by flipping the switch. In these
light switches, there is no need for a battery at all.
Another GreenPeak advantage is that they know how Wi-Fi was developed.
ZigBee is in the same frequency band as Wi-Fi--the 2.4 GHz ISM band. It
is the same frequency band worldwide. Whatever place you go, you can
bring your laptop, turn it on, and get on a network on your laptop, PC,
or smartphone--they are all certified.
GreenPeak has built on this knowledge and selected a 2.4 GHz solution,
yet avoiding problems from Wi-Fi and vice versa. GreenPeak has
developed and implemented some features that eliminate interference
from other devices that use the same radio spectrum. Wi-Fi and ZigBee
chips can operate in the same box, in the same frequency band, yet in a
peaceful co-existence with each other, without problems of
interference, which is very important for operators.
ZigBee devices transmit throughout the home, just like Wi-Fi. In the
future, two primary networks will be active in our homes - a
Wi-Fi network for content and entertainment and a ZigBee network for
sensor control and for all the other devices that need ultra-long
What is ZigBee and why is it the
technology of choice for the smart home?
can be considered as the low power version
of WiFi. It is
the same basic technology but because it only sends small amounts of
data, it does not require a lot of power. ZigBee uses a similar radio
technology as WiFi, operates in the same 2.4 GHz band, transmits
through walls, floors and furniture and its range covers a good sized
Whereas WiFi is optimized for large data rates, ZigBee is optimized for
small bits of information. In the home, WiFi is very effective for
transmitting video, music, and voice throughout the house while ZigBee
is optimized for carrying very small on and off messages from sensors.
ZigBee requires 1/100,000 or less of the power required for WiFi
of ZigBee’s low power requirement, there are even a variety of devices
that will not require any power source at all.
For example, light switches and lamps, already on the market, are a
good example. By flicking the on off button on the switch, a tiny
amount of power is produced. This small amount of electricity generates
enough power to send a simple on/off signal from the switch across the
room to a lamp with a ZigBee receiver, turning the light on or off. Of
course, the switch signal could also transmit to the home’s central
set-top box or home control unit, controlling multiple lights and even
other devices, as programmed by the homeowner.
There is little doubt that ZigBee will be the wireless technology of
choice for the Smart Home, because it is the only open and worldwide
standard available. Its ultra-low power consumption allow Smart Home
applications to run on coin cell batteries for many years, never
needing battery replacement, or even better, not needing batteries at
Every month, the world’s largest operators and satellite providers are
shipping several millions of new generation set-top boxes that contain
both WiFi and ZigBee. By providing ZigBee in the home, operators offer
a scalable Smart Home solution from stand-alone sensors to cloud based
services, based on an open industry standard and operating in a
worldwide uniform license free frequency band. The set-top box becomes
the central home control box, the connectivity hub for all Smart Home
applications and the gateway to cloud applications for remote home
control and management
Importance of Industry Standards
GreenPeak’s Technology Advantages
GreenPeak IEEE 802.15.4 and ZigBee Silicon for the
Industry Standards for the Home
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