July 2008

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EMAIL INTERVIEW  Cees Links & Ken Sinclair

Cees Links, Chief Executive Officer, GreenPeak Technologies

Cees [“case”] Links is a pioneer of the wireless industry, a visionary leader bringing the world of mobile computing and continuous networking together. Under his responsibility, the first wireless LANs were developed which ultimately became house-hold technology integrated into the PCs and notebooks we all use today. His group also pioneered the development of access points, home networking routers and hotspot base stations, all widely used today. Cees was involved in the establishment of the IEEE 802.11 standardization committee and the Wi-Fi Alliance. He was instrumental in helping to establish the IEEE 802.15 standardization committee to become the basis for the ZigBee sense and control networking technology and standardization.  Cees Links holds a Masters degree in Applied Mathematics and a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from the Twente University of Technology in Enschede, The Netherlands.

Low power wireless networks

Our new Emerald GP500C is the only IEEE 802.15.4 standard compliant chip available today with extreme low power features that enable energy harvesting solutions for wireless sensor networks. 

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Sinclair:  Can you provide a brief company overview of GreenPeak?

Links: GreenPeak Technologies offers ultra low power wireless chips and modules with energy harvesting ready interfaces, using innovative low power networking protocols, compliant to industry standards (IEEE 802.15.4 and ZigBee).

In July 2007, GreenPeak was formed through the merger of Xanadu Wireless and Ubiwave. Xanadu Wireless was a Dutch fabless semi-conductor company and had been operating in stealth mode since early 2005. The Belgian company Ubiwave had been pioneering wireless mesh protocols for sensor applications and had been awarded multiple prizes for its low power innovations. Ubiwave started its operations in 2004 and had set up several large scale field pilot projects to optimize and validate its technology.

Sinclair:  You were instrumental in making wifi a reality. What do you find so interesting about low power wireless?

Links:  Low power wireless networks are the “third wave” of wireless. The first wave was wireless voice networks and the second wave was wireless data networks.  Low power wireless sensor networks solve the demand to make our lives truly wireless. This means that in addition to cutting the network connectivity wires, we also have to remove the power wires.

That is what makes wireless sense and control networks such a challenging and different proposition. Depending on the application, these new low power wireless networks can be powered by very small batteries that don’t need to be replaced over the life of the product. Or, they can be powered by an energy harvesting device that uses the power in our environment to operate the network.

Sinclair:  How can you ensure reliability and performance with low power network?   

Links:  One of the most dramatic differences between wireless sensor communications technology and other well known wireless technologies is the ability of sensor nodes to forward messages from other nodes located further down the communications chain. This technique, known as mesh routing or multi-hop networking, provides an effective and reliable means of spanning large infrastructures, beyond the range of what a single wireless link can do. Even if one or more nodes fail, or is moved, or is temporarily walled off or blocked, the signal can be routed to the central router through the other nodes.

Sinclair:  Why is low power so important for the building automation industry?

Links:   Low power is important in several ways. For example, many building automation products and systems utilize batteries for their operation and connectivity. By reducing the power requirements, instead of having to change the batteries once a year – we can make the maintenance schedule to maybe once every ten years. Or maybe, by reducing the power requirement even further, the original battery and the charge will last for the life of the product. Even better, by using energy harvesting techniques that can utilize the power found in the environment – heat, solar , vibration, we could create an entire new generation of building automation sensors, controls and network systems that do not require any power or batteries at all.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Sinclair:  What are some of the ways that a low power wireless network might be beneficial for our environment?

Links:  By requiring less power to operate, a low power wireless network puts less demand on our globe’s power generation capabilities which in turn impacts carbon footprints and global climate change. By not requiring batteries to be exchanged or not requiring batteries at all, we can reduce the amount of heavy metals and toxic materials mined, processed and recycled that are involved with manufacture and use of batteries. By not requiring cabling for connectivity and/or power, there is less need for the mining and manufacture of copper related wiring.

However, the biggest benefit maybe for the smart buildings themselves which can utilize a wide range of wireless sensors and controls to optimize the buildings use of power and energy to ensure that air conditioning, heating and lighting are only used when truly needed and required. By turning off environmental services when no humans are present can save billions of dollars every year in large offices, campuses, industrial and warehouse facilities.

Sinclair:  You just announced the new Emerald Chip. Why is this important?

Links:  Our new Emerald GP500C is the only IEEE 802.15.4 standard compliant chip available today with extreme low power features that enable energy harvesting solutions for wireless sensor networks.  It incorporates a transceiver with a fully integrated communications layer and an on-chip energy manager. Unlike other solutions on the market, the Emerald GP500C device is an “autonomous communication controller with built-in transceiver” able to drive and control the data communication instead of being driven by a microcontroller. By greatly reducing energy consumption, this ground-breaking architectural concept enables end nodes to run on energy harvesting devices and to be truly wireless, free of power cords and free of batteries.   The GP500C is a low cost solution which enables manufacturers to provide standard-compliant two-way communication for remote wireless light switching and dimming, HVAC control, access control and automated metering.


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