Accelerating the Connected Home – why standardize?
By Jason Walls, of QA Cafe, Co-Director of the Business User Services (BUS) Work Area
Digital technology can revolutionize homes in ways many people would never have thought possible. Today you can ring a smart doorbell notifying the owners’ smartphone you have arrived, the house is already at the ideal temperature thanks to the smart thermostat, and the smart fridge can tell you the drinks available before you have even opened it. These are just three examples of the many smart devices available, all of which are connected to the Wi-Fi and potentially each other.
There is no denying consumer demand for connected home services is growing, as is the number of products and services coming to the market. Juniper Research expects that 1.3 billion smart home automation and monitoring units will be in service by 2024. However, for mass deployment to be realized, a unified, standardized, and interoperable platform to develop value-add solutions for the connected home is needed.
Rethinking the broadband experience
Over the past two decades, the challenges faced by the network have changed. Previously, operators had to overcome challenges such as lifecycle management, maintenance, and monitoring, and provisioning new services. While the network has developed to overcome these issues, the explosion of new technologies has created challenges for both networking and consumer electronics. Service Providers must evolve to meet the demand created by the Internet of Things (IoT) services, cloud-based business models, Wi-Fi and security management, third-party services, and the desire for end-user control.
Standardization remains key to ensure a successful market. While many companies are jumping in to solve these problems through vertical solutions of their own, proprietary solutions lock providers and users into a stunted ecosystem. Even ‘open-source’ solutions developed by only one or a few companies without a clear standardization plan brings the industry down a path that is not sustainable in the long-term.
To revolutionize the network for this new era of connectivity, Broadband Forum has created the User Services Platform (USP). An evolution of the popular TR-069 (CWMP) system, USP is a modern standard that enables faster, more efficient, and reliable monitoring, controlling, and management of connected devices. But its true power comes from the creation of a truly standardized, interoperable platform that increases the value of the end-user’s network connection with new IoT, security, and connectivity services.
Creating the connected home
One of the main problems operators face in managing the connected home is the explosion of devices it brings. All of these devices need to be remotely controlled and managed – in real-time and using mechanisms that scale. End-users also often blame their broadband connection on any problem with any device, either during set-up or use, so remote troubleshooting is also key.
USP is a system of controllers and agents that enables remote manipulation of software and hardware capabilities. It provides always-on communications to reduce the number of messages sent across the network, while the binary data encoding and efficient addressing of capabilities reduce the size of the messages. Recognizing the deployment and capital concerns of service providers, it is also designed to co-exist with and provide easy migration from existing TR-069 deployments with the TR-181 (Device:2) data model.
Additionally, USP offers a highly responsive experience that allows for app-based end-User management of smart devices throughout the home. The information provided by these devices is rigorously protected from potential hackers. Not only are all the communications channels encrypted, but strict access control rules are in place to ensure rogue devices cannot reach data they aren’t allowed to access.
USP is very adaptable and can be introduced in new and existing environments. Equally, operators want to understand the quality of experience being provided to their subscribers as it costs more money to get a new customer than it takes to keep an existing customer. With USP, efficient data collection can optionally be decoupled from the remote management channel. Once the data has been collected, operators can then analyze and act on that data.
This attention to security, flexibility, and network efficiency allows USP to enable multiple applications – from multiple parties, if needed – to control, onboard, and manage end-user devices. This means a very real platform for developing applications that can enhance the network, provide new services, and utilize the connected devices in the Connected Home.
Why standards, why now?
The battle to win the Connected Home market has created an implementation race in which service providers are under increasing pressure to solve. Standardizing the connected home through USP offers a number of benefits to operators, consumer electronics manufacturers, and application providers, creating an interoperable ecosystem that is easy to manage.
As the demand for the Connected Home grows, so will the need for the scalable and future-proof deployments that standards are renowned for creating. USP fulfills this need with good technology developed and approved by all stakeholders in this new – and ultimately profitable – market. This means new and better revenue streams for businesses and, ultimately, a better network and better experience for consumers.