GreenPeak wins People Power smart home deal, expanding from ZigBee to BLE, 802.15.4

GreenPeak Technologies has announced that its silicon technology is behind People Power’s latest product offering – Presence Security, home monitoring platform that uses wireless sensors. More significantly, perhaps, for GreenPeak is the future of ZigBee, with GreenPeak CEO Cees Links telling us that the company was expanding from being ZigBee-focused and looking to offer all sorts of low-power RF silicon to its customers.

People Power specializes in cloud and mobile software, and currently offers three modular smart home solutions. The aforementioned Presence Security is the first, and pushes notifications of movement and activity to the homeowner if they are detected when no one should be in the house.

The second is Presence Pro Energy, which tracks historical energy usage and then compares current usage to that baseline, in order to better inform the homeowner about their energy consumption – with the option to control devices and lower the usage via their smartphone.

The third is Presence Pro Care, which will be available in the summer, which helps caregivers monitor the wellbeing of their patients or family by using sensors to determine daily activity patterns and then sending alerts when an anomaly is detected. The system is quite similar to GreenPeak’s Senior Lifestyle platform.

Acting as the silicon provider, GreenPeak’s chip will be powering the People Power deployments, which will be a white label offering for service providers to take to market.

In the release, GreenPeak CEO Links said that “both GreenPeak and People Power share the same IoT vision, that IoT suppliers need to focus on delivering smart services. Services that provide benefits that really matter to people, from comfort and convenience, to safety and security, and care and wellbeing,” said Cees Links, founder and CEO of GreenPeak Technologies. “By integrating our game changing silicon into People Power’s solutions, we enable service providers to offer wireless Smart Home solutions at an affordable end-user price. Service providers will get an open, future proof system that dynamically offers the latest services and will allow them to generate additional, recurring revenue streams.”

People Power itself focuses on the software side of things, with its core product being Ensemble – a four-part stack that aims to create people-centric IoT services. Starting at the device level, the bottom layer of Ensemble if Presto, an open SDK and APIs that allows developers to connect their devices to the platform.

Above that is Symphony, a deployable cloud server, then Virtuoso, a mobile application framework to tie the servers together – which forms the core of the Presence offering. At the top of the stack sits Maestro, a dashboard that allows the People Power customer to manage their deployments and customers.

The Symphony cloud server contains the functions that allow the system to learn over time. The Composer tool governs the big-data-powered learning functions, written in Python, which monitors the permission-based data streams generated by devices. The Composer SDK is available to developers looking to use the system, and while big data might be too grandiose a term to describe

David Moss, People Power’s President and CTO, said “we work with GreenPeak’s technology because they have proven to be an industry game changer, delivering an unprecedented level of wireless range, battery life, and reliability, which People Power depends upon to offer engaging and meaningful services through large iconic brands and service providers.”

GreenPeak’s name is, to RIoT at least, inextricable from ZigBee. As one of the leading ZigBee silicon providers, the company has been pretty vocal in the past about its support for the low-power mesh networking protocol. Back in 2014, we spoke with Links regarding the future of ZigBee, where the CEO mentioned that GreenPeak was planning for a future without ZigBee – although GreenPeak has later clarified that ZigBee remains a core part of the portfolio.

At the time, this seemed a little radical, given that the Nest/Google-backed Thread Group had yet to arrive on the scene. In the wake of Thread’s emergence, a similar 802.15.4-based low-power mesh networking protocol, the narrative that prevailed was that Thread would eventually swallow ZigBee – a much older protocol, but one that had not received much in the way of consumer recognition.

On the back of Nest, the leading smart home player, it was widely thought that Thread, by way of the Thread Group, would be pushed as the leading smart home protocol – and make its way to the mainstream through the Nest ecosystem.

But as Nest’s ongoing problems have proven, the company hasn’t managed to bring such a platform to market. Similarly, the momentum in the Thread Group, from the outside at least, seems to have stalled, and if rumors that Nest is considering alternative protocols instead of Thread persist, then it seems like Thread’s dead (baby).

Previous work between the ZigBee Alliance and the Thread Group suggested that some sort of consolidation was in the works, with ZigBee providing the application library that Thread is natively missing. Thread’s IPv6 compatibility is certainly an advantage for some developers, but while the certification process has officially begun, we can’t help but notice that the wind has been taken out of Thread’s sails.

As for RIoT’s conversation with Links, we learned that the CEO is focused on positioning GreenPeak as a purveyor of low-power RF, with ZigBee, 802.15.4 and Bluetooth all on the table for GreenPeak customers. However, Links is still bothered by the fragmentation in the market, noting that it is subject to the whim of the higher powers – with Apple (iOS), Google (Android, Brillo, Weave), Intel (Open Connectivity Forum and IoTivity) and Qualcomm (the AllSeen Alliance’s AllJoyn framework) the most influential players in this space, simply due to their scale.

Noting that there is lots of posturing in the market, GreenPeak’s push to becoming protocol agnostic is being made on the back of its solid reputation as a chip designer. Links noted that there was a certain amount of hubris present in the actions of the bigger guys, who thought it would be a simple task to reinvent the wheel of low-power networking.

In Links’ opinion, Apple remains too phone-centric to break into the smart home anytime soon. As for Google-Nest, the CEO said that the decision to be IP-native while being app-layer agnostic was odd, and that the app-layer was the more important part required to tie everything together. He also said that 802.15.4 was notably absent from Qualcomm’s portfolio.

Firmly believing that there won’t be a single solution to all of the smart home’s problems, Links and GreenPeak envision a future comprised of combination devices – which may well use BLE to connect to external networks (likely via smartphones) but rely on ZigBee or 802.15.4 to handle the low-power messaging that keeps the smart home’s IoT devices ticking over.

Planning on remaining network-layer agnostic, Links said that GreenPeak is relying on its expertise in selling capable chips, and that many of its customers have expressed a preference for GreenPeak due to distrust of the agendas of the larger players. It’s certainly possible that those who drank the Thread Kool-Aid with abandon may come to regret their decision in the coming year.