How to future-proof subscriber smart homes? The secret is open standards

A wise computer scientist once said, “The nice thing about standards is that you have so many to choose from.” Standards are the focus for this latest blog post in a series highlighting key questions for ISPs to ask when procuring smart home management solutions.

We’ve already looked at four hot topics ― security strength, IoT fingerprinting accuracy, breadth of features, and the great debate between software and hardware-based systems – that are essential for getting your consumer offering right. But the standards chosen could have a much more lasting impact an ISP’s ability to innovate for years to come.

Operating systems and how to develop them

In any smart home project, integration with the operating systems on customer premises equipment (CPE) like routers and gateways will inevitably impact on costs, timeline and deployment complexity. Forward-thinking ISPs are already demanding open source options like OpenWRT and RDK for their new CPE because it frees them to do future OS development themselves, avoiding lock-in to proprietary platforms and enabling innovation.

Whether you’re considering hardware or software-based technology, check if it’s already integrated with any open source OS. It could dramatically reduce integration effort for future roll-out to new CPE.

What flavor of Mesh do you prefer?

When it comes to connectivity, various device manufacturers and chipset vendors have adopted their own methods of achieving Mesh Wi-Fi, but the Wi-Fi Alliance has powerful backing for its EasyMeshTM standard, which is bringing a standards-based approach to smarter, more efficient Wi-Fi throughout the home.

Ask your vendors whether they have any involvement in helping to define and develop these types of standards. Are the vendors, for example, contributing to the prpl Foundation’s efforts to bring interoperable, carrier-grade solutions to fruition ― doing for OpenWRT and EasyMesh what RedHat did for Linux?

The future’s bright, the future’s prpl?

The prpl Foundation’s mission is to create carrier-grade, open source implementations of these standards that enterprises can rely on. Check out their working groups including prplWrt and prplMesh ― a collaborative effort to enable secure interoperability of connected devices for the smart society of the future.

What’s your USP?

Meanwhile, the Broadband Forum has defined User Services Platform (USP TR-369), a standardized protocol for managing, monitoring, upgrading, and controlling connected devices.

This offers an exciting prospect: if the USP SDKs are factory-baked into CPE, third-party Application Service Providers will be able to use the USP APIs to monitor and optimize those devices. Smart home management can occur remotely without the need for any direct installation or integration on the CPE. Again, check with hardware vendors to see if they’re currently working with or planning to leverage the USP SDKs.

Would you like CHIPS with that?

The very latest entrant to the standards market is an unlikely but welcome alliance between Amazon, Apple, Google, and Zigbee known as “CHIPS”. Announced in December, Project Connected Home over IP is billed a working group that aims to develop a royalty-free open standard to improve interoperability between smart home devices.

Their goal is to release a draft specification and a preliminary reference open source implementation in “late 2020”.

Exactly how “open” is that open source software?

Now let’s focus on the nuance of this topic. Many vendors will tell you that they leverage, or even public, open source software. But it’s important to ask each vendor just how “open” is their open source software? Are they part of a wider ecosystem that involves and benefits everyone from OEM and ISP to the end consumer? Or is their open source software just a way to connect CPE with a single vendor’s solution?

The acid test is to ask how easily you can swap out hardware or software vendors in the longer term. Will you find yourself locked-in to an “open source” management platform that only works with one hardware brand? Or stuck with a CPE operating system that’s so removed from the open-source original that no other software can control it?

The answer will tell you whether each vendor’s system is future-proof.

Four more key evaluation questions for smart home management systems

Here’s a reminder of those other questions to ask in your smart home security procurement process:

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Bengt Jonsson | SVP Solutions

About Bengt Jonsson

Bengt Jonsson, Senior Vice President, Sales

Bengt is responsible for strategic planning for key accounts, new business acquisition, developing new growth opportunities, leading Irdeto’s global sales team and overseeing the company’s integrated marketing program. Bengt joined Irdeto as Vice President Sales, Asia Pacific in July 2008. Prior to joining Irdeto, Bengt was CEO of LyngBox Media AB, a Swedish hybrid set-top box start-up. He has also held senior management positions with Thomson’s Client Device business unit in Asia and with Nokia’s multimedia business units in Asia and Europe. Bengt holds a Master of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from Linkoping University in Sweden and Cranfield Institute of Technology in the UK.