SMAhome has had the pleasure to sit down with GreenPeak CEO, Cees Links to talk about his IoT perspectives on the smart home development.
Q: What role does a sensor play in the smart home?
It is quickly becoming lifestyle coach. A lifestyle coach helps you live healthier and better. People call this a sensor. A smart sensor can collect all the data, and inform you things like “you should go to bed earlier,” or “you should exercise more,” and so forth. Whether you sleep long enough or need to watch out for your health, it is all about the lifestyle. It is not a fitness band, but a lifestyle coach. If you have smart sensors in your home, they can send information to a gateway, which then goes to the cloud and into the data center for data analytics. An alert is then sent to your smartphone.
Q: So the entire process is IoT?
Yes, the entire process is IoT, but the sensor is not. It is necessary, but if you go to loT companies they present themselves as sensor companies. Sensors are boring. I paid 80 dollars and it would be just a sensor. And if it breaks, I’m not going to buy a new one. But, if the sensor can coach you on how to live a healthier life, it’s more meaningful. The IoT system, in a smart home sense, talks about the sensor, such as door sensor, thermostats, and door locks. For example, when door sensors give out information to the cloud, they can over the course of time learn whether anybody is at home so that they can automatically lock all the doors. But what if all of a sudden one of the doors fails to lock and nobody’s at home? What can the system do? It can either send me a message or lock the door. In short, it plays the role of a butler. The smart home is not only about having a lot of sensors, but about being “smart.”
Q: So, are you saying that people are emphasizing too much on the sensor in a smart home?
I think the smart home will be the hype in 2015. We will have lots of resolutions this year because the real smart home is about having the whole system. And until the day we come to understand the whole system and can deliver it to consumers, only geeks will buy sensors.
Q: Do you think the whole system is ready yet?
Yes, the system is ready, but the market is not. We have done our first launch. This system has four sensors. For instance, my mother lives alone, she’s 84, and she gets up every morning at eight. If she doesn’t get up by nine, I will get a message, which then I can give her a call and ask if everything is okay.
So what is the value? It’s definitely not the sensor. The value is that I know my mother is okay. Another example would be the smart meter for the home. Once there was a leak in the water pipe in our basement. It happened for days because I don’t normally go down the basement every day. What we want is a smart meter that sends out messages telling us of the leakage so that we can deal with the situation immediately. In the market today, we see a lot of meters with built-in sensors, but they are actually connected meters. What we need are “smart” meters. A smart meter will find out the leak, send out a message to the owner, and then shut off the water supply. That is the true definition of IoT. I think the market still has to be developed and educated a bit more.
Q: Are you currently working with sensor companies?
We are currently working with OEMs in Taiwan, China and South Korea. We deliver them the chips, and they have since sold over thousands of our chipsets. So what I’m saying is that the market needs to be built because otherwise our products will only be sold to geeks and not to everyone else.
Q: What are your observations about the smart home players in Asia, and Taiwanese device makers in particular?
Let’s take a Taiwanese OEM manufacturer as an example. It gets a contract from a thermostat brand company, and that company says they want a smart sensor.That OEM should tell their counterpart that they can deliver the sensor, but the brand comapny will only be successful if it has the whole system because in doing so will enable them to ship millions of sensors as opposed to thousands. Companies like Taiwanese OEM’s can help educate the world on what it takes to sell smart home devices. They can become the educator, like GreenPeak.
Q: Do you think leading brands such as Honeywell, Bosch or GE understand the concept of having the whole ecosystem?
We are learning, but we still have a lot to learn. This is the real theme of the IoT. The theme part is that it applies to the smart home and any other IoT system. For example, parking garages. You can have a sensor to tell you whether the parking lot is free or if there is a car on the lot. The value is that you can communicate with the driver, informing him/her that the parking lot is vacant or full, and whether the driver needs to look for another spot elsewhere. Again, as I said earlier, the value is not in the sensor, but instead getting the message over to the user.
Q: What is your main focus this year?
Our goal is to sell as many chips as possible because we hope people will come to understand the true value of our system in the IoT. The smart home currently needs a lot of education in this respect. It is moving at a slow pace. But as soon as people understand that the smart home is not only about sensors, the market will start to pick up from there.
The day people start calling “smart” parking lot instead of “parking lot with sensors”, I believe it is an indicator that people have come to understand the IoT.