As one of the 12 promotors of the ZigBee Alliance (and one of the two from Asia, alongside Samsung SmartThings), Wulian Co., Ltd. is an authoritative figure in the development of ZigBee standards with entitlements to a seat on the Board of Directors of the ZigBee Alliance, automatic voting rights in all work groups, and final approval rights on all standards.
Wulian boasts a ZigBee-based smart home ecosystem of close to 200 devices – from gateways, home cameras, sensors, lights, switches to door locks and more – making it hard-to-beat in terms of the range and the number of products it can deliver. The company also provides back-end systems and web interfaces for its business customers. Vice President Juston Zhu gave one example—with the backend system and the web interfaces, security companies can access their customers’ alarms and know when any alarm goes off.
When asked about new developments for this year, Zhu said that the company has continued to push for new product releases as well as improve and optimize existing products and services to achieve greater stability and reliability.
Featured new products from Wulian in 2016 include the Retina Smart Doorlock, Mini Gateway, and Cylincam, all of which show the company’s ambition to bring multi-functional products that break free from conventional product categories while providing real benefits—the Retina Smart Doorlock is a combined smart door lock and video doorbell for access control and surveillance, supporting both Wi-Fi and ZigBee; the Mini Gateway is a portable gateway that also functions as a night lamp and a Wi-Fi signal repeater; and the Cylincam is an HD camera that can detect environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, and levels of PM2.5, VOC, CO2 and noise. Besides these products, a smart video doorbell called “Door Guardian” is also being presented for the first time this year.
“Each year we expand our ecosystem to make it increasingly more comprehensive because we want to offer our customers choices. We believe ‘one fit for all’ will never be true for the smart home because each customer or household is unique. Moreover, as the smart home market develops, customers will begin to develop preferences for what devices they want, just like how people today have preferences for smartphones.”
Zhu noted that, however, since smart home devices are meant to last for at least 10, 15 or even 20 years in the home, they are renewed less frequently compared with traditional consumer electronics like smartphones. But speaking of volume, he expects smart home devices to take the lead as each user or home will likely have dozens or hundreds of devices but only a few smartphones.
In terms of product and service improvement and optimization, the company has been working on making product installation easier for installers and system integrators, providing better user experience for the mobile app, enhancing ZigBee (mesh) network stability for its products, and setting up new servers in countries where network instability may be experienced.
Zhu expressed that Wulian's deep knowledge in ZigBee technology and its offer of an end-to-end platform are what distinguish the company from other smart home manufacturers because stability at both the device level and the system level can be assured.
“We have our own servers and proprietary stacks, and with strong capabilities in optimization, we can provide stable ZigBee network connection for our devices. Users may not notice the difference between our devices and others under normal circumstances, but in certain environments, such as in a humid environment or in a house with thick walls, Wulian's devices will show better network stability for better user experience. Moreover, since our end-to-end platform offers all elements of an entire system – device, gateway, cloud and app, system-level stability can also be guaranteed,” explained Zhu.
A front-runner in China’s smart home market, Zhu also shared his observation of the market.
“China’s smart home market is leading globally, and we have companies that can provide complete solutions, which are much fewer in number in North America or Europe. The market dynamics started to shift last year, and we have seen rapid growth since 2015 H2.”
He explained that a prominent driving force comes from competition between home builders and refurbishing companies.
“While massive, real estate market in China has been in decline due to the oversupply of new homes, particularly in second- and third-tier cities. As home builders and refurbishing companies try to find ways to differentiate, smart home has become a good differentiator. However, awareness of the smart home among these home builders and refurbishing companies was still lacking in 2015 H1, but the situation changed quickly,” said Zhu.