Running new wires and adding devices to your home network is a hassle at best and a nightmare at worst. For techies and technophiles alike, this wee bit of labor might not be enough to put them off, but to the average Joe, this daunting task often leads one to call for outside help. And as Rob Conant recounted in a similar incident, he was once called in by his mother-in-law because she was stuck trying to get her printer connected to the home Wi-Fi network.
“Having worked in the IoT industry for the past decade, I knew that getting consumer products connected to the Internet has always been a major sticking point for manufacturers,” he explained, adding that it wasn’t until he was helping his mother-in-law install her new printer that the solution dawned on him.
THE ‘EUREKA’ MOMENT
Looking back, it was at this very same moment which led Conant to carve up a solution that would help get things connected easily and securely in a home – hence the establishment of Cirrent.
An engineer and Internet of Things industry veteran, the Cirrent CEO realized that if the process of connecting a printer to the Internet was too complicated for his mother-in-law, it was probably too complicated for millions of other people as well.
“I knew there had to be an easier way.”
Like the complicated tech terms and acronyms, the process of getting IoT products connected to the home Wi-Fi network is far too complex for the majority of consumers.
“I started Cirrent to solve this problem. So people don’t have to be IT managers for their products – they can just enjoy them,” he said.
THE CIRRENT FORMULA
According to Conant, the company took a radical approach to getting products connected. The formula is so simple that, in most cases, there’s no setup required beyond just turning the product on.
“We’ve done this by partnering with big broadband providers in the U.S. and Western Europe who provide the Wi-Fi routers inside most homes. These broadband providers have created millions of home hotspots: separate, secure Wi-Fi connections that are managed independently of the subscriber’s private network.”
In other words, Cirrent can help product companies use these hotspots to connect their products automatically. And as for consumers, the solution is so brilliant that they don’t have to do anything to take advantage of its technology, as their broadband providers will enable the service automatically.
“What this means is that when a product turns on, instead of passively waiting for someone to tell it what to do, it proactively does a Wi-Fi scan, finds an available network, and connects to the Cirrent cloud,” he reiterated.
But speaking in retrospect, for all this to work, device manufacturers would first need to download and embed Cirrent’s free source code into their products.
“Cirrent’s solution is a simple software change that’s compatible with most existing Wi-Fi chipsets and the leading IoT platforms. Our reference implementations make enabling connected products easy. The code sits on the Wi-Fi chip in the embedded products and takes care of the onboarding process. Product companies embed Cirrent’s code into their products during the manufacturing process so that new products coming into the market ship from the factory with this new and improved onboarding feature,” he said.
The company is currently working with dozens of companies to bring this capability to their products, according to Conant.
NO SACRIFICE TO SECURITY
But while all this may sound simple and straightforward, security is often thought to be a serious concern in connection with Wi-Fi hotspots. Commenting on some of the measures Cirrent has taken to prevent security breaches and network hacks, Conant pointed out that besides using bank-level security to protect customer’s data in the cloud, all network communication is encrypted using https with certificate-based authentication. Furthermore, the security of IoT products is reinforced through rigorous authentication and network filtering – devices are only allowed to communicate with their intended cloud service. In short, this network limitation addresses many of the potential weak points of IoT security.
“Most product companies are focused on making their products better, and they depend on the chip suppliers to take care of security. Cirrent has augmented the security to make it easier for product companies to improve the security in their products.
“Because products with Cirrent technology connect to these hotspots, consumers can use their internet-connected devices with confidence that their home networks won’t be hacked, and manufacturers can build products without having to worry that their products will be used as spam bots,” he explained.
THE HOME HOTSPOTS POTENTIAL
With the number of smartphones, tablets and many other Internet-enabled devices continue to increase year-over-year, the demand for Wi-Fi hotspots is also quickly catching on. According to a recent report by Cisco, the home hotspots market is projected to grow worldwide from 57 million in 2015 to 423 million by 2020.
“Today, Cirrent’s network covers much of the U.S. and Western Europe. Network operators around the world are approaching Cirrent for integration, so we expect the network to expand worldwide soon.”
And while Wi-Fi hotspots are fast becoming a trend in parts of Europe – and more recently, the United States – network operators in Asia are just starting to roll out home hotspots today, Conant said, adding that we will come to see more and more coverage in Asia over the next few years.
“This is a massive trend that is taking off worldwide. And in the meantime, Cirrent will continue to help spread the adoption of IoT products, and contribute to improving the user experience.” he concluded.