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Smart home market will 'dwarf' smartphones

Monday, October 27th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

The smart home market will “dwarf” the smartphone market, one of the pioneers of Wi-Fi has said.

Cees Links, founder and chief executive of wireless home network company GreenPeak Technologies, said after the smartphone, the smart home will be the next big revolution.

GreenPeak makes controller chips for smart homes and the internet of things, with applications in lighting, security and family lifestyle systems.

Mr Links (pictured), who was part of the team that designed and developed Wi-Fi, is now using ZigBee to help manufacturers link items in the home. Zigbee is the wireless smart home standard designed to help people create their own wireless sensor networks and add new features.

Mr Links told us: “We are in essence a chip company, making chips that help devices to communicate with each other and with the internet.

“And when I talk about devices I mean everything that you have in your house that is not connected to the internet today, from a light switch to your refrigerator, from your washing machine to the thermostat, from the door lock to the motion sensor for the alarm. Everything.

“Today we’re shipping 1 million chips a week, we think it can go easily to 10 million or 100 million in a couple of years.

“We think after the smartphone the smart home is the next big revolution.

“Just to help you count, there are today six million homes connected to the internet. Every home probably has 10 Wi-Fi chips – in computers, in TVs, in video games, in smartphones, in tablets.

“If you have a family of four you probably have 15 Wi-Fi chips in your home - 15 years ago it was zero, 15 years from now you will have probably 100 Zigbee chips in your home.

“But the Zigbee chips are not so important. In 15 years from now you can control your door locks with your smartphone, you can control your thermostat with your smartphone, you can get messages on your smartphone if you have a leakage in your basement.

“So that’s what we are doing, we’re making sure chips go into devices that connect to the internet that can hep us to manage our house and we think that 100 chips in every house times 600 million homes – that is 60 billion devices.

“So we think it will dwarf the smartphone market.”

Mr Links said people’s homes are still very primitive compared to our cars.

He said: “If you buy a new car now and cross the white line it puts you back or sends you a warning signal on your display and slows you down because you cross a white line.

“You have parking control systems, all kinds of sophistication in your car that you may even initially think ‘I don't need it’.

“Let me give you another example. You have central door locking in your car - four doors, very close to each other.

“Do you have central door locking in your house? Let me share your universal experience, standing at the front door, and not knowing whether the back door is locked.

“It's 2014, we have central door locking in our cars for 15 years, but in our house we walk through the house to look at the back door to see whether it is locked.

“And not only in Europe, in the United States, in Japan, in China. Everybody knows that example when I say how primitive our houses are today, still. “So we’re working on the smart home to get all these devices in your home connected to the internet in a useful way.”

Mr Links said that in a few years Zigbee would become as well-known as Wi-Fi, with devices in the home connected to the cloud, allowing people to monitor what is going on and be alerted to any exceptions to normal routines.

He added: “This will create a new economic upsurge like the smartphone did. We think there’s a new real momentum starting with the smart home because of all these useful applications.

“You could say, well the smart home is already promised for 40 years. But now we have low-cost products, now everybody has a dashboard, “You can buy a smart home today but it would cost you 20,000 dollars, you have to buy expensive panels. You don’t need any panels anymore.

“There are standards, there’s low-cost technology, there are operators who say, ‘hey we want to drive this’ because our content distribution goes down’ – my children don’t watch TV anymore, they watch YouTube and Netflix.

“So they say, hey we need to find something else because we don’t make so much money on YouTube and Netflix as we do on linear television, so let’s find other applications, so operators are driving it so there are a lot of ingredients there that will make the smart home happen now.”

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