For consumers, in particular, the IoT is rapidly transforming their experience within their own homes. The smart home has moved from being a consumer gadget business to a comprehensive ecosystem of consumer solutions, stated Johan Pedersen, Smart Home Product Marketing Manager, Silicon Labs during an exclusive interview with Niloy from BISinfotech. Johan extensively elaborated on the impact of IoT in consumer electronics and how Silicon Labs is collaring with this transformation. Edited Nub.
1. What are the impact and effect of IoT in the consumer electronics market?
The IoT is making a tremendous impact across both consumer and industrial electronics markets. For consumers, in particular, the IoT is rapidly transforming their experience within their own homes. The smart home has moved from being a consumer gadget business to a comprehensive ecosystem of consumer solutions. The recent growth in smart speakers, or voice interfaces, in the home, is also driving new growth in the smart home market. It is no longer enough to merely turn on a light via remote control; consumers expect their connected lights to turn on or off based on other triggers. For example, when a family sits down to watch a movie together, a touch of a button or voice command might close the living room drapes, turn downlighting and switch on the TV to create a “movie night” scene.
- How challenging it’s for OEMs as we welcome the connected things?
Designing wireless connectivity into IoT products is a key challenge for OEMs, as there is no “one size fits all” solution for wireless protocol connectivity. The IoT lacks a single unified industry wireless standard. Instead, multiple wireless protocols vary in performance and capabilities based on the use case, cloud access, range location, number of connected devices, power constraints, etc. This creates a challenging dynamic for the interconnection and interoperability of IoT devices.
Silicon Labs believes that interoperability is the key to smart home market success. As a leading provider of wireless IoT connectivity solutions, Silicon Labs focuses improving interoperability through engagement with leading wireless standards organizations, such as the Zigbee Alliance, Thread Group, Z-Wave Alliance, Bluetooth SIG and Wi-Fi Alliance.
Silicon Labs has also developed a hardware and software platform for supporting multiple protocols through “multiprotocol” wireless solutions. We believe each wireless technology has its place in the smart home, and most home environments require multiple protocols to cover all the use cases. For this reason, Silicon Labs has pioneered our multiprotocol connectivity solutions that support dynamic multiprotocol connectivity with Zigbee and Bluetooth, as well as other protocol options.
Within Silicon Labs’ own smart home ecosystem, Z-Wave, interoperability has been built into the product from the ground up. Z-Wave is controlled by a stringent certification program requiring extremely high standards of interoperability to ensure backward compatibility and future-proofing of the devices in the ecosystem.
- How is the electronics industry gaining from IoT?
The IoT represents a massive, decades-long opportunity as we discover that devices are more useful when they’re connected. This IoT connectivity and the huge amounts of data transmitted to the cloud are changing the way people live, work and navigate the world.
The IoT market poses significant growth for the global semiconductor industry. In a recent KPMG Global Semiconductor Industry Outlook survey, two-thirds of 149 industry leaders worldwide ranked IoT as the leading revenue-driving application over the next year, with 60% ranking wireless communications at the top. IDC expects worldwide IoT technology spending to grow from about $745 billion this year to $1.2 trillion in 2022.
- Trends shaping the consumer electronics segment with the augment of IoT?
Due to the relatively simple capabilities and expectations of the many smart devices on today’s market, much of the functional intelligence is not actually resident on the devices. In a typical smart home device, the sensors observe the variables, such as motion, light and moisture, report them to a gateway device and wait for further commands. Commonly, the gateway connects to a remote cloud environment, which analyzes status and issues relevant instructions. While this architecture has proven its commercial viability in the marketplace, it lacks the immediacy and flexibility necessary for context-aware applications.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are emerging technology areas that will allow even more sophisticated data analysis and compression to be handled at the edge before transmitting data to the cloud, reducing latency and increasing privacy and security in these context-aware end nodes.
The increased intelligence within emerging smart home consumer devices, combined with improved range and power consumption, will enhance people’s lives in ways never before thought possible. For example, household rooms will change temperature automatically based on family members’ preferences and/or based on the optimal power usage time driven by energy prices.
Another new consumer IoT application on the horizon is associated with a concept called Aging in Place. Instead of using sometimes obtrusive video cameras, elderly and fragile family members can be monitored remotely by data collected by sensors in lights, rooms, medicine cabinets, etc. If the data is irregular, family members can be notified.
- How commendable with respect to consumer electronics is IoT serving as a vital source of revenue?
The IoT market is poised to exceed 70 billion connected devices by 2025, creating massive opportunities for numerous companies across the global electronic supply chain. Silicon Labs recognized this opportunity more than eight years ago when CEO Tyson Tuttle set the company on a trajectory to become a groundbreaking innovator in the IoT. Since then, Silicon Labs has become a pioneer in wireless connectivity for the IoT, advancing the state of the art for multiprotocol platforms, mesh networking, ultra-low-power architectures and IoT OS software.
Today, more than 50 percent of Silicon Labs’ revenue stems from the IoT. We have experienced first-hand the business value and potential IoT yields for the semiconductor industry. The revenue opportunity, combined with the potential to create greater good for people, society, and the planet, make IoT an exciting market for numerous global companies.
- Challenges and scopes in this segment as IoT evolve stronger in the coming years?
One of the largest challenges facing the IoT market is security, and Silicon Labs has been working for years to get ahead of this challenge. Security has without a doubt been overlooked as consumer device makers aren’t in the security business.
Silicon Labs believes security must be built into the development process – it cannot be an end or bolt-on feature. Securing the IoT requires constant vigilance and ongoing development efforts across all layers of the IoT ecosystem. This even means chips and software embedded in today’s smart bulbs need to be designed with security in mind. We believe it’s up to chipmakers to educate device makers on the importance of implementing embedded security into their IoT applications to help protect end users against threats.
Silicon Lab’s Z-Wave S2 smart home security technology has been developed as the gold standard for smart home using Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hillman cryptography and a-symmetric key exchange. Silicon Labs’ Z-Wave S2 Security requires only a small code footprint in embedded devices leaving plenty of headroom for device features and functionality. The S2 complements similar optimized mechanisms for IP domains that allow Z-Wave services to operate securely in an end-to-end fashion. We are advancing the robustness of this security solution and encouraging the other standards bodies to follow suit.
Silicon Labs’ next-generation Wireless Gecko Series 2 SoCs also offer best-in-class security features that enable developers to implement robust security in IoT products. A dedicated secure core delivers faster, more energy efficient crypto with differential power analysis countermeasures and NIST-grade random number generator. Secure Boot with Root of Trust and Secure Loader prevents malware injection and ensures authentic firmware execution. Secure Debug with lock/unlock allows authenticated access for enhanced failure analysis.