It is not the last act of a dramatic production or movie thriller!
The Fifth Play is what cable companies and service providers currently are rolling out worldwide to help prevent losing their valuable customers and to increase their market share and Time Warner Intelligent Home, Verizon’s Home Monitoring & Control, China’s ZTE Health and Comcast's Xfinity are just some of the large operators who are now expanding their service offeringswith safety, security and lifestyle monitoring comfort systems, and helping consumers to become smart about their homes.
What is the Fifth Play? Most service providers are currently marketing three or four different types of services for their customers – the so-called Three Plays or Four Plays.
The four plays are TV/movies, broadband, VoIP and cell phone service.
The new Fifth Play is Smart Home Services–i.e. energy efficiency, home security, health monitoring, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning control), light control, family lifestyle, etc. –all connected to the smart meter or the set-top box or the more properly named “Home Control Box”.
By using the ZigBee communication standard, these operators will be able to overcome the major obstaclesto the market acceptance of the smart, connected home – interoperability and the ongoing costs of installation, device and system maintenance and monitoring.
Functioning as a central Home Controller with a ZigBee radio chip inside, the new generation set-top box will be able to talk to a wide range of devices in the home. Light switches, lamp controllers and other devices that do not require any power or can operate using a type of energy harvesting, can use ZigBee Green Power to communicate to the Home Control Box. By using ZigBee RF4CE, the Home Controller will be able to interactively communicate with local remote controls, portable health monitoring devices, window access alarms and other low data rate devices. ZigBee can be used to communicate with a wide assortment of battery powered sensors as well as with devices that require AC line power such assecurity systems, window opening and closing systems, door lock/unlock systems, security cameras, HVAC, etc. ZigBee can even beused with devices that require no outside power to operate – such as light switches that generate enough power to send their on/off signal across the room just from the motion of someone flicking the switch.
GreenPeak’s family of chips for set-top boxes can communicate with all typesof ZigBee devices, regardless of power requirements or functions. Even more exciting, GreenPeak just announced their new GP712 chip which can talk to new wireless protocols such as Thread. By using this new chip, set-top box makers and operators essentially make their systems future-proof and it enables them to work with new protocols and wireless networks as they get introduced to the market.
As all of the these devices connect and talk to the Home Controller Box and from there to the internet via an internet gateway, they can be controlled from smart phones or mobile web devices using apps or other web hosted user interfaces. The internet gateway can be integrated inside the Home Control Box or can be a separate box connected to a broadband cable and using the connected TV screen as a display to set up and control the device. Actually, a truly smart TV could have both the Home Control Box and the internet gateway integrated inside.
What is the Really Smart Home?
Once the Smart Home is truly a reality, the next step is the Really Smart Home. This is true sentroller(sensor, controller and activator) intelligence - when these Smart Home services and devices actually exchange information and talk to each other without human intervention.
Most of today’s so called Smart Home solutions are essentially just connected homes – they are not really smart. For example, the really Smart Home will know if there is anyone in the home and where in the house they are and then adjust heating or air conditioning accordingly. If everyone is in the living room watching TV, why waste energy heating the bedrooms or leaving the lights on?
A security breach in the home can immediately send a text message to the home owner and/or a response company. Water leaks can be immediately identified and alerted, saving money and preventing damage. Medicine consumption can be automatically monitored. Airconditioning turns off when windows get opened. Lights are switched off in rooms where there are no people.
One new Fifth Play application which is getting a lot of traction worldwide is Family Lifestyle Monitoring. One flavor, Senior Lifestyle Systems, is getting a lot of attention in China to help meet the challenge of a rapidly aging population that has a shortage of young people to look after them.
The system consists of just four small inconspicuous sensors mounted in the home that sense the movement of the inhabitants. The four sensors then communicate to a set-top box which transits the data to the cloud where a special intelligence algorithms analyses the information. What makes this system so interesting is that over a period of a week or two, the system actually learns how the inhabitants live their lives and detects behavior patterns. And if there is a change – for example, someone does not get up and go into the kitchen at their regular time or they do not leave the house, the system can alert their family or caretakers. The system is also smart enough to recognize slow degradation in the life style. For example, if it is taking the inhabitants longer to leave their bedroom and make it into the bathroom, the smart system can also recognize this trend and alert the family.
What makes this system so appealing to users who want to live their independent lives, is that there are no cameras to spy on them and no pendants to carry around and no worries about those getting lost. Family members are comforted knowing that if something bad happens, they will know. And seniors feel secure and know that when something should go wrong, it will not go unnoticed.
These kinds of independent living systems provide a wonderful opportunity for cable and internet providers to expand their reach into the home and add additional new opportunities for increased revenues. Using ZigBee as an entry point to a home network (by replacing or augmenting infrared remote controls) provides cable and internet service operators with a fast, cost-effective and exciting path to provideSmart Home services to their customers.
[For more information, please visit www.greenpeak.com]