“Volumes drive down cost, lower costs drive up volume,” Links says. “The only question is, “What does it take to kick-start the process of embedded Linux? The killer app. From a GreenPeak perspective, we see the killer app as having ZigBee in the set-top box and remote control,” Links continues. “First of all, consumers have a better user experience with ZigBee compared to embedded Linux, but [because of the power benefits] operators see a drop in service cost – one out of four service calls to operators is actually about the battery in the remote control being dead. So with ZigBee in the remote control the cable operator wins twice: reducing service calls and cost. Plus, with ZigBee in every set-top box it allows the subscriber to connect other sensors or embedded system applications with the set-top box, enabling incremental services.
For Links, full-fledged adoption of the smart home and its accompanying technologies will progress in the same way that network security technology did, with roughly 10 years of cost reductions and cultural breakthroughs before reaching the nearly universal acceptance it enjoys today. Along with progressive reductions in the cost of the technology and success educating the population, however, the achievements of network communication appliance are largely based in joint industry collaboration around the standard that eventually benefitted all parties involved.
“Cost and culture are the two major constraints,” Links says. “Assuming that the cost will decrease with the volume increase, the key will be getting people comfortable with living in a network security home. That means there need to be guarantees that the system is secure, that the system is not infringing on privacy, etc. But to a large extent this is not embedded system technology, but a marketing challenge that needs to be resolved in the coming years.
“Also, the industry needs to come together on a set of standards to ensure interoperability and ease of use for the end user. It was the international adoption of 802.11 that truly enabled the eventual market success of Wi-Fi. The industry needs to learn from the Wi-Fi history. The big tech companies need to stop building network communication appliance designed to fight for market share, and instead realize the more the sectors work together to ensure interoperability, partnership, and customer ease of use, the more successful all tech companies will be,” he continues. “With the ZigBee 3.0 unified communication standard in place, smart home applications should not be more costly or complex for the end user than a smartphone. This is when the smart home becomes reality for both vendors and consumers.”