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ZipKey Tech Promises Auto-WiFi Set-Up

Mari Silbey
1/5/2017
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LAS VEGAS -- CES 2017 -- WiFi company Cirrent is debuting its ZipKey technology for automatic network provisioning at CES, and the company already has some powerful partners on board, including Comcast, D-Link, Emberlight, LockState and smanos.

Cirrent 's promise? Users who buy a ZipKey-enabled device will be able to connect that product instantly and securely to their home WiFi network without manual configuration.

If the idea of instant WiFi provisioning sounds familiar, that's because Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) introduced a service with similar capabilities yesterday. (See Comcast Unveils Smart Home Platform.)

Comcast is relying on its own technology for zero-touch set-up of its WiFi extenders and wireless set-tops, but the cable operator also wants to work with third parties to make sure as many other devices as possible can be on-boarded seamlessly to its subscribers' home networks. Cirrent is one of those third parties, and the partnership means that ZipKey-enabled products will automatically work with 15 million Comcast home hotspots at launch.

Initially, Cirrent's partners in the consumer electronics industry have committed to embedding the technology in their products starting this year. Those products include WiFi speakers, smart door locks, connected light bulbs and more.


Want to know more about cable wireless technologies? Check out our cable WiFi channel here on Light Reading.


While Cirrent's technology is integrated with Comcast's managed cloud service for consumers, and the company is seeking partnerships with additional ISPs, the startup's primary focus is on the CE companies it can attract into the ZipKey ecosystem. Cirrent says new products can be enabled with a firmware update and won't require any changes to the hardware to become ZipKey-compatible.

Once products are ZipKey-enabled, Cirrent introduces two service components that make the technology particularly interesting. First, beyond zero-touch provisioning, the ZipKey technology adds a significant security element by establishing a private link between a device and a user's broadband account. ZipKey devices never have to communicate over the public Internet, which means they're far less vulnerable to security breaches.

Second, because ZipKey products are tied directly to a broadband service, the technology creates new provisioning and service flexibility for network operators. For example, it would be possible in the future to use software with ZipKey devices to control how much bandwidth is delivered to a product and even how new services might be introduced and added to an existing billing profile.

"You could also have products roam," says Rob Conant, CEO of Cirrent. "It's no longer tied to your home. It's tied to your account. You could also provision additional services into those products. [For example,] I want this product to be part of my home security service provided by my Internet service provider, or I want this TV service to be provisioned into this product also. It opens up a ton of new capabilities."

In addition to Comcast's home routers, Cirrent says ZipKey products will work with equipment from several other ISPs that have already integrated the ZipKey technology. Cirrent hasn't yet named those additional partners, but the company reports that ZipKey-enabled hotspots reach more than 67 million homes across the US and Europe.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
1/5/2017 | 2:29:13 PM
Potentially useful

Potentially a very useful service. People find it difficult to set up WiFi home networks, which have become essential to participating in the digital economy. Service providers that make that job easier create a platform to sell new services to consumers. 

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