Get Smart With Huawei's OpenLife for Smart Homes
Extensive network infrastructure, pre-existing large customer base, and business services expertise – three key features that set telcos apart and give them a head start in the smart home market. Huawei's smart home solution leverages these strengths in the smart home arena.
The global smart home market is now worth US$235.8 billion, and so it’s no surprise that telcos, device manufacturers, and content providers are all rushing for a piece of the action.
China’s major telcos have already all launched smart home services such as China Telecom’s Happy Me, China Unicom’s Smart WO Home, and China Mobile’s Home Harmony. And globally, major players like AT&T, Verizon, and Telefonica are doing the same. And telcos aren’t alone – big-name hardware manufacturers, internet companies, and application developers are all eyeing a slice of the smart home pie, including Apple, Samsung, Haier, Google, Xiaomi, LeTV, Alibaba and more.
Telcos’ triple edge
Telcos have three key advantages: first, smart home services need a strong network infrastructure, which only telcos can offer today. Second, telcos already have a large customer base to whom they can promote smart home services, and also boost ARPU and loyalty with high-bandwidth VAS services. And third, they have mature support systems and skilled personnel to deploy and manage these services.
However, even with these key advantages, all is not rosy, as telcos also face four challenges that will hinder their foray into smart home services:
Issue 1: creating unified interfaces and control points. Major vendors offer multiple interface standards; for example, Apple's HomeKit is accessed by iPhones or iPads; Haier's smart hardware is controlled remotely by a smartphone app and home gateway; and Philips' smart Hue lighting is controlled by a ZigBee control gateway and mobile app.
This array of interfaces is a true headache for users who then need to buy multiple gateways and install numerous customer terminals; this greatly diminishing QoE and slows down user buy-in. Operators have two control points in users' homes: the home gateways like xDSL modems and ONT Internet terminals, which closely integrate with their pipelines; and smartphones.
Issue 2: interworking between different vendors’ hardware. Operators need to consider which control support systems they need at the backend, how to integrate them with legacy service platforms, and how to achieve interoperability with other manufacturers' smart hardware on the backend. They also need to consider support systems for new service rollout, provisioning, deployment, authentication, and billing.
Issue 3: choosing the right service focus
Issue 4: finding the best industry partners for provisioning and integration: as with any new technology deployment, this is not easy and there have been some issues already, such as carriers accepting a tender for smart home services, but the bid-winner couldn’t integrate and consolidate different vendors’ services. This experience ended up costing time and money, and the operator was forced to re-tender the project.
Getting smart with Huawei
Huawei's smart home solution consists of three components: the NetOpen cloud, the smart home gateway pipe and the mobile App or device. These come under Huawei’s OpenLife business development plan which leverages telcos’ legacy network pipes, to create home products that telcos can then deploy smoothly.
NetOpen platform (cloud): Huawei's NetOpen is a cloud management platform for smart homes (IoT Platform), an IoT gateway agent (IoT Agent), and an intelligent home gateway management platform (NetOpen).
NetOpen opens network capabilities to enable intelligent network evolution. It packages operators' network bandwidth, latency, QoS, and billing capabilities into APIs, enabling operators to provide differentiated smart home services for different broadband users. It unifies the control and encapsulation of the bandwidth acceleration capability of Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) service gateways (BRAS), and provides API interfaces for flexible on-demand scheduling by upper-layer service platforms.
NetOpen unifies the management of smart home services, such as provisioning, billing, and reconciliation, to provide services like home security, video, and online education. It controls mobile app widgets from different hardware vendors, allowing them to work together, and provides standard open API interfaces for integrating third party systems.
NetOpen invokes APIs so the network pipeline can protect bandwidth for services, greatly improving user experience and solving limited bandwidth issues. This function can be applied in scenarios like 4K videos, which are prone to freezing, or video surveillance, which tends to be affected by image delays and pixelation.
Smart home gateway (pipe): As the entry point to the user's home, the pipe integrates with services in two network scenarios: new and legacy. For new networks, Huawei suggests an all-optical smart ONT as the smart home gateway. For legacy networks, Huawei's LAN gateway enables smart home services by connecting to xDSL modems or ONTs that lack smart gateway functionality.
Huawei's smart home gateway uses an OSGI open platform, and doesn’t need service plug-ins for integration. It supports MIMO Wi-Fi and 1 Gbps Wi-Fi access for rapid smart hardware access.
The gateway enables home entertainment, video storage, and in-home photo storage and sharing services on USB 3.0 storage interfaces. Supporting ZigBee, Z-wave, and Wi-Fi protocols, the gateway can accommodate both large appliances like air conditioners and fridges that connect to Wi-Fi, as well as smaller devices such as light bulbs, smoke alarms, thermometers, and water sensors that use ZigBee or Z-wave.
Mobile App (device): With vendors using different Apps, a good experience is impossible without a single App acting as a unified entry point. Huawei's LinkHome App uses the NetOpen management system to integrate and enable interoperability between different vendors' applications under a unified interface. This gives a consistent experience for managing things like smart appliances and home security.
Imagine you’ve finished work and arrive home. You open the LinkHome App over Wi-Fi, and the home gateway detects that you are at the front door. The door opens, the lights come on, and your favorite music starts playing. When you leave, the system turns off the music, lights, and other appliances you have defined. The App can also remotely connect to the smart home gateway and perform tasks such as controlling smart hardware, performing remote video surveillance, and sharing photos and videos.
OpenLife: Providing a resource pool via NetOpen, which integrates vendors’ services and plug-ins, OpenLife helps telcos choose suitable smart hardware vendors so they can smoothly launch new smart home services. OpenLife partners include application content developers and individual developers (Internet-plus), IoT hardware manufacturers and integrated service providers (Smart-plus), and channel service operators (Smart Broadband-plus).
If a partner's service works well, the smart hardware can be brought into the OpenLife resource pool and promoted to operators worldwide. Companies that have joined Huawei's OpenLife ecosystem include Tencent, Hikvision, Haier, Dahua Technology, Nanjing Wulian, Netvox, Fibaro, Aeonlabs, Galaxywind, Orvibo and Songshu Hulian.
A smart business plan
Users only pay for products that provide a heightened user experience in terms of content, service acquisition, and use. OpenLife is user-centric in that it lets operators, smart hardware providers, and platform and service integrators continuously refine the user experience.
OpenLife connects people to people, people to things, and things to things. It focuses on user experience, interoperability, and connection standards. With 100 billion connections predicted for 2025, collaboration and innovation are essential. Huawei is committed to pooling the strengths of all industry players because it knows that no single company can go it alone.