Interview with Charles Cheevers: Internet of Things

09 Apr 2015
Charles Cheevers, CTO, Customer Premises Equipment

Charles Cheevers, CTO, CPE, ARRIS 

Today is the Fifth Annual Internet of Things (IoT) day. And while IoT is a hot industry topic that continues to make its way into our lives, it’s one that’s still evolving and often misunderstood. In celebration of IoT day, we sat down with ARRIS CTO Charles Cheevers to demystify IoT and shed some light on the ways it’s changing our industry and creating new opportunities ahead.

The Internet of Things means different things to different people. How do you define it and what does it mean to you?

It’s simply the ability to connect more end devices over wireless technologies and affect actions and operations across these devices – typically for a better user experience in the home as well as the ability to interact with devices outside the home.

An example of such a service is home automation where a homeowner can manage their heating and lighting remotely through the Internet – setting the lighting or heating to come on even if they are not in the house.

But what IoT means to the consumer can vary immensely, because of the sheer number of related devices and potential services.

What can IoT look like from a consumer’s perspective?

Currently, it’s unclear and even confusing.

Consumer are already involved in IoT, and getting more and more involved with each device they connect to a network – from smartphones on LTE to smart features in connected cars, smart TVs at home, wearable fitness devices, and Connected Home or Home Automation systems.

The problem with the consumer experience is that it’s fragmented and not consistent across different classes of services and devices. Many of the current solutions are proprietary and don’t play well in a diverse IoT environment, despite efforts to standardize them.

There’s a big opportunity to create simple, standardized solutions that minimize the number of different applications, instructions and services a user has to access to benefit from improvements in their digital lives. Often, the best IoT applications are the ones that are fully automated and work without human intervention or simple solutions that solve a distinct use case, like home camera solutions that allow you to check on the well being of a pet. Additionally using your voice to set house commands instead of costly products like keypads is both easier and more cost-effective for home automation.

Why should people care about IoT?

It’s about cost vs. value. There are many Internet-connected and -controlled devices and there’s an opportunity to create a lot of value here, but what it’s worth is different for different people. For example, people value convenience and simplicity, but while it may be convenient and therefore valuable to set your thermostat remotely, the cost to do so may or may not justify the convenience.

In general, however, these connected devices are becoming more capable, connected, and affordable. And this growing collection of connected devices creates the foundation for unprecedented levels of convenience and simplicity in everything from entertainment to transportation and medicine. As that value to consumers overcomes the price of entry, more and more people will jump on IoT to improve their lifestyles. One of the ways to ensure this is to collapse more functionality into existing devices like Broadband Gateways, Wi-Fi extenders, set-top/video gateways and remote controls. Including IoT onboarding functions in these devices reduces capital expenditure investments in IoT and allows service providers in particular to play a direct role in the IoT home experience.

The promise of IoT sounds a lot like Home Automation years ago; how is it different? 

IoT is much bigger than Home Automation; that’s just one of a thousand potential applications.

One can already see new services emerge, like connected automobile applications, where new levels of connectivity enable new services to be delivered to the car, which one day could include driving the car remotely because of the presence of a high-speed connection.

And then there’s the fundamental repositioning of the consumer’s involvement in these services… The future is not giving consumers the ability to control and manage more and more things, but anticipating, recommending, and eventually automating these actions.

The implication is a much greater connection between businesses and consumers that allow this exchange of services in the many facets of consumers’ lifestyles. A great example is in the verticals of Medicare and Energy management…

In the case of Medicare, consumers — if sent home from a medical treatment — can continue to be monitored in the home and stay in contact with their caregiver. Through reliable connectivity over wireless devices and leveraging things like the TV and Cameras to engage with physicians, the cost of aftercare or aging in place can be greatly reduced and the services enhanced.

In the case of Energy Management — think of a future where the washing machine could declare that it is now ready for a two-hour wash cycle and looking for a utility company to offer the best rate of energy for this cycle. These types of B2C operations can start to take place to create benefits for both businesses and consumers alike.

What’s the opportunity for Service Providers?

Service Providers have 2 basic choices regarding IoT in the coming years:

1.)    Focus on the connectivity and onboarding of devices and become a connectivity provider – extending the broadband network into the IoT realm but remaining a pipe for over-the-top (OTT) services

2.)    Extending their current demarcation of having gateways, extenders and set-tops in various locations of the home and adding 802.15.4 and Bluetooth low-energy radios to these devices to create multiple IoT hubs in the home by:

 

 

  • (a) Leveraging their own vertical IoT devices and services like Security and Automation

 

 

  • (b) Adding value to BYoD devices by partnering with the top IoT device and service providers and integrating their solutions into the overall Home experience — effectively becoming the aggregator for all connected services in the home. An example of this may be a partnership with a Smart Garage Door Opener where the notification of the door opening may also appear in the TV User Experience of the MSO.

 

 

  • (c) Partnering with large verticals of Medicare and Energy and Utilities to extend their current service offerings to include other OTT services and IoT derived connected home services. They can range from the traditional ones like Home Security right through the range of M2M and B2C opportunities with the service provider offering secure onboarding and integration into the multiscreen devices in the home.

 

The latter approach seems to be within the reach of the service provider by leveraging existing devices and adding new service layers to their backoffice.

How will IoT change our entertainment and communications? What’s the promise of IOT?

Entertainment and communications will be more automatic and more personalized.

The preferred experience is one in which the user does very little. Enter the room, and the music audio level increases. The phone rings, and the audio level decreases.

The success of IoT will be how simple it is and how little we have to interact with it… We don’t want to push three buttons over and over again to get the content we want.

There are already published applications where wrist-based wearable devices are integrated in the TV-viewing experience: when the person leaves the room the TV pauses or if they fall asleep the DVR kicks in automatically. The technology is already here; the test is its value to consumers.

The ultimate promise is improving our lives while reducing our interaction with technology—letting us focus on other things in life.

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