Where much of the utility infrastructure sector has seen IoT offerings that are expressly vertical, Greenwave Systems’ IoT model focuses on the horizontal dimension, giving its customers a platform to create and deliver media, enterprise services, entertainment and smart home controls as managed services to their subscriber bases, even across disparate systems that have been jumbled together as the telecom industry has consolidated.
Key to Greenwave’s Axon Platform for IoT is the ability to translate real-time communications from a wide variety of IoT devices (wireless routers, sensor-enabled lightbulbs, Wi-Fi routers and connected wall controllers, for example) into a common IP-based language, ensuring IoT interoperability across products and between different vendors. This enables its customers — typically, large service providers and telecommunications firms — to focus their attention on business models and new applications and services, not the IoT backbone, noted Greenwave CTO Leon Hounshell.
“Our platform is designed to enable any kind of experience to fit any kind of business model,” Hounshell said. “It can speak to any device over any protocol without the application having to know the particulars of a protocol. This allows developers to be consistent and focus on the user interface and experience, not the underlying technology.”
A universal language for IoT interoperability
Founded in 2008 by veterans from Cisco, Motorola and Nokia, it was the company’s deep hardware and chip expertise that initially steered it toward smart home applications, a business that has held onto, even while pivoting to create the Greenwave IoT platform. Now, smart home services (and others such as news outlets) are all built on the same connective tissue, allowing applications and services an agnostic view of hardware, said Jim Hunter, the firm’s chief scientist.
Jim Hunterchief scientist, Greenwave Systems
Service providers, cable operators and telecommunications companies are the Axon’s preferred customer base because such clients have a large consumer footprint to which they can offer services, he said. The Axon platform serves as a universal translator, providing IoT interoperability by interpreting communications from IoT devices and protocols, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee, into the same standard IP-based language to create a connected network.
“If software and apps are the fundamental lifeblood of next-generation opportunities and revenue, they need to be able to run on a scalable and stable platform,” Hunter explained. “With our lineage from the hardware and chip industries, we can do that.”
The Greenwave IoT strategy pursues this connective framework without producing the actual hardware. The company works with customers and OEMs to create reference designs that then are optimized for the specific IoT application, be it a smart home energy system or a media and entertainment application. That model is unique from an IoT market perspective, Hunter claimed, because “we operate as a hardware company without all the costs and overhead involved.”
To achieve IoT interoperability, the platform’s functionality includes live data ingestion, the process by which data gets into the system and is transformed into a common data model regardless of its origin; the user experience capabilities for interacting with devices; and analytics for gathering insights from the connected assets to optimize their performance, enhance services and enable more informed decision-making.
Axon’s addressing schema is also highly granular, allowing it to uniquely identify any individual component in the platform, whether it’s a device or a gateway in the home.
“Say you have an IoT solution for controlling a chandelier in the home. We can actually control a single lightbulb intensity as opposed to addressing the chandelier as a whole,” Hounshell explained. “With most IoT platforms, you’re lucky if you can turn something on and off. This gives our customers more options in terms of the functionality they can offer.”
Within the last year, Greenwave launched an integrated voice and artificial intelligence-powered natural language understanding technology — courtesy of a partnership with Nuance Communications — to support hands-free, voice-activated interaction, along with Axon Predict, a real-time visual edge analytics engine that can be used for predictive maintenance — both capabilities that customers can harness to build out their own apps and services.
Open APIs and a software development kit are two other important pieces of the Greenwave IoT interoperability puzzle. “When you sign up to bring a product online, you don’t want something to be obsolete tomorrow,” Hunter said. “In this way, our customers can make sure what they are putting in the market today stays relevant to their customers sometime in the future.”