M2M APPS: Could you set the Sensinode scene? How and where did you start?
ZACH SHELBY: Sensinode is a spin-off from a well-known research center here in Finland and around 10 years ago the original team was working on the use of IP and Web technologies for constrained embedded devices that only have kilobytes of memory. We were and still are pioneers in this field. The company’s vision was built around IPv6 and Web-centric M2M being available everywhere in future. We wanted to see the industry go from legacy to IP-based standards. These days we’re a VC-backed company that has offices in California as well as Finland.
M2M APPS: So where are you now? What did you do with that technology?
ZACH SHELBY: In the early days we were very involved in setting the 6LoWPAN standard. That’s a rather clumsy but logical acronym: it stands for IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks. It started with IEEE 802.15.4, which is a standard for low-rate wireless personal area networks such as ZigBee, but nowadays the technology is employed in other networks, e.g. Power Line Communications. And it has to be IPv6 because billions of new devices are going to be connected to the Net in future and the future has always been our focus. We’ve released a 6LoWPAN software stack and a 6LoWPAN to IPv6/IPv4 router solution, which can run on devices in the smart grid, and all other M2M and wireless sensor network markets. What we really did with the technology was to take constrained devices such as micro-controllers with kilobytes of RAM and Flash that were employed in IEEE 802.15.4 and other very low power networks such as Bluetooth Low Energy and enable them to use IPv6 efficiently.
M2M APPS: Can you expand on the ZigBee IP angle?
ZACH SHELBY: In the early days we did a lot of work in order to make the market. But by founding the IPSO Alliance along with Cisco and other players and working hard to get the technology to chip vendors we generated a lot of interest in the industry. About 18 months ago the ZigBee Alliance decided to create a new ZigBee stack profile and 6LoWPAN became the access technology. Now ZigBee is IP based. However the real requirement was to facilitate the development of applications and end-to-end solutions. Therefore we developed the NanoService Platform, which manages very large networks of M2M nodes using an ultra-efficient application protocol and enables rapid application development and deployment. We see this as the Holy Grail for this market sector: end-to-end Web services optimized for resource-constrained devices.
M2M APPS: Are you getting traction with your NanoServices platform? Has your technology been deployed in commercial solutions?
ZACH SHELBY: With NanoServices we actually created a brand-new open standard known as CoAP, which stands for Constrained Application Protocol. It’s a Web transport protocol analogous to HTTP, but optimized for constrained networks and nodes for M2M apps such as smart energy and building automation. CoAP allows us to create very efficient, binary Web services for M2M devices. This standardization effort has been very successful and right now the standard is being finalized in the IETF. It’s supported in the Smart Energy 2.0 profile and ETSI M2M standards. And in Q3 last year Sensinode brought the NanoServices solution to the market and now we are conducting early pilots, announcing cooperating contracts with partners, in both the low-power sensor and cellular domains. The latter includes contracts with MVNOs.
M2M APPS: How does your technology work in the Connected Home?
ZACH SHELBY: ZigBee brings IP based technology into the home and other markets and it also allows us to design application profiles, for example, the new Smart Energy 2.0 profile. This was designed for communications between smart meters and smart appliances over 802.15.4 and other IP-based networks such Wi-Fi and the Internet. Therefore we extend the ZigBee profile world into the Web world and that represents a powerful combination. We’re also involved in the connected home market via an offer that includes ZigBee IP and a Smart Energy 2.0 profile library that enables meter manufacturers, appliance vendors and chip makers to use the technology in order to develop devices that communicate with each other over different networks. In addition, Sensinode’s NanoService solution is very efficient: with an overhead as low as a few tens of bytes.
M2M APPS: How does your solution fit into end-to-end systems and in other market segments, for example Cellular M2M?
ZACH SHELBY: That’s a good question. Sensinode’s solutions are all about the Web and the architecture is that of the Embedded Web. Therefore our end-to-end solutions work in virtually all market segments because we are using Web technologies on the devices and the backend systems, making the solution transparent to the kind of information and resources that are being transferred. However, as a company we concentrate on smart energy in the home, remote monitoring, building automation, lighting and asset tracking. In a lot of sensor network deployments an OEM or systems integrator builds our technology into their devices and private services. The cellular deployment model is slightly different. In this case we are working closely with ASPs and MVNOs so that this back-end technology can be used in their service clouds. In other words NanoServices are bundled in their offer. Because there are different models Sensinode has created different licensing agreements, for example, white label licensing of the technology as well as service-based agreements.
M2M APPS: What’s your take on the way that low-power RF is going to impact on our lives in future, starting with the remainder of 2012?
ZACH SHELBY: I think we are going to see two major trends. One is more integration of technologies in the home because of IP and Web based technologies. For example, ZigBee and Wi-Fi will become an integral part of a connectivity ecosystem. The other big trend in my opinion is integration of low-power RF sensor networks with cellular thereby enabling connectivity with backend Web and Cloud services. That will enable ubiquitous access to those sensor networks: right now they tend to be isolated.