New Broadband Protocol Turns Routers into IoT Gateways

By Claire Swedberg

Greenwave Systems is offering its AXON software, using the User Services Platform (USP) protocol, to provide internet service providers with the ability to sell IoT solutions to their customers, leveraging internet routers.

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Managed networks company Greenwave Systems has begun providing a solution that brings the Internet of Things (IoT) into homes using a new application service protocol from the Broadband Forum. The User Services Platform (USP) serves as a standardized protocol to allow companies to manage, monitor, update and control connected devices, services and home networks. Greenwave’s AXON software platform uses the USP, and aims to enable internet service providers (ISPs) to offer applications for home intelligence to their customers (home owners and businesses).

Applications built in compliance with the USP standard could range from lighting and home security to sensor management, using an ISP’s router as the gateway to such solutions. Greenwave claims it is the first technology company to provide a USP-based solution. The firm also helped to develop the standard with the Broadband Forum, based on its own solutions, says Tim Spets, Greenwave Systems’ senior IoT systems and standards architect. The goal, he explains, is to extend communication beyond simply the router, to a network of sensors or devices that can communicate wirelessly within a home or other building.

Image courtesy of Greenwave Systems

The Broadband Forum is a consortium dedicated to developing broadband network specifications. Its members include service providers, telecommunications companies, and device and equipment manufacturers. Greenwave Systems is a software provider of managed services. Businesses can use its AXON software platform to provide IoT access to end users.

The USP protocol comes more than a decade following the release of an open standard known as TR-069, which enables service providers to communicate with the internet routers they provide to customers for network access. TR-069 allows them to send software updates to routers, and to perform troubleshooting remotely—but that’s where their access to the router ends.

Greenwave built its AXON proprietary solution in 2015 so service providers can offer the software application to customers. The solution would allow users to connect the router to sensors or other Wi-Fi based devices via their smartphone or tablet, in order to accomplish such functions as controlling lights using the AXON app. “We have the architecture built that can accomplish this,” Spets says. However, he notes, as an open protocol, TR-069 does not provide that level of access to applications for multiple end points, such as sensors, smartphones or other devices, via a router.

That makes home installations limited to custom solutions provided by a variety of vendors. With an open protocol like USP, Spets says, ISPs could begin offering smart-home solutions via apps that enable two-way communication between devices and the router. “We brought a lot of what AXON offers” to the Broadband Forum’s efforts, he states, which laid the groundwork for the USP standard’s development.

TR-069 was a relatively slow mechanism intended to update a router’s firmware, but without the need to quickly move a large amount of data. “The whole paradigm shifts with USP,” Spets says. “We kept intact the data-modeling framework for TR-069, so they can still use the same parameters.” But now, he says, with the AXON software using the new protocol, ISPs can do much more.

With USP-based systems, the routers would provide a connection, from the ISP’s back-end software to the devices in the router’s network. They could potentially also transmit data via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Bluetooth mesh, ZigBee, LTE cellular or Z-Wave, if the related hardware were built into the router. “This opens up new service options for them,” Spets explains. “They can have an all-new market of revenue streams” for home network management.

Tim Spets

A simple example would be lighting. A switch built into a light bulb could transit its status to a router. The service provider could offer an app to the home owner in order to manage the switching on and off of the light automatically, or with his or her mobile phone. That means the switch could receive transmission from any USP endpoint to the router instructing it to activate or deactivate.

AXON offers services beyond the USP protocol, Spets says, that can include security services to run an app directly on a router, as opposed to in the cloud, for instance. The software also provides edge analytics via AXON Predict, providing a resource related to data traffic to and from the router in any specific area, and helping the service provider to improve its own offerings.

Home intelligence would be a relatively new market for the ISP market, but it’s one in which businesses are showing an interest, Spets reports. “Service providers are huge, complex operations,” he says, adding that he expects the shift of home intelligence at these companies “to be a calculated process.”

The current focus for service providers, according to Spets, is to solve problems rather than offer new technology. While he says there is little limit to the types of services that could be provided, once the router can communicate with many devices within IoT-based systems, there are currently four or five use cases that show real value to consumers. “We have the mechanics in place,” he states. “Now, it’s a matter of staring to move forward.”