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The Open Home Must Be a Secure Home

Don Gardenhire Ramón García Issue: Global-ICT 2014
Article no.: 6
Topic: The Open Home Must Be a Secure Home
Author: Don Gardenhire & Ramón García
Title: President / Member of the Board
Organisation: HomeGrid Forum
PDF size: 203KB

About author

Don Gardenhire, President, HomeGrid Forum

Don Gardenhire serves as liaison between Arris's major technology partners and internal product development teams. He has successfully built and managed engineering and sales teams in both the semiconductor and systems domains.

Don brings over 25 years’ experience as a solutions architect for telecommunications and computing industries and joined Arris from Motorola and Netopia where he acted as a technical consultant developing next-generation broadband gateway products.


Ramón García, Member of the HomeGrid Forum Board of Directors, and
Product Manager, Broadband Solutions Group at Marvell

Ramón’s responsibility is to run Product Management for G.hn wireline connectivity. Ramón joined Marvell in 2010 as part of the acquisition of powerline start-up DS2 to manage Business Development worldwide to promote the G.hn product line.
With more than 14 years’ experience in the home networking industry, his previous roles range from creating sales channels from scratch, running subsidiaries in Asia and heading commercial teams as VP of Global Sales.
Prior to joining the powerline industry in 2000, after R&D positions in the UK, Ramón worked for IBM Global Manufacturing Services where he played a key role in IBM’s manufacturing process.

Ramón holds a degree in Telecommunications Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), Spain and the University of Birmingham, UK and an MBA in Marketing and Sales Management from ESIC.

Article abstract

In a truly connected world, security must be considered more critical than at any time in the past. One must not only protect data and equipment from hacking and theft, but also personal profiles and credentials. While wireless has made great strides to enhance it’s included security, it is an easily intercepted medium and further subject to the end-user disabling it’s security altogether. Still, a truly connected home must include wireless. 

Full Article

This article steps back and looks at Smart Homes. We at HomeGrid believe the Smart Home should be an 'Open Home’, and a secure home.

Smart Home, the Internet of Things (IoT) and lately the Internet of Everything (IoE) mean different things to different people. There is much money at stake in Smart Homes and IoT/IoE, just consider the number of alliances and standards bodies stepping up to define applications and technologies, and associated rhetoric.

We view the Smart Home as an 'Open Home’ based on open standards and applications, where communications are reliable, secure and protected.
The Open Home idea starts with what end users want, then applications and finally the communications infrastructure that enables the Open Home.

End Users – what do they want from their Smart Home?
The end user has several 'wants’ they would like fulfilled, with a different priority and value proposition to each want’s fulfillment.

The long list of wants includes: applications that add new functionalities with relatively inexpensive value propositions; the equipment and its networking “just work” out of the box; security and privacy of communications; and seamless integration of lifestyle apps (such as health and wellness, 'wearables’ and environmental monitoring).
Applications can range from energy management to home improvements, wearable devices connecting to the home network and home security.
Sensors

Many applications will need sensors throughout the home. Sensors can be simple, standalone devices or part of complex systems. Sensors serve many purposes, including these common ones: detecting motion; presence; heat, smoke and carbon dioxide; radon gas; sunlight (existing and intensity); light (existing or not); humidity; or rain.

Many systems include multiple sensors, such as the modern smoke/heat/gas detectors that determine if users are nearby, warn them and allow alarm reset with a wave of the user’s hand. Another example is the outdoor IP security camera with its light, motion and heat detectors built in.

Some sensors are quite small, inexpensive and either battery or solar/light ('light’) powered. The small form factor and limited power mean each sensor has to be very simple and very low power. However, lower sensor signal power equates to a reduced communications range.

Home automation devices

Placement of sensors about the home enables advanced home automation applications with many value-added applications available to the end user.
Some examples of home automation include: electrochromic windows (replacing expensive window tinting and even blinds; and the window itself acting as a solar panel for its electronics’ power), energy management, lighting controls, security systems, keyless entryways and environmental adjustments (not just turning the AC on, but the room fan to a certain speed).

Further, intercommunication between home systems and wearable technology enables home systems to react to trigger points based on emergencies, health issues and even a need to 'get up and exercise.’

These are examples of the many home automation/lifestyle applications. With sensors and smart home applications woven throughout the home, many of them battery or light powered, there will be a need to interconnect them. The ones that have highest value will be open to interconnection with severs and other apps; however, given the very low power requirement for devices, their placement and the home’s construction, there exists a communication distance limitation.

Adding intercommunication & intelligence

Smart home applications should easily intercommunicate, enabling an 'intelligent’ smart home.

To achieve this, some form of home automation server is needed. This may be a virtual entity spread over many devices, a single server for the home or a set of apps somewhere in the 'cloud’. Despite location and to provide maximum value, the server must connect to as many automation services as possible.

This server could have an interface to every network in the home, but this is an unlikely premise. It is costly, the networks may be very low power thus the server unable to reach devices, and the user required to add a new network interface when adding a new service. This is not a user-friendly proposition.

The same issue exists for cloud-based server(s). They must be able to link to all home applications, probably through the home gateway. Therefore, the best solution is to connect the home server(s) and gateway to a core network and interconnect the other networks to this core network, enabling home automation server management of the whole environment. This is an Open Home core premise.

Open Home

The Open Home concept is where open protocols, products and services are used. The user should connect new devices in the home regardless of location, network type and power level and have these pieces just 'plug and play’ into the existing smart home infrastructure. All apps, products and networks synergistically interconnect, ensuring maximum control and information exchange.

Some of the fundamental concepts of the Open Home:
• Defined at its core to be heterogeneous in network, apps, and product types
• Depends on a robust underlying network technology to ensure communications
• Supports various quality of service (QoS) levels and priorities to ensure high priority traffic gets through without error
• Uses a broadband backbone to interconnect all of the different networks, so traffic flow is possible at any time
Basing the core high-speed network on G.hn meets these needs.
The G.hn Backbone
The home network backbone must be its communication foundation, the network other networks rely on to interconnect. G.hn is the best choice for this foundation.
Smart home networking starts with G.hn. This “any wire” home networking technology passes data (nearing gigabit/second possible) throughout the home over any wire. Its robust nature and strong QoS capabilities make it the service platform of choice for broadband home networks, regardless of networking over powerlines, coax, copper pairs or plastic optical fiber.
Using G.hn over powerlines, for example, means that every socket is also a network connection point. G.hn has its own mesh-networking capabilities coupled with robust error mitigation techniques, support for both parameterized and prioritized QoS, end to end security and the ability to avoid inter-network interference in high density apartment buildings. In other words, it is the perfect foundation for Open Home communication.
Attaching to the Backbone

With G.hn in place as the backbone network, other networks can attach to it.
First, there is Wi-Fi to connect the relatively larger, nomadic devices. Meanwhile, if more than one Wi-Fi access point is in the home, Wi-Fi may be a back up pathway for G.hn. While not typical for many homes today, this multi-access point architecture enables wireless coverage in previously weak areas, expect it to grow in use. For maximum efficiency, these access points should be interconnected, and using G.hn assures a wide and robust channel.

Other home network technologies have their own networks of things in the home. These networks may connect end to end; however, some devices may encounter problems based on home construction or location.
Wearables will need connectivity points in the home to link to home services. These will be low power wireless networks. Based on high traffic and radio interference, communications over these wireless networks may encounter periodic problems. By integrating network bridges from these networks onto the G.hn backbone, service improves markedly.

Through bridging, home automation servers on the G.hn network reach any device, regardless of network.
The result is a layered home network architecture, assured by the G.hn backbone.

Security

In a truly connected world, security must be considered more critical than at any time in the past. One must not only protect data and equipment from hacking and theft, but also personal profiles and credentials. While wireless has made great strides to enhance it’s included security, it is an easily intercepted medium and further subject to the end-user disabling it’s security altogether. Still, a truly connected home must include wireless. This means the owner must take great care to assure these connections are encrypted to the best of his ability. With G.hn as the networking foundation, the data gets off the air into a secure transport as quickly as possible. G.hn provides end-to-end secure data transport, even utilizing different encryption keys for each link in the network. Once a data stream enters the G.hn network it is secure, regardless if it hops over multiple G.hn nodes to reach its destination. This means that the bulk of the data transported in the home is inherently secure. While the user should take care to setup his other networking links securely, once a message enters the G.hn domain, he can rest assured that it is.



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