IoT protocols such as Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Thread, and Bluetooth are all networking technologies that make it possible for IoT products to communicate and work with other platforms, devices, and applications. We rely on these wireless protocols to specify the rules that establish and manage networks and transmit data.
In keeping pace with rapid advances in smart home development, Works With, the smart home developer conference, will feature training and how-to tutorial sessions designed to accelerate IoT development across platforms. With built-in essentials for IoT wireless already implemented into the stack, developers can focus on application development and not spend time worrying about lower-level network details.
To get started with smart home development, check out the featured sessions covering IoT protocols training sessions. But first, we will define what an IoT wireless protocol is.
What is an IoT Wireless Protocol?
IoT wireless protocols specify the rules and formats to manage and transmit data across networks so that devices, gateways, and applications ‘speak’ to each other.
This course will teach engineers how to get started designing products that are capable of connecting with the Samsung SmartThings Ecosystem. This introduction will provide attendees with an overview of how devices can connect to SmartThings using different protocols (Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave), as well as explore some upcoming SmartThings developments on Wednesday, September 9, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. CDT.
The Z-Wave Technical Track features development and certification components that build upon each other. Attendees will gain a deeper level of understanding of the Simplicity Studio Development Environment and Device Testing for Z-Wave Developers. The session begins with an overview of using Simplicity Studio to develop Z-Wave End Devices (sensors, switches, thermostats, etc.) with a focus on specific features of Simplicity Studio and Z-Wave. Eric Ryherd, a.k.a. “Dr. Z-Wave” will then share some testing and debugging tips learned over his many years of developing Z-Wave products. Eric will describe some hard-to-find “gotchas” and relate several anecdotes from the field that have cost significant time and money.
Certification is a cornerstone of Z-Wave and will continue as Z-Wave becomes an Open Standard. The sessions in this curriculum will cover how certification works, how it is likely to change in the new Standards Development Organization, and how you can use the tools provided to self-test your products. Silicon Labs’ Bettina Roll will lead the certification session on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.
The development tracks at Works With by Silicon Labs will require attendees to have a good base understanding of the software development environment. Silicon Labs’ Claudio Filho will walk through how to get started using Simplicity Studio. The attendee will learn the location and usage of the different libraries used for the different ecosystems. They will learn how to program a kit with an example project. The attendee will be better prepared for the development sessions after completing this course. This session is scheduled for Wednesday, September 9, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. CDT.
This course will introduce engineers on how to get started designing products with Bluetooth solutions that can connect with the HomeKit Ecosystem. This session features two parts. The first part is an introduction to provide attendees with a holistic overview of how Bluetooth is used to provide that connectivity. The second part of the course will cover the process that customers must follow to become a recognized and certified device in HomeKit. This session will be held on Wednesday, September 9, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. CDT.
We look forward to seeing you online and from anywhere in the world at Works With 2020 by Silicon Labs.
Top Three Resources on Wireless Protocols
Being part of the smart home developer community means collaborating, learning how to work with different smart home ecosystems, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in our everyday environments. Almost overnight, we’ve seen our cities and workplaces disrupted (and begin to transform) to the point where many homes need multi-device capability and dynamic connectivity to ease collaboration, connection, and communication. The increasing need for the connected home puts developers in a position to accelerate innovation and the adoption of devices and gateways. While smart home development has been underway for some time, today’s disruptions amplify the need to strengthen relationships within the ecosystem and enhance, reimagine or rethink your go-to-market strategies.
No matter which ecosystem your solutions are designed for, the Silicon Labs Works With event is your gateway to the most advanced technical smart home training. This Smart Home Developer Virtual Event provides 15 hours of free, deep technical training and interactive sessions especially designed for developers by developers. In addition, there two dynamic keynotes and a great panel discussion featuring Project CHIP that is certain to be informative. Today we want to share a glimpse into a few of our 40 sessions we’re excited to attend.
First, Google Introduction and Certification, will be on Wednesday, September 9, at 10:00 a.m. CDT, led by engineer Mark Hallam as he introduces attendees to IoT product development for the Google Home Ecosystem. This technical track will give you an overview of the Google Home Ecosystem and how it will use the CHIP standard to connect devices. The course will also cover the process developers must follow in order to become a recognized and certified device operating in the Google Home Ecosystem. Mark will also present the technical track on Thread/CHIP Development, where he will demonstrate the development of a CHIP-based product for the Google Home Ecosystem. This talk is slated for Day 1 on Wednesday, September 9, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. CDT.
We’re also excited about the Amazon Introduction and Certification track on Wednesday, September 9, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. CDT. This session will show engineers how to get started designing Alexa Connected Devices. Specifically, Silicon Labs’ Jake Wood and Jason Whitney, the founder and CEO of Darwin Tech, will present a holistic overview of how Zigbee and Bluetooth are used to provide connectivity and dive deep into the process required to become a recognized and certified Amazon Alexa Connected Device.
Next is How to Build an Energy Harvesting Switch which will be held on Wednesday, September 9 from 2:00 p.m. CDT and repeat on Thursday, September 10 at 10:30 a.m. CDT. Co-led by Sunthoshi Kothapalli, Silicon Labs, and Amdom Giday, Arrow Electronics, Inc. this session will explore the need for green energy and low powered wireless control and sensing. After attending, you’ll be able to implement a robust, secure and reliable solution more easily. This session will utilize an example of a Zigbee® Green Power for energy harvesting light switch reference design and implementation.
New security standards are leading to the development of security requirements tailored to each vertical device type and then measured reliably and repeatably. The Security Regulations session will be held on Wednesday, September 9 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. CDT and repeats on Thursday, September 10, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Led by Mike Dow, Silicon Labs, and Brad Ree, CTO, ioXt Alliance will explore the security landscape, showcase Silicon Labs’ new Secure Vault technology, reveal how the ioXt Alliance is addressing the need for uniform evaluation and certification of the security level of your products to prove adherence to evolving regulations. In 2020, Silicon Labs joined the ioXt Alliance Board to support critical work towards creating the internet of secure things.
Finally, How to Build a Light Switch will be held on Wednesday, September 9 at 12:00 p.m. CDT and repeat on Thursday, September 10 at 11:30 a.m. This session will teach you about the evolution of the light switch. Silicon Labs Senior Field Application Engineer David Seymour and Jasco Products Test Engineering Manager Mark Simpkins will provide a reference for designing and building a connected smart switch. They’ll also explore options for leveraging existing solutions and offer guidance on choosing the best approach depending on your specific system requirements.
These are just a few of the programming highlights from Works With 2020, the premiere digital smart home experience filled with innovative technology, engineer-led sessions, and online networking with industry game-changers.
Smart Home Development is Here. Register now for Works With.
For more than a decade Silicon Labs has been a trusted partner for developers of smart home devices and gateways, offering wireless experiences backed by more than one billion IoT chips shipped and deployed. That’s a lot of silicon! With that in mind, we thought it was time to leverage our key connector status in the world of smart home IoT to bring the industry together for a two-day virtual conference: “Works With.”
The conference will take place September 9 – 10, and our goal is for Works With to serve as the defining annual smart home developer conference. Attendees will experience keynotes, panel discussions and technical sessions led by Amazon, Apple HomeKit, Google, Comcast, Samsung SmartThings, Silicon Labs and many other smart home innovators. After attending, you’ll be equipped to more effectively work with smart home ecosystem partners as you design, build and go-to-market with secure, scalable connected devices. You’ll also learn the latest information about IoT wireless protocols like Bluetooth, OpenThread, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and others.
Attendees will have more than 40 industry breakout sessions to choose from once logged into the event. Designers and developers can dive deep into areas like security, energy harvesting, battery life, cloud computing, and environmental sensing. Smart home engineers will teach workshops and hands-on sessions using the latest technologies to build real-world devices like smart locks, sensors, lightbulbs and switches. Amazon, Google, HomeKit, Samsung and Z-Wave and others will lead specialized technology tracks and host one-on-one developer meetings.
Amid a global pandemic, a start-up company in Belgium – Maggy – is set on a mission to develop a useful, affordable, and identity-blind social-distancing device in a short period. In this critical mission, Maggy has chosen Silicon Labs’ Bluetooth System in Package (SiP) module to develop and deliver this compact and wearable device, which warns users when the safety distance between people has been breached and therefore pose a risk of COVID-19 infection transfer.
Maggy generally targets organizations and workplace settings in industrial, logistical, and pharmaceutical industries, seeking to help protect both employees and visitors against COVID-19. This wearable device can be worn as a lanyard or be placed in the user’s pocket, which can easily be sensed through beeping and vibrating if the distance between people becomes too small to allow for social distancing. To learn more about how this device works, watch this short video:
It is important to note that Silicon Labs’ BGM13S Bluetooth® SiP Module plays an essential role in the high-performance accuracy of Maggy devices. The world’s smallest Bluetooth SiP module enables IoT device developers like Maggy to add Bluetooth to their designs effectively while meeting all regulatory certifications.
“IoT wireless technology can play a critical role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Matt Saunders, Vice President of IoT Marketing and Applications at Silicon Labs. Indeed, the Maggy device is one great example of highly innovative yet cost-effective IoT solutions that is both timely and efficient in enforcing social distancing measures necessary to prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks.
Gateways are one of the most important components in the IoT ecosystem. It’s how the ever-increasing number of sensors in our lives send all that helpful data to our devices or the cloud. It’s how the different protocols, standards, and connections that make our lives easier communicate with each other without getting in our way. Gateways are also our first line of defense for securing all that data.
As the number of IoT devices we use increases, so too does the sheer amount of data that is generated from those devices. Gateways help us manage all of that information so it can be used to make better decisions or utilize our resources more efficiently.
As a developer or smart home engineer, you have firsthand knowledge when the app or software you’ve built doesn’t work with an IoT gateway or hub. Your app’s commands are not being received by an IoT gateway or hub. Each time you try to control the gateway or hub through your app, the app fails to send commands; this is just one of the challenges facing developers.
To solve these and other developer questions, Silicon Labs is bringing together the biggest names in smart home development from Amazon, Google, Samsung, Z-Wave, and more for Silicon Labs’ Works With Smart Home Developer Event. The free, all-online event is the perfect environment to explore how-to sessions and develop integrations that work with IoT gateways alongside the engineers who built the latest advances.
Silicon Labs VP John Dixon explores how the proliferation of IoT enabled wireless devices over the next couple of years is forecast to grow from several million devices per year to tens of millions by the end of 2020 and continuing into 2021. Watch the video to hear firsthand his thoughts on the proliferation of IoT-enabled devices.
When you imagine that each home could have multiple endpoints not only inside the home but also outside, it’s going to require developers to help figure out how to handle the stress of all these IoT enabled devices - and this is in addition to keeping pace with their own development and innovation to offer novel services or build a next-generation app.
Take an IoT-enabled home as an example. For a family of four, there could be a smartphone for each member. Contrast the number of smartphones with the number of IoT enabled light bulbs, a thermostat, smart appliances, multiple speakers, and possibly a security system. In this family, you can see how the exponential growth of IoT enabled devices will become pervasive in a single home.
All of this is on top of a developer’s need to innovate and keep pace with building products that meet end-users’ expectations for seamless integration and user experience. These devices and IoT gateways will become so entrenched in the way we live that any glitches won’t be allowed by consumers.
Smart home development is here. Join us for Works With, where David Ewing, President of Firia Inc., will be presenting a session on building gateway devices. David will bring insights gained from his career working with technology startups in the electronics, software, communications, and IoT sectors, as well as real-world instruction about how to deploy and design gateway devices based on his experience managing multiple projects on AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure.
Hiring, fostering, and empowering great talent – this is a key Silicon Labs core value. We put this value into practice by hiring the most innovative talent around the world. Our teams invent solutions that solve the world’s toughest problems, and for five years in a row, we have been honored as the Global Semiconductor Alliance’s Most Respected Public Semiconductor Company. Investing in our teams through training and engagement opportunities is vital to our continued success, and our leadership team is an active part of the process. This is one of the many reasons why I came to work – and still enjoy working – for Silicon Labs.
As part of Silicon Labs’ commitment to cross-functional collaboration and communication, our CEO, Tyson Tuttle, regularly invites employees to have lunch with him to chat about what’s on their minds. Tyson meets with ten employees every month for an informal, engaging, fun, and friendly Q&A session. Employees are encouraged to bring questions, and Tyson will provide answers.
Shortly after I began working at Silicon Labs in late 2017, I received an invite to sign-up for a Lunch with Tyson event. I admit I did not sign up at that time because I was a little apprehensive about talking to the company’s CEO, let alone ask him questions. For some employees, it can be intimidating to talk to executives, especially to those who come from different perspectives, backgrounds, and cultures. For example, where I came from, a conversation between executives and regular employees almost doesn’t happen because of the “perceived wall between leaders and subordinates.” That wall melted away after witnessing just how personable and accommodating Tyson is. I would always see him at company events talking to employees like old friends. My colleagues shared their admiration and respect for his technical knowledge, enthusiasm for innovation, and management acumen.
Lunch with Tyson is such a popular event that the sign-up sheet is always full. When I finally got a second chance to join, I jumped on it. My first Lunch with Tyson was on the 14th of March, 2019. That event confirmed what I’ve been suspecting and anticipating all this time – that we have the coolest CEO ever! I came prepared with questions, but so did Tyson; he was very well-informed of each employee’s activities at the company and knew how to manage a conversation with a large group. For instance, he congratulated me on having my abstract selected for presentation at that year’s Technical Symposium and asked me to share a quick summary. I felt valued, and in that instance, I wanted to do more, to perform so much better at my job, and to grow and improve my knowledge and skills so I would provide even more value to the company. Recognition of your performance is so powerful; it brings you a sense of gratification, and it encourages you to perform at an even higher level.
Last month I was thrilled to attend another Lunch with Tyson. The lunch was virtual since we are working from home during the pandemic, but the value of this event was not diminished at all. I joined ten other employees to discuss various topics with Tyson – from the company’s status and response to COVID-19 down to the company’s stand on current social events.
When asked why he enjoys having these lunches with employees, Tyson has this to say:
“When you’re in my position, it’s hard to stay in touch with employees across the organization as often as you’d like. These lunches are an excellent way to connect with employees and also to get feedback on how things are going. Being open and transparent about what’s going on is really important. Especially since this pandemic started, we’ve been more proactive about communicating in our Monday Town hall meetings and newsletters in addition to the company meetings and updates. I think that’s one of the things we’re learning, how to better connect and engage with our global workforce more effectively.”
It is important to note that our CEO emphasizes the value of staying connected, exchanging feedback, and gaining a better understanding of strategies and decisions – while being open at the same time. Such transparency builds trust, deepens relationships, amplifies productivity, and strengthens innovation.
Employees like me feel just as strongly as Tyson does about how valuable the lunch sessions are, and they shared:
“I appreciate 'Lunch with Tyson' because it is a time where we are kind of at the same level, and we can have an exchange about any topic. As Tyson said, sometimes, a CEO can lose the view of the employees and vice versa. It is also a nice way of knowing other peers. Even if a face-to-face meeting is better, the virtual meeting is important, especially in this time of social distancing.”
- Arnaud Moutard, Senior Staff Applications Engineer – Broadcast
“This was my third 'Lunch with Tyson.' Each time, I appreciate hearing the company’s efforts, successes, and challenges from Tyson’s point of view and leave with a new sense of how my efforts contribute.”
- Terry Dickey, Distinguished Engineer – Wireless
“I wanted to ask Tyson what he gets from the lunches as well. Although I was hoping for an exciting response like, “Where do you think the name of the Blue Gecko platform came from?” or something! But knowing that connecting with people from all job levels and departments remains vital to a guy with a whole lot on his mind is pretty great, too. What I got out of the lunch with Tyson was some insight into how a CEO sees our business at that higher level - in terms of the world. For him, it’s not only about the work and processes driving our silicon deliveries like it is for much of the engineers at the company and me. It’s about staying aware of and planning for change, with the effects of government and global policies that directly impact employees (immigration, pandemic responses), having a vision for when and how we’ll grow as a company, actively connecting with semiconductor partners making decisions about where to build and invest, and continuing to connect with employees outside of the C-suite.”
- Stephanie Draeger, Manager [Corporate Product Test Engineer] – Operations
Silicon Labs and its leadership always find ways to interact with the workforce even during a pandemic and an unprecedented, fully remote working environment. It’s no wonder great talents, essentially people who can work wherever they’d like, choose to join our team.
Our company values are lived at the executive level and waterfall to every employee across all levels and locations. My colleagues and I greatly appreciate the time, attention, and effort that our leadership puts forth to create an environment of trust and encourage open, two-way, and transparent communication.
In this Tech Talks session, Senior Field Applications Engineer, Carlos Hernandez, describes Z-Wave command class structure and provides reference code examples. Click here to watch the entire session and register now for future Tech Talks. The following is an overview of Carlos’s presentation.
What is Z-Wave?
Z-Wave is a low-power, wireless mesh network communications protocol designed specifically for control, monitoring and status reading applications in residential and light commercial environments.
Z-Wave operates through regional Sub-GHz frequencies, ensuring product interoperability throughout the region. Every product in the Z-Wave ecosystem is interoperable and backward compatible all the way to the first generation.
Any device using Z-Wave must use command class structure, which is the “language of Z-Wave” and is classified in the Z-Wave specification.
Command Class Structure
Z-Wave commands are structured so that the most significant byte is always the “command class”, which is a group of commands that perform a specific function. The next byte is the command itself, such as “Set”, “Get” or “Report”. The next set of bytes can range in size from 0 to the maximum Z-Wave packet size, which is the payload of 64 minus the header. In the binary switch set command scenario, the third byte is the value itself – either 00 or FF, based on what you want the device to do, such as turn off or on a light.
Command Class = COMMAND_CLASS_SWITCH_BINARY
Command = SWITCH_BINARY_SET
There are four command class types in the Z-Wave realm:
Most command classes have three types of commands.
For a list of Z-Wave command classes, visit our Z-Wave specification page.
Structure of a Z-Wave End Device
Z-Wave end devices are structured in the following order:
The Sample Application and Product Specific Code layer sits on top of the application framework. Applications in this layer are pre-written and have undergone the full Z-Wave certification process. This is the best place to start designing your application. By reusing this sample code in your own application, you can significantly reduce your development time.
The first step to building your application is to order our Z-Wave Wireless Starter Kit (WSTK), which contains everything you need to get your project going, including the following:
Our Simplicity Studio tools further speed development by providing software examples, demos, sample code and supporting documentation. Using our WSTK, you can develop any Z-Wave application.
For more information on Z-Wave products and development tools, contact your Silicon Labs sales representative.
The safety and well-being of our employees and their families have been top-of-mind at Silicon Labs as we have tried to navigate through a world of shifting uncertainty carefully. I would like to take a moment to share where Silicon Labs is in the evolution of this new environment, how we got here, and how we are preparing for future phases.
Let me start by saying that in times like these, I feel fortunate to work for a company like Silicon Labs. Back in January, when the pandemic had just starting to hit our Asian offices, our executive team assembled a global COVID-19 Response Team (CRT). The CRT included our COVID Taskforce in Austin, our Global Site Health Leaders (GSHL), and key individuals from our offices around the world. I am honored to lead this team and have had the opportunity to work with great, caring people across our global sites to identify and implement the right measures at the right sites at the right time.
Our Asian sites were the first to experience lockdowns. Our parts support critical and desperately needed communications, infrastructure, and medical products. As such, we were deemed an essential business. Fortunately, most of our global workforce could work effectively from home. However, there were still several key activities that required ongoing access to our facilities and equipment to support our customers and our products, including our testing operations in Singapore. Finding a way to perform these functions while minimizing risk to our employees was crucial. Our team collaborated with the local governments to quickly implement guidelines for on-site operations, including split shifts, limited office staffing, social distancing, temperature checks, face mask requirements, enhanced cleaning procedures, and many other precautionary steps.
These precautions became a model for our other sites as COVID-19 continued to spread across the globe. By sharing our global experiences, specific actions and procedures were defined by the CRT and then tailored for each individual office by site leaders based on local regulations and health conditions.
By the time the pandemic reached Austin, TX where our global headquarters is located, we had had the opportunity to learn extensively from our global experiences. Our Austin HQ is our largest site and consists of two buildings, each with six floors, some of which are occupied by non-Silicon Labs tenants. Our test floor and our labs house specialized equipment that often requires in-person attention. Our IT and administrative offices are the nerve center of our worldwide operations. While the majority of our employees could work from home, we had a small percentage of “essential” workers who needed to be in the office regularly to access and maintain our specialized equipment.
To protect those who need to be in our HQ buildings, we adopted several preventative measures that continue today. We limited access to only a small authorized list of individuals divided into “orange” teams. These teams were each based in restricted access areas. Segregating teams helps mitigate potential contagion concerns by limiting the number of individuals any worker comes into daily contact.
Employees check for symptoms before coming to work, check their temperatures twice a day, wear face masks in all public areas, and practice social distancing. There are temperature check and no-contact material transfer stations on every floor, hand sanitizer stations, cleaning supplies, and disinfectants in all common areas, and visual separation reminders in break areas, conference rooms, and service desks. We have adopted strict cleaning and disinfection standards, have moved workstations, installed clear dividers, and closed gyms, and other common areas. We also have partnered with the Ascension/Seton Hospital System (Seton hospitals, Dell Children’s, and UT Medical School), to conduct audits of our facilities and processes and to give us access to health experts who help guide our decision making.
From the beginning, the Silicon Labs Executive team has been cautious and thoughtful about how and when we return to the office. The GSHL team continues to monitor infection, testing, and hospitalization metrics to ensure our decisions are measured, science-based, and data-driven. As an example, when the metrics in Austin indicated a favorable trend earlier this summer, the Austin Task Force and orange teams leaders evaluated a plan to slowly increase the number of individuals who could access our facilities (Phase II). However, once the rate of cases and hospitalizations began to increase, we quickly made the decision to remain in our essential-personnel-only on-site levels (Phase I).Doing the right thing is one of our core values. We will continue to protect our employees and their families without compromise, and provide a safe environment for the minority of employees who must access our facilities. At the same time, we also support all of our employees working from home. Because of early action and ongoing health and safety protocols, we have had no known transmissions of COVID-19 in the workplace. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure we keep it that way.
Last month, we had the chance to speak with our customer Christine Horton, VP of Global Marketing for Nonin Medical, a global medical monitoring solutions company that has been leading the way in pulse oximetry technology for the past 30 years. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Nonin has been on an overdrive to meet the surge in demand to design, build and ship personal hundreds of thousands of fingertip pulse oximeters to healthcare facilities and homes to help people better determine virus exposure before debilitating symptoms set in. These small, Bluetooth-based non-invasive oximetry devices can detect decreases in blood oxygen levels, which is one of the first signs that a person has been infected with COVID-19. Christine shares background on the company’s overall mission and insights behind how the valuable medical technology works.
Tell us about Nonin.
Nonin was founded in 1986 by Phil Isaacson, our current Executive Chairman and Chief Technology Officer, with three other engineers. Phil was the visionary and driving force behind the operation, and he continues to be dedicated to our innovation efforts. While Phil was not the inventor of pulse oximetry, he was the first person to envision using a person’s finger without wires as a way to determine oxygen levels. His foresight led Nonin to launch the world’s first fingertip pulse oximeter in 1995.
Creating a non-invasive oximeter device was the goal at the time, and non-invasive devices are still our focus today. The word “Nonin” is actually short for “non-invasive.” Today we are a global company headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, often referred to as “medical alley.” Minneapolis is a center of excellence for medical innovation and technology advances, so it’s an ideal location for us to evolve our medical innovations.
Our mission is to improve the quality of people’s lives throughout the world. We want our highly reliable, accurate, and high-quality devices to be empowered by individuals and healthcare providers to help them make better medical decisions.
Why was the product created?
We developed the technology for the same reason it is so critically important today – to help save lives by enabling pulse oximetry outside of the hospital. The pulse-ox measurement is an early indicator in detecting COVID-19, even before high temperature, of raising a red flag if a person’s oxygen saturation has fallen below healthy levels. Taking this measurement every morning can provide a good baseline while you’re healthy. If you start to see changes, you can address the condition, or potential condition, sooner. We seek to empower self-care in the home, which can allow for earlier detection and may improve the chance for a better outcome.
While Nonin had products before 1995, launching the small fingertip oximeter was a game-changer for healthcare and personal health. Even though we really didn’t talk much about personal health in 1995, there were pockets of people who were paying attention to their pulse-ox levels. Now it is more mainstream, and our current connected devices are evolving rapidly. It also goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has also put pulse oximeters in the spotlight as an easy to use but potentially life-saving tool.
When we talk about personal health, or population health, we talk about a connected product, which is our consumer pulse oximeter fingertip device. Our 3230 Bluetooth Low Energy oximeter allows information to be shared so that you, your physicians, or other people you want to enable can see it. Data can be sent and received from the comfort of your own home, which is such a convenience and helps to free up space in hospitals and healthcare centers. For many patients and family members, it provides tremendous peace of mind.
How does your oximeter device work?
We use a technology called PureSAT®, one of our largest differentiators for quality, accuracy, and reliability. There are a lot of things that can influence a fingertip reading, such as movement and low perfusion in the patient. PureSAT has advanced algorithms that filter out artifacts and interference to provide a true, accurate measurement using infrared light and photodetectors to measure the amount of light getting through the fingertip to calculate the oxygen saturation of a person’s blood.
Accurate readings take just seconds. If the green quality indicator light is on while applying the device to finger, the user knows an accurate and correct measurement is being taken. Our product is FDA-cleared, and this an important distinction to ensure the safety and efficacy of the product.
What are your future plans for the product?
We support the push and pivot to telemedicine. Healthcare is rapidly taking place outside the clinic and hospital settings. Healthcare is happening right where people are at the time they want care. We have a team focused on our connected devices, and we see the market growing rapidly and continuing at a strong and sustained growth rate. For Nonin, this means we’ve increased our capacity for production two-fold to keep up with COVID demand. For the long-term, innovation in the personal health sector is focusing increasingly on home self-care – essentially telemedicine – becoming more mainstream. The rise of telemedicine ensures the continued need for device connectivity to the cloud is crucial for all of our future products.
Why did you choose Silicon Labs?
We use Silicon Labs’ chipsets for the majority of our Bluetooth-enabled products. For the 3230 oximeter product, we use the Bluegiga Legacy Model Bluetooth Low Energy Module. The Silicon Labs module enables us to get our products to market more quickly because they are easily integrated with a pre-certified Bluetooth radio that covers many geographical markets for us. The power-efficiency of the Silicon Labs module is also a very important feature for healthcare solutions like ours.
How has the pandemic changed the demand for your product?
In a word, yes. In fact, we have doubled production from March to June to try and keep up with the demand. We are still - like much of the medical essential and critical suppliers and medical devices - trying to make sure we keep up with the global needs of the healthcare systems. Fortunately, we were able to ramp additional production effectively and hired more staff in a very short amount of time.
From nearly the outset of the pandemic, it became clear that pulse oximeters could provide critical early insight to people before more serious COVID-19 symptoms presented. Patients will come into the ER, and maybe they don’t feel well, or they are a little short of breath, but they will be talking. One of the first signs of being in respiratory distress is having a hard time talking because you have to breathe well to hold a conversation. These patients will be breathing just fine, and two hours later, they will be on a ventilator. We’ve heard a lot of cases about the rapid progression of going from “hey, I can talk, and I kind of feel sick” to “my pulse-ox is now in the 80s or below.” This signifies something very dangerous for a patient. If a patient can see that their oxygen levels are decreasing before symptoms get to that life-threatening point, they may be more likely to get the care they need early on and avoid a potentially life-threatening onset of symptoms.
Right now, we are constantly evaluating what changes are temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent within the healthcare industry. We are closely looking at a variety of indicators, such as medical device access, hospital partnerships, and supply chains every day. Day to day, minute by minute, the pandemic has been a learning lesson for the world.
In addition to ramping production, what other steps have you taken during this uncertain time in our world?
As a medical device organization, we are squarely focused on mitigating risk within our supply chain to ensure we can continue supplying as many devices as possible.
We are a for-profit company, but we made the decision early on during the pandemic that we would not increase pricing, despite the escalating demand for the product.
Where do you see medical IoT going in the next 5-8 years?
I’ve been in the medical device field for 28 years, and this is the biggest and most rapid shift I’ve ever seen. The transformation is definitely driven by connected devices, personal health, and telemedicine. We were already moving in that direction, but because of COVID-19, telemedicine is now a proven concept that millions of people have come to trust and rely on. We anticipate telemedicine to remain at the 90% growth rate we see today.
Connectivity in medical devices is no longer a nice to have, and it has rapidly become a requirement. The Internet of Medical Things will become the norm in healthcare because it delivers so much value for a patient’s continuum of care. Medical IoT devices enable doctors and other healthcare professionals to track and treat a patient throughout the entirety of their life.
The data derived from medical IoT is also extremely valuable for healthcare economics and health insurance payers. If you have a finite amount of money, how can you best use the funds to care for the maximum number of people in the highest quality way? For example, if a doctor knows that you are not in crisis and can see from your pulse-ox level that the medication or therapy administered at home is working, you do not need to come into the emergency room. This frees up healthcare workers to give people care who really do need it, which ultimately benefits everyone.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Daniel Russi Netto, Co-founder and Commercial Director, and Airton Hess Jr., Co-founder and R&D Director of SmartGreen, a Brazilian IoT company focused on sustainable smart lighting and smart metering automation solutions. Headquartered near Sao Paulo, SmartGreen works closely with cities and utilities to build end-to-end IoT integrated solutions, such as the 200,000 smart street lights the company is planning to deploy in Brazil by 2022. While the majority of SmartGreen’s customers are currently located in Brazil, Daniel and Airton share their valuable insights on the growth drivers their company is seeing in municipal lighting and where they see the potential for smart cities in the future.
Tell us about SmartGreen, how did it get its start?
The company was founded in 2012 after merging with another company called Radio Telecom. Today we have 35 employees. From the beginning, our goal has been to offer an integrated IoT solution to customers that encompasses hardware, communications, gateways, the processing layer, and the software and apps needed to manage a device.
Who is your competition?
We have two kinds of competitors. We have local start-ups, but their technology is not as mature as our solutions, and they cannot scale to the level of devices that SmartGreen can handle. We also run into international competitors from time to time, but these companies tend to have challenges entering the Brazilian market due to local pricing and technological barriers.
What sets SmartGreen apart from other companies with similar offerings?
We can operate more devices in our mesh network using Zigbee 2.4GHz than the competition and remain competitive on price. We also have close relationships with our customers. Most of our lighting customers have limited technology expertise. Therefore, they depend on us heavily because of our technical expertise, and this dynamic helps us establish strong customer relationships.
What is driving the demand for lighting projects?
We see some of the demands driven by regulatory issues. However, we also see a lot of the demands coming from city managers who are interested in automating city infrastructure to improve overall operations of their city, and municipal lighting is a good place to start. City managers value the energy savings and the reduced workload for fuel operations teams.
Tell us about your commercial lighting product.
Our primary smart light product is the SGIP7, which replaces the photocell and gives the luminary the intelligence it needs to be automated. We sell the hardware, gateway, and endpoint for street light projects and offer SaaS packages, including software licenses, upgrades, cloud capabilities, and ongoing technical support. Our network communications standards are high, but even if the network goes down for some reason, our devices can continue to work and communicate with other sensors and devices. The Zigbee mesh network, combined with Silicon Labs’ wireless technology, enables the sensors and devices to communicate with each other without the gateway.
What about your smart metering solutions?
For smart metering, we sell two different kinds of endpoints to utilities – network interface cards and smart meter modules. We have two types of modules for residential usage, including external modules that connect to standard meters and modules for smart meters. Our smart meter modules remotely read energy consumption for utilities, which reduces the need for utility workers to be dispatched to residential homes for readings and turning on/off electricity connections.
How is business right now for lighting and metering applications?
We see significant growth in our smart lighting business, while smart metering projects move more slowly. Utilities have a more complex decision-making process, and they are still waiting for a wireless standard for smart metering to emerge, so between that dynamic and this space being fairly regulated, projects can be delayed and/or slow to start. Yet, smart lighting purchasers are not concerned with technology standards but are focused on performance and cost benefits instead. Of course, they want the technology to be certified, but smart lighting is not regulated like smart metering, so we see a lot more activity and growth.
Why did you decide to use Silicon Labs?
We use Silicon Labs’ first-generation Zigbee module after coming across this Bluetooth chip when we acquired Telegesis. We recently decided to upgrade our IC modules and tested several other competing devices, and Silicon Labs performed the best. Therefore we plan to upgrade to the MGM13P Mighty Gecko Zigbee Module in the near future. Silicon Labs solutions have always worked very well for us.
Zigbee modules continue to be our preferred protocol for our products. We have tested quite a few different protocols in the past but ran into performance and cost issues. The Zigbee protocol and architecture, along with Silicon Labs’ Bluetooth mesh module, works exceptionally well for street lighting applications because of its reliable high performance, low power, and built-in security capabilities.
Where do you see IoT going in the next 5-8 years?
We are excited about our energy management applications in the enterprise market and see a great deal of potential in the future. Because our technology platform is already built into many Brazilian city infrastructures and the contracts are long-term (lasting anywhere from 20-30 years), we see a major opportunity to evolve into a multi-service network for cities. Our municipal customers want to explore other automated services on our platform, such as using environmental, traffic, and utility sensors to help them operate their cities more sustainably and efficiently. Silicon Labs’ Mighty Module solution is helping SmartGreen make this extension of our customer offering possible because of its cost-effective performance abilities.