On different scales, two tech firms are helping to usher in the new era in wireless connectivity…
One name will literally be up in lights around the world, while the other will be quietly hidden away in millions of homes.
Yet both solutions are part of the movement towards one purpose: growing the Internet of Things.
Let me explain.
Internet of Things – or IoT – is a concept where the Internet moves beyond desktops, laptops, and smart phones. Proponents envision a world in which everything from consumer electronics, to automobiles, household appliances, airplanes, and even entire factories are all connected and accessible through the net.
As we continually strive to make our lives easier and more efficient, we’ve come to rely more and more on the Internet to help us with those needs.
Arguably, some believe we are actually becoming busier by virtue of doing more of the things that are supposed to simplify our lives. Go figure.
Nevertheless, IoT is the hot new concept that everyone is trying to get in on, and tech companies are racing to be the first to take a major foothold in this phenomenon.
At the business level, efficiency and cost-savings are key goals for why an IoT solution would be needed.
Whether it’s the ability to monitor equipment usage or energy consumption, organizations can have the ability to manage their operations better.
Take the city of London, UK for example.
The local government there, like with all metropolitan cities, has a complex infrastructure that’s made up of many moving parts.
City managers have a tall task of overseeing everything from waste management to traffic patterns.
They not only have to ensure that their cities function as smoothly as possible; they also have a responsibility to keep expenditures under control.
This brings us to the first company…
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Sierra Wireless (NASDAQ:SWIR) — Sierra develops a variety of wireless and computing solutions hardware.
From modems to mobile hotspots, it specializes in machine-to-machine communication applications.
In June, Sierra entered into a partnership with Philips to embed wireless modules that will provide connectivity for the CityTouch LightWave remote lighting management system.
CityTouch LightWave is a state-of-the-art remote lighting management system that includes intelligent “plug and play’’ outdoor lighting fixtures.
Cities around the world can implement the CityTouch system quickly and affordably; using LED outdoor fixtures that feature built-in mobile connectivity to the central management system, courtesy of Sierra’s AirPrime modules.
According to SWIR, once such a fixture is plugged in, a light point automatically appears on the CityTouch map at the right location and with its main technical parameters already integrated into the system.
Within a few short clicks, the remote lighting management system can allow central control of all lights in that area, either individually or as a group.
The software also provides the current lighting status, auto-notifications of faults and accurate information on energy usage of each streetlight.
A system like this can offer substantial energy savings to municipal customers as LED lighting combined with intelligent controls can reduce energy consumption by up to 80%.
So what cities would be interested in something like this?
For starters, CityTouch is currently installed in parts of London, Prague, and Rotterdam.
In London, one system monitors some 42,000 lights and is expected to have an operating life span of at least 25 years.
As Philips’ system grows in the municipal market, more Sierra Wireless modules will need to be produced and installed.
With a market cap slightly below $700 million, there’s a lot of growth opportunity ahead.
SWIR hasn’t generated any profits yet, but its 20% year-over-year increase in revenue in Q1 2014 proves that the Internet of Things is a viable market for it to pursue.
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The second company is network solutions provider, NetGear Inc. (NASDAQ:NTGR).
In an eye-opening report by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), one of the thirstiest energy vampires found in nearly every household is an Internet router.
In fact, the number of active routers and Wi-Fi modems are estimated to suck up around three coal power plants’ worth of electricity in the US every year.
NTGR CEO Patrick Lo says his company conducted a survey recently and found that on average, an American home now has around nine devices that are Wi-Fi-enabled.
Within the next 3-5 years, that number will increase to 30 devices.
This means that an IoT solution will be crucial for households to manage devices in the near future… but that’s where NetGear’s latest product comes in handy.
Its Nighthawk X6 router boasts six antennas, three wifi radios and a dual-core 1GHz processor. Built on the new Broadcom 5G Wi-Fi XStream chipset, it also is has 802.11ac and two USB ports.
As beefed up as this router is, energy-saving features come standard on this and most other NetGear devices, including:
- power on/off button — no need to physically unplug
- wireless on/off button — 30% less power with wireless turned off
- wireless output power management — control wifi transmit power
- powerline idle – low power mode when a port is not in use
- port auto power down – detects if a port is connected or not
- cable length power save – shorter cables mean less power to transmit
Nighthawk X6 also supports NetGear’s Beamforming+, a smart, signal-focusing technology that improves Wi-Fi connections by locking onto a wireless device on the network and pinpointing Wi-Fi signals directly at the device.
Beamforming+ adjusts for distance, delivering the best experience for fast downloads, clearer Voice over Internet (VoIP) calls, uninterrupted HD video, and lag-free gaming.
What’s more, NetGear offers its genie® personal dashboard which allows users to have full operating and monitoring control of this device — which further helps with energy consumption when the router isn’t in use.
Lastly, by being an ENERGY STAR® certified partner, NTGR has developed energy-saving standards that all its products must abide by.
By striking a strong balance between efficiency and performance, NTGR offers the perfect solution to control the Internet of Things for the home.
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