Cirrent's Plan to Solve Smart-Home Connectivity Problems

The startup plans to leverage existing technology in consumers' homes to make adding devices to their Wi-Fi networks a seamless, secure task.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

To ensure that the user does not add the new device to a neighbor's network, the Cirrect software detects the router to which the smartphone is linked and adds the new device to the same network by means of a Cirrent-supported SSID. If the user is setting up a device via Cirrent using a product web page on a computer, he or she can select which private network to link it to. Clicking "yes" automatically adds the device to the network. Conant says Cirrent will not use Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)—a security measure that utilizes a PIN to authenticate a device to a network, but which is also vulnerable to brute force attacks—while adding devices to a home's network. Instead, he says, Cirrent encrypts the SSID before transmitting it between the device and the router.

Whether the homeowner changes the network password, orders a new router from its ISP or moves to a different home (serviced by an ISP that also partners with Cirrent), the smart-home products will remain networked to the homeowner's Wi-Fi network, since their connections are managed by the device manufacturer, through the ISP, and not configured by the consumer.

"We figure [onboarding] should work just like cellular technology does in terms of ease—but it needs to be done at Wi-Fi prices," Conant says... by which he means, for free.

Conant says he is unable to name the manufacturers to which Cirrent is providing its firmware until those products are available, but that those companies will provide consumers with over-the-air firmware upgrades so that products that they are already using can be re-commissioned to the home network via Cirrent. To use Cirrent, those manufactures set up an account with Cirrent for each product they sell. If the consumer's ISP supports Cirrent's technology, then when the consumer adds the device to his or her home network, it will be onboarded to the network automatically via Cirrent's cloud-based software.

Cirrent will earn a fee from the manufacturer every time a device is onboarded using Cirrent, Conant says. That is the only revenue stream that Cirrent will enjoy, but given the volume of Wi-Fi-connected products sold each year, he adds, the opportunity is substantial.

Last month, Cisco released its latest estimates of global IP traffic, reporting that globally, machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will grow nearly threefold, from 4.9 billion in 2015 to 12.2 billion by 2020, at which point they will represent nearly half of the total pool of connected devices. Cisco expects smart-home products will account for the largest volume of M2M connections during the forecast period, with 2.4 billion in 2015, growing to 5.8 billion by 2020.

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