Remote device management (RDM) is a capability that has, in theory, been available to telco broadband providers for several years. The TR-069 standard networking language has been around since 2004, said Chris Beatson, VP, project management and software engineering for NRTC subsidiary, NeoNova. But device manufacturers are just now coming to common interpretations of the standard leading to much better applications, he said.
NeoNova can help rural telcos offering broadband service to plan and deploy connected home services.
Beatson and Alana Pilkington, NRTC’s VP, Internet Services, led a webinar on RDM technology yesterday, hosted by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. “All consumers now that have a broadband connection rely on it much more than they did in years past due to the number of devices and the diversity of applications,” Pilkington said. Demand for technology that controls multiple devices and applications is growing.
She pointed to statistics from Parks Associates estimating U.S. broadband households average more than 3.5 IP-connected devices and that the average will rise to 4.5 by 2016. Where most households once connected to the Internet with a desktop computer only, there has been growth in smart phones, tablets, Wi-Fi routers, and gaming consoles. Many homes today also connect through household appliances, such as thermostats and home security systems.
Beatson reviewed the basics of RDM. Telcos distribute TR-069-compatible modems to their customers and when deployed, the modems are in contact with an autoconfiguration server (ACS). The modem takes an inventory of all connected devices in the home and transmits them to ACS. Later, the customer is able to access an online portal to the ACS-collected data to gather user statistics.
The customer also can use the ACS connection to begin setting up some home network applications, such as remote control of the home thermostat. “There’s a ton of ways it can help and I think we’re just scratching the surface in terms of what’s possible,” Beatson said.
“In addition to the connected home opportunities, there are also a lot of agricultural-based devices out there, like grain bin monitoring and irrigation that could be managed through a broadband connection,” Pilkington said.
RDM also provides the telco broadband provider with significant operational benefits. Telcos will be able to avoid modem swap-outs by remotely upgrading firmware. It also will cut down on truck rolls by using RDM data to handle customer service issues over the phone. “With these sorts of systems in place, customer support is much improved … That generally leads to happy customers,” Beatson said.