ZeroTier solution lets Forest Rock walk (and work) through walls.

“ZeroTier unlocked doors for what we were capable of as a company…” Gareth Shirley, sales and operations manager at Forest Rock, said.

This is what the ZeroTier solution was built for. It is our goal to provide a similar experience to all our users, from hyper-local startups, to global enterprises. Or, as the case may be, UK-based smart-building management companies.

Meet Forest Rock

Forest Rock is an organization at the leading edge of IoT technology and smart building infrastructure in Ireland and the United Kingdom. The company’s primary mission involves “…connecting people, places, and things…” to make industry-scale building management easier and more sustainable.

“Our solutions help customers better manage buildings and therefore reduce energy consumption and associated expenses,” Gareth said. 

How do they do it?

Forest Rock supports commercial, residential, educational, and other large-scale human-occupied buildings and building networks. By engaging the most up-to-date hardware and software available, the company is able to better monitor and manage internal building systems. This includes overall building functions, as well as energy usage, and cybersecurity.

Forest Rock’s N4EM (N4 Energy Manager) leveraged machine learning to help facilities track and improve their building management practices over time. This enables Forest Rock’s network of clients to bolster efficiency, save money, and improve their profits over the long term.

Forest Rock offers top IoT technology to their building clients, but until they met ZeroTier, the company struggled to make their networking dreams a reality.

The (seemingly) insurmountable problem

Clear visibility into building processes is at the crux of Forest Rock’s success. Their IoT-based strategy means that most of their clients are going to be managing in-network buildings remotely, sometimes a whole ocean away. Being able to address a problem quickly, whether it’s a matter of routine maintenance or emergency, requires clear and quick perspective into what’s going on, and where.

For years, this kind of real-time and hyper-specific diagnostic capability just wasn’t achievable for Forest Rock. Without eyes in each one of their client’s structures, the only way the company could discover a problem with a temperature panel, a flood sensor, or a maintenance monitor was if someone on-site called it in. This would lead to an in-person investigation by a company technician, who often had to travel from hundreds of miles away to reach the site, to figure out the issue. Of course, this method of triage was extremely unsustainable from a cost and resource perspective, and needed to be fixed.

Gareth had a vision. 

“[We] wouldn’t have to move…didn’t have to travel, and…were connected to all that equipment with all the control and visibility that we’d have if we were on site.” Forest Rock began introducing new solutions that would address these pressing pain points.

The company kept running into walls, at first. 

  • Upgrading device connectivity with public IP addresses necessitated the use of 4G routers, which are not always accessible, and made organizations vulnerable to bad actors.
  • VPNs provided better security, but required clients to onboard technicians with VPN expertise to help manage the systems. In addition to this escalating expense and complexity, some VPN providers failed to provide continuous connectivity or introduced latency due to backhauling network traffic defeating the purpose of improved round-the-clock system visibility.

That’s when Forest Rock decided to partner with ZeroTier.

The Forest Rock story, now with ZeroTier

Forest Rock’s networking team knew they needed to simplify their networking infrastructure. Complex hardware systems involving multiple 4G routers proved expensive and unwieldy. And using VPNs meant they were constantly dealing with frustrating connectivity issues. So they turned to ZeroTier – a simplified solution in the form of a secure network overlay.

ZeroTier’s virtual network is simple to implement and maintain:

  •  A lightweight agent is installed on Forest Rock’s IoT devices in the field. 
  • The agent allows those devices to establish direct peer-to-peer connections with each other and with control systems, no matter where they are in the world. 
  • Forest Rock and their clients can then view and manage devices from a central dashboard. 

“We wish we’d done it sooner.

ZeroTier’s solution ticked all the boxes to meet  Forest Rock’s most critical needs.

  • Visibility. ZeroTier’s centralized management dashboards give actionable insights to end users at client companies as well as Forest Rock employees. Triage processes, which formerly required a commute, can now happen in minutes from a remote monitor. “Now, we can just load up a laptop, log in, diagnose,” Gareth said.
  • Accessibility. End users need no specific training or expertise to make ZeroTier work for them. “…they understand it. They don’t need years of experience or knowledge with networking,” Gareth said.
  • Scalability. Forest Rock serves a variety of clients, some with a single building, some with upwards of 500 individual sites. ZeroTier’s flexible solution allows end users secure access to distributed devices, whatever their needs, and whatever the size of their operation.
  • Cost effectiveness. ZeroTier’s pricing is extremely affordable for partners, who then pass those savings on to their clients. Gareth recalled one client who was spending £1000 + per site for initial setup. They switched to Forest Rock when they showed them how their  solution could save them 80% of what they were spending.
  • Security. ZeroTier is a lightweight solution, but one which nonetheless offers robust security. “We sometimes have to do a bit of extra work in convincing the end customers or other project stakeholders that this is the right solution,” Gareth said. And security is one of ZeroTier’s top selling points. Direct device-to-device connection provides advanced data privacy for everyone involved, from private residents to Forest Rock themselves.

Forest Rock’s partnership with ZeroTier has proved a game changer. “We wish we’d done it sooner,” Shirley said.

If you want to dive deeper into Forest Rock’s journey with ZeroTier, take a look at the  full case study

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