Apple, Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance have announced the formation of a new working group that will create a royalty-free open standard for smart home devices, with security as the topmost priority. The name of this working group is Connected Home over IP.
Currently, smart home devices work well within their own ecosystem, but compatibility remains an issue when trying to mix and match devices. Security is another major concern for consumers, as the usage of smart devices continues to grow. The group aims to fix these issues.
Along with Apple, Amazon and Google in the group, the Zigbee Alliance has a large list of board members which include:
- NXP Semiconductors
- Samsung SmartThings
- Schneider Electric
- Signify (formerly Philips Lighting)
- Silicon Labs
The result of the group's efforts would mean that future smart home devices could use the open standard and work with various platforms and smart assistants such as Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google Assistant. As the standard will be open and royalty-free, it will encourage more manufacturers and developers to support it.
The project aims to make it easier for device manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and others. The planned protocol will complement existing technologies, and working group members encourage device manufacturers to continue innovating using technologies available today.
This will be a major win for consumers who have to decide from a plethora of device compatibility and protocol issues. These issues lock them into an ecosystem, which makes it harder to switch later. As we all know, smart devices are not cheap.
If the protocol is software-based, users would expect existing devices to be upgraded to support it. However, the working group's website specifies that the focus of the project is on new products.
As per Connected Home over IP's website, draft specifications for the new protocol will be made available in late 2020. The protocol will not be created entirely from scratch and will use existing systems and protocols which include the following:
- Amazon’s Alexa Smart Home
- Apple’s HomeKit
- Google’s Weave
- Zigbee Alliance’s Dotdot data models
In terms of networking technologies, the latest standards will be supported:
The goal of the first specification release will be Wi-Fi, up to and including 802.11ax (aka Wi-Fi 6), that is 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax; Thread over 802.15.4-2006 at 2.4 GHz; and IP implementations for Bluetooth Low Energy, versions 4.1, 4.2, and 5.0 for the network and physical wireless protocols.
One thing that the open standard will not do is attempt to standardize smart home user interfaces. Devices from different manufacturers, as well as mobile apps like Apple's Home and Google Home will continue to utilize their own unique user interfaces.
While it may take a couple of years for the first Connect Home over IP compatible smart devices to hit the market, this announcement is music to our ears. We can't wait to start using smart devices that work with all mobile platforms and smart assistants.