Apple Joins Alliance to Develop Smart Home Device Open Standards

The chaotic explosion of smart home devices has produced compatibility problems and duplications of effort. Apple recently joined forces with Google, Amazon and the Zigbee Alliance to create a new working group for smart home device standards.

By Chand Bellur

December 22, 2019 at 5:07 p.m. PDT

Project Connected Home over IP to Create New Smart Home Device Standards

Rapid expansion of the smart home device market has led to incompatibility between devices. Competition created disparate ecosystems, some more secure than others.

To combat smart home device chaos, a working group composed of Amazon, Apple, Google and the Zigbee Alliance is developing a new protocol for smart home devices.

The new protocol will use existing technology from contributing tech interests to speed development. The group has really hit the ground running, with a goal of implementing this standard as soon as possible. Being an open process makes it easier to develop products concurrently with the new standards. This should allow smart home device makers to ship new products rapidly.

Voice Service Interoperability

New devices conforming to the standards will be voice assistant agnostic. Whether you use Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, the new standards ensure that all devices will operate in the same way.

While this could have the effect of homogenizing voice services, flagship devices such as the iPhone, Amazon’s Fire TV and Google’s Pixel smartphones will all have differentiating voice service functions. New standards, however, may require accepting the lowest common denominator of voice service functionality. Given that most smart home devices require simple interaction, such a limitation should have a negligible impact.

Device Makers Have Input

The new working group is composed of the largest tech companies, which could give them an advantage over smaller players. If the standards are baroque and difficult to adopt, Apple, Google, Amazon and the many corporations that compose the Zigbee Alliance (NXP Semiconductors, IKEA, Samsung SmartThings and others), could squash small startups.

Fortunately, the Connected Home over IP working group doesn’t appear to be about establishing oligopoly. If anything, it gives third-party device manufacturers tools they can use to speed development. Instead of trying to fit into many different ecosystems, the standard creates one. It also creates a new protocol, which will spawn new APIs and other abstract tools.

Consumers also benefit from the new standards. A plethora of connected devices will flood the market. They’ll be easier to develop and manufacture, and inexpensive as well.

If you’ve put off purchasing smart home products, you may want to wait even longer. Products supporting the new standard may not be available for a few more years.

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