Amazon, Apple, Google, and ZigBee Want to Join Forces in Your Smart Home

An Echo, Google Home, SmartThings, Nest, and more.
Josh Hendrickson

Choosing what smart home devices to buy can be a chore. You need to know what platforms a device supports like Alexa, Google Assistant, ZigBee, and more. Manufacturing them is equally complicated. Now Amazon, Apple, Google, and the ZigBee Alliance are promising a solution to the problem: work together! They’re forming a working group called Project Connected Home over IP to create one standard to bridge them all.

Less Development Time, More Compatibility

Right now, smart home manufacturers have to play a game of pick and choose. What platforms to support? Alexa implementation or Google Assistant? How about a ZigBee radio? Implement HomeKit? It’s tempting to say “Why not all of them?” but each new platform adds to the cost of development and introduces additional potential security vulnerabilities.

So that’s why when you’re shopping for a smart light, you may encounter one that looks great but only supports Alexa or Google, not both.

The new working group plans to implement a new open-source royalty-free standard to increase compatibility across platforms and devices. It’s a big deal for both smart home manufacturers and consumers.

If all goes well, manufacturers will be able to implement the standard once and have immediate support for Alexa, Google, ZigBee, Siri, and more. Other smart home companies are joining the group, like IKEA, Samsung SmartThings, and Signify (the company behind Philips Hue).

That means less confusion when you’re buying smart home devices. You won’t need to worry so much about whether it supports your platform of choice or not. Out of the gate, smart home gadgets that comply with this standard will support many platforms (with Z-Wave being the biggest omission).

A Thread of Familiarity

As the working group name suggests, the new standard will utilize Internet Protocol (IP) to form a bridge between the different platforms. Most consumers already have a Wi-Fi router in their home, so in some ways, that would become the new “hub.”

By switching away from proprietary protocols and towards IP, the goal is to cut down on differences and utilize an established method of communication with built-in security. The goal is very similar to what the Thread Group is trying to accomplish. Both are working towards using IP as the primary communication method.

Pairing down to just one controlling standard increases security on multiple fronts. Not only can the standard rely on long-existing security protocols already implemented in IP, but there’s less to fix overall. It’s one set of code to work with instead of half a dozen APIs.

Don’t Hold Your Breath

Don’t get too excited, though. While this is a big deal, this is very early days. Today’s announcement was the formation of a new working group. The new standard doesn’t exist yet. The group could fall apart, or the group could change direction entirely.

Even if Project Connected Home over IP does manage to create and release a fantastic standard that’s perfect in every way, that doesn’t guarantee it will be adopted. Only time will tell how this all shakes out. But bringing together this many competing companies for one unified cause is a big step to a brighter future.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »

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