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Apple, Google, and Amazon team up to create “CHIP,” a new smart home standard


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Apple, Google, and Amazon team up to create “CHIP,” a new smart home standard

Will this be the one smart home standard to rule them all or just another entry?

Stylized cartoon illustrates connected devices.

Apple, Google, Amazon, and the Zigbee Alliance have all teamed up to make a new smart home standard. The new working group went live today under the name of "Project Connected Home over IP" with announcement blog posts from Google, Apple, Zigbee, and a new website, connectedhomeip.com. The name doesn't sound too catchy until you realize "Connected Home over IP" abbreviates to "CHIP" which, across all these blog posts, is quietly used only a single time in the official FAQ.

 

According to the new website, "The goal of the Connected Home over IP project is to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers." But thanks to XKCD, we all know that one new standard to "unite them all" often just results in making one additional standard available, but assuming the companies involved actually support their own standard, this could—maybe—make things easier for consumers.

 

Currently, Apple's smart home ecosystem is HomeKit, and it works over IP (usually Wi-Fi) and Bluetooth LE. Amazon has the "Works with Alexa" program, and while Echos can handle IP connections, the smart home focused models also have Zigbee (an IEEE 802.15.4-based low-power, low-data-rate mesh network) built into them. Google being Google means it has several overlapping and competing smart home ecosystems at various stages of adoption. The company is working on shutting down the "Works with Nest" ecosystem in favor of the "Works with Google Assistant" ecosystem, which is IP-based. Google's Nest division has also cooked up the "Thread" network protocol, which, just like Zigbee, is an IEEE 802.15.4-based low-power, low-data-rate mesh network. While Thread can be radio compatible with Zigbee's ~900MHz or 2.45Ghz signal, Thread adds the ability to be wrapped in an IP packet and travel over Wi-Fi or the Internet. Nest also has the "Weave" communication standard, which defines how to send a message like "turn on the light" over the Thread or Wi-Fi network.

 

In addition to Apple, Google, Amazon, and Zigbee, the site says that "Zigbee Alliance board-member companies IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian are also on board to join the Working Group and contribute to the project."

The list of participating companies.
Enlarge / The list of participating companies.
Connected Home IP

It's impossible to know how truly committed each company is to Project CHIP at this stage, but the promised goal of building devices that are "compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Google's Assistant, and others" sounds great. Compatibility with the major voice-command systems is a primary concern for any new smart home product, and being able to tackle the big three with a single standard sounds a lot easier than implementing three separate APIs.

 

Project CHIP is open source. The site says "The reference implementation of the new standard, and its supporting tooling, will be developed and maintained on the GitHub open source platform for all aspects of the specification. Please stay tuned for more information." The website also says the new standard will be "royalty-free," which is not currently the case for Zigbee or Apple's HomeKit.

IP based

As the name suggests, the new standard will be IP based, and it "aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification." The site says the project aims to build "a new, unified connectivity protocol" that will "use contributions from market-tested smart home technologies from Amazon, Apple, Google, Zigbee Alliance, and others."

 

It sounds like, for starters, there will be three main network standards supported by the new project. "The goal of the first specification release will be Wi-Fi, up to and including 802.11ax (aka Wi-Fi 6)... 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."

 

No single network protocol is right for all devices and use cases. Wi-Fi is fast but power-hungry, which is great for plugged-in devices. Thread (or Zigbee) is slow, but it's ultra-low power, allowing a single coin battery to power something like a door sensor for months thanks to the low power usage. The working group says, "We expect that compliant devices must implement at least one supported technology and not necessarily all." So accessory manufacturers will just pick the most appropriate technology, while a hub would support all three.

 

The FAQ on the new site says the working group won't unify smart home user interfaces "such as voice assistants, smart displays, or desktop and mobile apps." That means Google, Amazon, and Apple will be free to compete in those areas—they'll just be competing with an even playing field of device support. The CHIP working group has "a goal to release a draft specification and a preliminary reference open source implementation in late 2020."

 

 

Source: Apple, Google, and Amazon team up to create “CHIP,” a new smart home standard (Ars Technica)  

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Project CHIP is open source... the new standard will be "royalty-free,"...

Sounds good, let's see how it will be at the end.

Does it mean that only one standard will remain at the end? Even if it makes things easier for the consumers, with only one choice.

 

There are already several posts in this forum about the above tech companies being under 'investigation' by justice/institutions for bad business behaviors usually linked to monopoly positions and the usage of the data collected. Wondering how the gathering will be seen by those authorities (?).

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