Apple, Google, Amazon, Zigbee partner on smart home

Apple’s HomePod (left) displayed next to the Google Home and Amazon Echo devices. Apple’s entry into the smart home device market was “late to the game and mispriced,” says Wedbush Securities managing director Dan Ives.

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Amazon, Google, Apple and the Zigbee Alliance on Wednesday announced a rare partnership that’s focused on making smart homes easier for everyone.

Amazon, Google and Apple are all competing for people to buy products that work with their in home-systems and are still trying to build a solution that’s simple for everyone to use. But the competition itself has created a really confusing landscape for consumers and manufacturers of smart home products.

According to September figures from IDC, the “worldwide market for smart home devices is expected to grow 23.5% year over year in 2019 to nearly 815 million device shipments.” That figure is expected to grow to 1.39 billion devices in 2023. For that to happen, and for consumers to keep their sanity, consumers are going to need some sort of standard that gets everything talking to one another.

That’s why companies that typically compete against one another are teaming up.

Today, you might walk into a store and buy a smart lock for your home. But you’d have to figure out if you need to buy a lock that works with Amazon Echo (which uses various standards including Zigbee), Google Home or Apple HomeKit.

This same headache extends to the companies that build smart devices. They need to decide from the outset if they want to support various connectivity methods used by Amazon, Apple or Google and, if they do, they need to continue updating the device throughout its life so it’s secure across all platforms.

The new standard aims to fix those problems.

It’s called “Project Connected Home over IP” and it will work to create a new standard for the smart home so that people can buy products knowing that they’ll work with the systems they have at home, and that they’re secure. A logo on gadget boxes will let customers know if it’s built and supported by Project Connected Home over IP or not.

“The project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use,” the companies said in a press release. “By building upon Internet Protocol (IP), the project 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.”

Zigbee Alliance companies that are already creating products will also contribute. They include, among others, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), IKEA, NXP Semiconductors and Resideo.

The group will focus first on physical safety smart home devices, such as smoke alarms and CO sensors, smart doors and locks, security systems, electrical plugs, window shades and HVAC controls before expanding into other types of devices and commercial solutions.

The group is working to release a draft specification and preliminary open source materials late next year. It’s unclear when the first products will be on the market.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Project Connected Home over IP will support CO sensors.

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