New Alliance to Bring Order to Smart Homes

Article By : Nitin Dahad

Amazon, Apple, Google and Zigbee Alliance lead Connected Home over IP project to simplify connectivity between smart home device manufacturers.

Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance have announced a new working group to develop and promote the adoption of a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products. The goal is to complete a draft specification by late 2020 that focuses on making smart homes ‘just work’, according to the group.

The Connected Home over IP project aims to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. The group’s press statement said the project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. 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.

The project will define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. It expects that compliant devices must implement at least one supported technology and not necessarily all. 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.

The working group will likely also embrace other IP-bearing technologies like ethernet, cellular, broadband, and others. Some companies might focus their product offerings on the protocol over Wi-Fi/ethernet, while others might target the protocol over Thread or BLE, and still others might support a combination.

The industry working group will take an open-source approach for the development and implementation of the new, unified connectivity protocol. By developing an open source project in conjunction with the creation of the specification, the architecture can be prototyped and tested in real world use cases. At the end of the process, adopters can use this same code to speed up their product development.

Connected Home Over IP Companies

To accelerate development of the protocol, the working group will start with components of market-tested smart home technologies from Amazon, Apple, Google, Zigbee Alliance, and others in both in the Internet of things (IoT) space and outside. The decision to leverage these technologies is expected to accelerate the development of the protocol and deliver benefits to manufacturers and consumers faster. Any open source code the working group chooses to incorporate will be copied into the Connected Home over IP open source project and will be modified as needed.

The project intends to leverage development work and protocols from existing systems such as Amazon’s Alexa smart home, Apple’s HomeKit, Google’s Weave and Zigbee Alliance’s Dotdot data models. The working group stresses that at this time it does not intend to standardize smart home user interfaces such as voice assistants, smart displays, or desktop and mobile apps.

Zigbee Alliance board member companies such as 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 group said the IP-based approach is appropriate because with IP being the most common network layer used in homes and offices, this allows IP messages to be routed across networks independent of the physical and link layers underlying them. There are ample battle tested algorithms and infrastructure for performing routing, switching and firewalling in robust and resilient ways. On top of IP, you inherit accepted transport protocols like TCP and UDP. Consequently, it said IP is an ideal way to deliver end-to-end security and privacy in communication between a device and another device, app, or service. Since the protocol is built upon IP, its message traffic should be able to flow seamlessly across different kinds of networks.

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