Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Apple, Google, Amazon, Zigbee form smart home alliance

Here’s the Unlikely News Story of the Day: Apple, Google, Amazon, and an alliance of other smart-home manufacturers1 say they’re going to work together on an open-source protocol for communicating with smart-home devices via IP:

The goal of the Connected Home over IP project is to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. 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.

You can find more, including FAQ’s, over at the Connected Home IP website.

My quick-hit reaction to this is that we’re so far down the smart-home path that the major players have realized none of them have dominated the initial land grab, and now all of them face a barrier to growth because of the incompatibility of the different smart-home tech approaches. So they’re pouring all their work on building this connectivity into a working group:

The industry Working Group will take an open-source approach for the development and implementation of a new, unified connectivity protocol. The project intends to use contributions from market-tested smart home technologies from Amazon, Apple, Google, Zigbee Alliance, and others. The decision to leverage these technologies is expected to accelerate the development of the protocol, and deliver benefits to manufacturers and consumers faster.

In other words, “Let’s pool the work already done, agree on one standard, and start competing directly on products rather than trying to force people into one ecosystem by breaking compatibility with other products.” If that’s where this goes, that’s great news for consumers of smart-home tech. (It also feels a bit like a recognition of the reality of this situation—I rarely see home tech that doesn’t offer compatibility across multiple platforms, and surely it would be easier for all concerned if smart-home devices didn’t have to separately build connectivity with Alexa, HomeKit, Zigbee, and others.)

Finally, a note on the name “Connected Home over IP.” John Gruber says it needs a catchy name and suggests CHIP. My first cut on it based on NASA acronym techniques would be to call it CHOP. But I suspect that either the partners don’t want a name (leaving their individual brands at the center of things) or they realize it will ultimately need a shiny, fancy brand name like EveryHome or SmartWidgets or NetSwitches. In which case, all those deep-pocketed organizations will presumably pitch in to hire a branding consultant to do the job.

  1. IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian. 
—Linked by Jason Snell

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