The IoT wars are over, maybe? Amazon, Apple, Google give up on smart-home domination dreams, agree to develop common standards

The bad news: You may have to buy all new kit if you want things to work


After years of trying and failing to dominate the smart home market with their own standards, tech giants Amazon, Apple and Google have finally agreed to work on a set of common code that will allow smart home products, from thermostats to cameras to plugs to digital assistants, to work together seamlessly.

The new “Connected Home over IP” approach will be developed through a new working group within smart home veteran organization the Zigbee Alliance, and the broad brush blueprint of the new standard is stark in its obviousness. It will be an IP-based protocol so it can connect directly to the internet rather than require a hub; it will be open-source and royalty-free and allow for end-to-end secure communication; and it will work with core standards like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

The new standard should emerge in draft form in late 2020, meaning that 2021 will be the start of a new era in smart home tech, where Alexa talks to Nest and you can have a single app on your phone to talk to everything else. The initial push appears to be to work with digital voice assistants.

The announcement today itself is the news: the fact that all the tech giants, as well as nearly all key players in the smart home market (IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify, Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian) have agreed that it makes more sense for all their products to work together rather than try to create their own closed eco-systems and battle it out, is great news for consumers.

It means you can buy an Amazon Alexa and a Google Nest thermostat and have them work seamlessly together, rather than the current sorry state of affairs where you’re never quite sure what will happen.

Magic soup

Beyond that headline though, it’s hard to know what will happen: Google has said it will throw in its Thread and Weave protocols (Thread will likely emerge intact; Weave, not so much); Amazon will put in its Alexa system; Apple its HomeKit approach (which has been a mess tbh); Zigbee will put in its Dotdot approach. And somehow out of all of this, a new wonderful single standard will emerge.

Here’s hoping the dedication to a single standard runs deep because there are inevitably going to be trade-offs and winners and losers.

The biggest losers from this announcement though is Intel and The Open Connectivity Foundation’s Iotivity standard, as well as Zigbee rival Z-Wave (Betamax won, fellas). Plus all other smart home wannabes, who must have known that it was only a matter of time: X10, LightwaveRF, Brillo - we’re sure we’ve forgotten some more.

The good news is that all those involved have promised that their current kit will continue to work, so no more bricking of very expensive electronics. The even better news is that there is a real opportunity here to massively raise the baseline of security in smart home devices.

The bad news is that while existing products will still work, you will need to buy all new kit if you want to benefit from full interoperability. So if you have decided to take the plunge and equip your whole house with smart home tech, you would be well advised to wait a year.

Thread this

There are tons of canned quotes from execs out out there today, so will provide just one, from president of the Thread Group, Grant Erickson: “The fact that the challenge of IoT market fragmentation has brought the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google, and others to collaborate on the solution speaks to the gravitas of the problem to-date. Moreover, with this unprecedented collaboration, Project Connected Home over IP brings a powerful tailwind that will help usher in the next phase of growth for IoT.

Game of Thrones

The Internet of Things becomes the Game of Thrones in standards war

READ MORE

“We at the Thread Group feel validated on two fronts. First, to create this unified app-layer protocol Project CHIP is taking the same IP-based approached Thread Group used, and second, they’ve designated Thread as a network layer for low power devices. We believe that this effort will confer tangible, meaningful benefits to both product manufacturers and consumers alike. We look forward to seeing what true convergence can bring to the market.”

There is a ton more information available on the announcement with every main partner putting out their own announcement (Google’s; Apple’s, Zigbee’s). But they add very little to what’s above; in large part because no one knows yet what will result.

All they know is that it makes more financial sense to work together and compete on brand and quality rather than try to control the market with standards. And for that, we should all be grateful. Assuming the alliance holds together that is. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • It's primed and full of fuel, the James Webb Space Telescope is ready to be packed up prior to launch

    Fingers crossed the telescope will finally take to space on 22 December

    Engineers have finished pumping the James Webb Space Telescope with fuel, and are now preparing to carefully place the folded instrument inside the top of a rocket, expected to blast off later this month.

    “Propellant tanks were filled separately with 79.5 [liters] of dinitrogen tetroxide oxidiser and 159 [liters of] hydrazine,” the European Space Agency confirmed on Monday. “Oxidiser improves the burn efficiency of the hydrazine fuel.” The fuelling process took ten days and finished on 3 December.

    All eyes are on the JWST as it enters the last leg of its journey to space; astronomers have been waiting for this moment since development for the world’s largest space telescope began in 1996.

    Continue reading
  • China to upgrade mainstream RISC-V chips every six months

    Home-baked silicon is the way forward

    China is gut punching Moore's Law and the roughly one-year cadence for major chip releases adopted by the Intel, AMD, Nvidia and others.

    The government-backed Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is developing open-source RISC-V performance processor, says it will release major design upgrades every six months. CAS is hoping that the accelerated release of chip designs will build up momentum and support for its open-source project.

    RISC-V is based on an open-source instruction architecture, and is royalty free, meaning companies can adopt designs without paying licensing fees.

    Continue reading
  • The SEC is investigating whistleblower claims that Tesla was reckless as its solar panels go up in smoke

    Tens of thousands of homeowners and hundreds of businesses were at risk, lawsuit claims

    The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into whether Tesla failed to tell investors and customers about the fire risks of its faulty solar panels.

    Whistleblower and ex-employee, Steven Henkes, accused the company of flouting safety issues in a complaint with the SEC in 2019. He filed a freedom of information request to regulators and asked to see records relating to the case in September, earlier this year. An SEC official declined to hand over documents, and confirmed its probe into the company is still in progress.

    “We have confirmed with Division of Enforcement staff that the investigation from which you seek records is still active and ongoing," a letter from the SEC said in a reply to Henkes’ request, according to Reuters. Active SEC complaints and investigations are typically confidential. “The SEC does not comment on the existence or nonexistence of a possible investigation,” a spokesperson from the regulatory agency told The Register.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021