Tech Companies Join “Connected Home over IP” Alliance

Apple, Amazon and Google’s parent company, Alphabet joined the “Connected Home over IP” alliance. The companies will collaborate to build a foundation to ensure compatibility between their smart home products. Members of the Zigbee Alliance, including IKEA and NXP Semiconductors will contribute to the project as well.  The Zigbee Alliance is the standard-bearer for the open Internet of Things. The companies want to make it easier for products to work with smart home and voice controls, such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. This initiative comes after Amazon worked to allow users to use its Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana for the same device.

The alliance will “simplify development for device manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers.” According to Apple’s announcement, the “new working group… plans to develop and promote the adoption of new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products, with security as a fundamental design tenet.” The group will use an open-source approach for this new, unified connectivity protocol. The goal is to create a new standard so the devices can work together.

“[T]he lack of an industry-wide connectivity standard leaves people confused and frustrated when trying to understand what devices work with each smart home ecosystem,” Nik Sathe and Grant Erickson, engineers at Google Nest, said in a statement. “It also places a heavy burden on manufacturers to make sure all devices are compatible with each other.”

Amazon and Google have an existing system that allows third-party apps to connect with their devices. Apple has a less open standard and is compatible with fewer third party devices. According to MarketWatch, the smart home market is expected to grow at 13.08 percent to $124.57 billion by 2025 globally.

The alliance raises privacy and security concerns, despite Apple’s statement that the effort is built with “a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use.” For example, will data be shared with all of the companies involved in the alliance. Some of these companies may have more relaxed security measures than others, so will there be a new security standard for these companies to follow. Google limited the number of companies it shared data with for its Google Nest over privacy concerns.

The alliance hopes to have the new protocol developed by the end of next year.