ABI Research says the smart home market was worth $56 billion in 2018, and it’s expected to reach $123 billion by 2022. However, smart home has its work cut out for it, and, in many ways, it always has. While far more consumers recognize the benefits of smart-home technologies than they did 10 years ago and far more of them have smart technologies in their homes, the ecosystem remains a complicated one. Interoperability is one of the main challenges facing the space, but smart-home industry players are working toward a more standardized, interoperable smart home future.
The Zigbee Alliance was established back in 2002 and is still one of the loudest voices in the industry pushing for universal open standards for smart home. The organization is made up of hundreds of companies working toward creating, maintaining, and delivering open, global standards for the IoT (Internet of Things). IoT research firm ON World says half a billion Zigbee chipsets have been sold to date, and analysts predict Zigbee Alliance technologies will account for 3.8 billion of the 4.5 billion IEEE 802.15.4 units projected to ship by 2023—that’s 85%.
The latest addition to the Zigbee Alliance’s Board of Directors is Amazon, and it seems wherever Amazon goes and whatever Amazon does, the industry must always pause to look. Zigbee rightly says that Amazon’s decision to join its alliance at the Board of Directors level sends a strong message to the rest of the IoT space. In this case, the message is that the way forward in the IoT industry must include a focus on simplifying the user experience in smart home and beyond. For consumers, the move will also mean Amazon customers can now use Amazon devices like the Echo Plus to connect new Zigbee products simply by saying “Alexa, discover my devices.”
Christian Taubman, director of Alexa Smart Home at Amazon, said in a statement that Amazon’s customers crave smart-home experiences that are simple to setup and easy to control and that add convenience to their everyday tasks. Organizations like the Zigbee Alliance that contribute to the creation of standards for device interoperability will help remove some of the complexity of smart home, which could support future adoption and spur industry growth and innovation.
Besides simplifying the user experience through interoperability, standards can also ensure connected devices in the home and elsewhere follow industry best practices regarding device security. In smart home and other areas of the IoT, device security and consumer data privacy are hot issues, and for good reason. As more consumers use connected home devices like smart voice-activated speakers with AI (artificial intelligence) built in, Wi-Fi-connected video doorbells and baby monitors and security cameras, and connected appliances and home electronics, more consumer data is being collected and there are more virtual entry points into homes and home networks. As a result, consumers, device manufacturers, and every other player in the IoT ecosystem must be conscious of not only how well devices and systems are working together (and how easy they are to use in the first place) but also how safe and secure these devices and systems are.
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