A lot of news hit the industry last month at CES 2020. Amid new product and service announcements were some partnership announcements too. One that’s worth picking back up and discussing is the new working group formed by Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance called Project Connected Home over IP, which aims to develop a new, open standard for smart-home device connectivity.

According to MarketsandMarkets, the smart-home sector will be worth 151.4 billion by 2024. Growth will be driven in part by factors like increased awareness and adoption of smart devices, a growing desire for saving energy and reducing carbon footprints, the ubiquitous adoption of smartphones, and increasingly accessible solutions in terms of pricepoint and ease of use. Research from McKinsey delves into exactly which devices have penetrated the market farthest. For instance, in security and safety, the top smart home device is a connected smoke or CO detector. Connected thermostats top the utilities management category, and a connected washer, dryer, or dishwasher tops the smart appliance list. Multi-room music solutions, like smart speakers, are the most common types of devices in the smart entertainment category.

However, the smart home market still faces hurdles such as interoperability, and it must also continually work to overcome consumers’ concerns about privacy and security. Regarding interoperability, consumers just want their devices to work. They want to be able to buy a smart device off the shelf and have it work with the existing devices in their homes. Regarding privacy and security, consumers want to know that the devices they’re bringing into their homes are safe and secure.

Members of the new working group say the goal of Project Connected Home over IP is to “simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers.” In fact, the Zigbee Alliance says at the core of the project is the members’ shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. By developing a royalty-free connectivity standard, the project could address both of the top smart-home market hurdles in one broad sweep—increasing compatibility among smart home products and focusing on security in the design stages.

The project will define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. The first specification release, according to Connected Home over IP, will be Wi-Fi, up to and including Wi-Fi 6; 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. More information is available at www.connectedhomeip.com.

For manufacturers, the contributions made by the new working group could help direct them in ways that will promote adoption of their products—e.g., by making it simpler to create devices that work well with popular voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google’s Assistant. For consumers, the fruits of the project will likely be an improved user experience while using smart home products, which can encourage additional device purchases in the future.

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