Everything gadget you buy nowadays has some sort of smart home or AI assistant functionality built into it. The problem being, there are a lot of companies doing their own thing and they are not overly keen on talking to each other. Most companies have some form of API which allows partial access, but it is not ideal.

While Alexa may be a common name in your home, Zigbee or Z-Wave systems have often been reserved for enthusiast systems, but this looks like it could change in the future.

Several companies are teaming up to create a new open standard called Connected Home over IP.

This will encompass multiple communication protocols from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth and by the looks of things Zigbee

Along with Apple, Amazon and Google in the group, the Zigbee Alliance has a large list of board members which include:

  • IKEA
  • Legrand
  • NXP Semiconductors
  • Resideo
  • Samsung SmartThings
  • Schneider Electric
  • Signify (formerly Philips Lighting)
  • Silicon Labs
  • Somfy
  • Wulian

At first, the companies will be rolling out a preliminary reference open-source implementation with the specification including:

Wi-Fi, up to and including 802.11ax (aka Wi-Fi 6), that is 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax; 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.

Zigbee (802.15.4) itself isn't technically an open standard, all the above company much pay an annual fee to be a member which conflicts with the GNU General Public Licence.

Zigbee has been around since the late '90s with and was revised in 2006, while it has gained traction in the smart home community, and boosted by the fact SmartThings uses it, it is hardly a household name like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

While Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Z-Wave are well established, some companies still insist on using proprietary protocols. Most recently Den Automation, who used a locked-down version of Zigbee went into liquidation and all their hardware was essentially bricked when they switched the servers off.

The draft spec it due for late 2020, so don't get too excited about all your tech being able to talk to each other yet.

It will be interesting to see if we ever get an Amazon, Apple or Google made product using Zigbee itself. This could end up being the thing that makes proper smart home technology mainstream, probably not though.

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