Tech alliance: Amazon, Apple and Google working together for an open smart home

Amazon, Apple and Google have formed an unlikely alliance to develop an open-source connectivity standard for smart home devices.

The “Connected Home over IP” or CHIP Project is a new Working Group alliance with big-name companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple and the entire Zigbee Alliance. The Zigbee Alliance board members included IKEA, Samsung Smart Things, Signify (previously Philips Lighting) Schneider Electric and more. These companies are working together to create a more compatible standard that works with more devices so consumers won’t have to wonder if their machine will work.

Google’s smart Nest Thermostat. (Photo: Google Store)

The smart home space is a hot mess. There are many smart home technologies. Amazon, Google, IKEA and other brands use proprietary techniques that may be incompatible with each other.

The CHIP Project hopes to help reduce customer frustration with smart home tech. Imagine purchasing smart light bulbs only to find out they won’t work with your smart hub. The Project will ensure that supported smart home devices work together regardless of whether you interact with Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa.

The CHIP project will be built on Internet Protocol (IP). The protocol runs the internet; however, smart devices have taken a more isolated approach. The CHIP alliance hopes to change that. Each alliance member is to add their expertise from proven products like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Nest and Apple’s Siri.

By doing so, the entire smart home ecosystem can benefit from the best of each company. For example, Google is good at harnessing internet information to provide the best answer to each question. Apple is big on privacy and security. Customers stand to benefit the most by merging those two design philosophies. Additionally, companies may not have to develop their technologies from scratch or worry much about compatibility.

Ikea smart LED bulb. (Photo: Ikea)

Another advantage of using Internet Protocol instead of another closed-source communication channel is that IP is already well developed and widely used. Proprietary standards require an in-between to “translate” different signals coming from a myriad of devices like smart locks, smart bulbs and voice assistants. However, using IP will allow many intelligent machines to communicate directly with each other, eliminating incompatibility.

The alliance will focus on Wi-Fi for its first set of specifications. These Wi-Fi specs include Wi-Fi 1-6 as well as some Bluetooth Low Energy versions.

The Working Group plans to release specifications by late 2020. However, the Project intends to modify existing hardware from alliance members to speed up the development of the standard.