Interoperability issues have always been at the forefront of the permanent Internet of Things (IoT). Although there will always be loyalists and evangelists of the brand, the reality is that it is simply unrealistic to expect a factory, office or even a household to build their entire IoT ecosystem with only devices and protocols of a company.
The Zigbee Alliance recently announced that it has brought together a number of technology giants, including Apple, Amazon and Google, to form a new working group, the Connected Home over IP (or CHIP) project, to develop and promote a new, royalty-free project. author and secure connectivity standard for smart home products.
"The project is based on a common belief that smart home devices should be safe, reliable and trouble-free," Zigbee Alliance said in an official statement. "By using Internet Protocol (IP), the project aims to enable communication on smart home devices, mobile applications and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based network technologies for device certification."
Zigbee Alliance, which includes companies such as NXP Semiconductors, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric and IKEA, believes that using smart home products from Apple, Google and Amazon – products based on Siri Apple, Google Assistant and Amazon on Amazon – will accelerate development of this new protocol and makes it easy for third-party device manufacturers to create smart home products that are more universally accessible to consumers.
For its part, Apple is committed to opening open source portions of HomeKit, its smart home device development kit. Developers can now use the HomeKit Open Source Accessory Development Kit (ADK) for the non-commercial smart accessory prototype.
Apple has not pushed its smart home products as much as Google and Amazon (do you know anyone with an iHome ISP6X Smart Plug?), But the list of third-party devices compatible with HomeKit covers the range of thermostats and locks to taps. , garage doors, lights and sprinkler systems. Through the open parts of HomeKit, Apple hopes to attract more developers to its technologies and gain ground on Amazon and Google.
In a blog post, Google said it would bring technologies from its OpenWeave project, as well as its expertise in IP network protocols, with reduced power from mesh networks. OpenWeave is an open-source implementation of the network application layer behind Google's Nest product line, which includes thermostats, cameras, bells, alarms and locks.
Google engineers wrote that the company's interest in the CHIP project stems from the potential to do for the smart home what USB has done for the devices – creating an easily accessible, secure and universal solution for cloud devices and services.
"Because of the unique ability of the IP to bring together different network technologies, it offers an ideal platform for convergence in the useful home," Google engineers wrote. "Moreover, instead of requiring product and application-specific infrastructure, IP-based solutions can use off-the-shelf network infrastructure than can be shared across many applications and products. This helps reduce the tangles of wire and pucks generated by common gateways and hubs in many smart home solutions today. "
In addition, Google believes that the approach adopted by the CHIP project will increase overall cybersecurity by reducing attack points. A common concern in the march to a trillion devices has been the potential to create a trillion nodes through which malicious hackers can launch cyberattacks.
Amazon has not yet commented on the specific contributions to CHIP, but the company is likely to allow developers some kind of open-source access to its Amazon services and Alexa capabilities.
A partnership … Or an armor?
This new working group makes perfect sense, given that Apple, Google and Amazon make up the entire smart home market. Every smart home device takes advantage of the software and services offered by at least one of these companies.
But three of the biggest technology competitors have agreed to play nice for the sake of consumers? All this is not likely to be done for the common good. Then what is the real incentive behind this collaboration?
"It is true that some devices can communicate with both Alexa and Google Assistant, but only because the manufacturer of these products has chosen to include support for both. The products are essentially bilingual. Expenditure on development time, testing time and customer support time is added to make a support product two or even three or more different protocols; to speak more languages, "said Robert Bajoras, president of software development company, Art + Logic Design news. "Adopting a standard means that you only have to create a single solution, test a solution and support a single solution."
Art + Logic has been developing custom software since 1991 and prides itself on Google and Apple among its diverse client list. Bajoras believes that what we see is more armistice than a true partnership and is one focused on reducing costs. "The engineer in me would like to say the incentive is because it is technically better to have a common standard, but there is a cost savings. Cooperation costs less than fighting, "he said.
"Historically, most of the decisions related to the technology facing consumers have been taken by the competition," added Bajoras. "It's more about product promotion, advertising and marketing. Sometimes they win the best solution, but often they win the company or consortium with the most advertising dollars. "
He mentioned for example the old battle between Betamax and VHS. While known users and enthusiasts knew Betamax was superior to VHS, it was VHS that eventually won the war due to marketing forces. "When JVC decided to license the VHS format, they actually created a consortium that Sony couldn't compete with. When Sony decided to license their format, it was too late, ”said Bajoras. The same thing happened again recently in the war between HD-DVD and BluRay … You can look at your movie shelf or check your local video store to see what technology has won in this case.
"I was in the middle of a similar competition between smart home technologies," Bajoras said. "The competing technologies that are incompatible have fought for adoption. If history offers a perspective, we know that the competition will continue until a technology emerges as the clear winner. Then, like all discarded Betamax players and HD-DVD players, consumers who have chosen the wrong choice will be left with outdated products. But this time it's something else. A step between competing technologies is elaborated before the emergence of a winner. "
Chris Wiltz is senior editor at Design news covering emerging technologies, including AI, VR / AR, blockchain and robotics