Amazon, Apple and Google have teamed up with the Zigbee Alliance to create a single, royalty-free wireless protocol that will make smart-home devices easier to connect and use.

The vision of a fully-connected smart home has been years in the making, with companies investing millions into creating slick security, lighting, heating, entertainment and appliance systems.

However, one obstacle to making this dream come true remains: differing wireless protocols.

Dan DiClerico

“[Smart-home technology] has kind of struggled to get past the early-adopter phase and into the mainstream consumer market,” HomeAdvisor smart-home expert Dan DiClerico told Inman in a previous article. “There’s an issue with competing wireless protocols. Consumers are confused with how their devices connect, and one device will work with one protocol and not another.”

Likely after hearing the grumblings of disappointed consumers, Amazon, Apple and Google have banned together with the Internet of Things (IoT) standards organization Zigbee Alliance to create a single, royalty-free connectivity standard for all smart-home products.

Called the Connected Home over Internet Protocol (CHIP) project, Amazon, Apple and Google have promised to open source portions of their products to help develop the new protocol. Although there’s no timeline as to when this will be done, Zigbee said the protocol will speed the development of new products and help reduce confusion for consumers.

Zigbee Alliance President Tobin Richardson

“The decision to leverage these technologies is expected to accelerate the development of the protocol and deliver benefits to manufacturers and consumers faster,” the Zigbee Alliance explained in a press release. “The project aims to make it easier for device manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and others.”

“If the Working Group succeeds with this goal, customers can be confident that their device of choice will work in their home and that they will be able to setup and control it with their preferred system,” they added.

According to Design NewsApple has promised to open source portions of its smart-home development software HomeKit and Google has promised to do the same with OpenWeave, the application behind the company’s Nest lineup. Meanwhile, Amazon will be open sourcing portions of Amazon Alexa.

“We are hopeful this new standard will make it easier for developers to create reliable, safe, secure, private, interoperable, and Internet-enhanced but Internet-optional devices,” Google engineers said in a blog post explaining their involvement in CHIP. “[Internet protocol]-based solutions can leverage off-the-shelf network infrastructure tha[t] can be shared across many applications and products. This helps reduce the mess of wires and pucks spawned by gateways and hubs common in many smart home solutions today.”

In addition to increasing the ease of use, Google said the CHIP project will bolster security by “reducing the points of attack and weakness” in products — a concern that’s been highlighted by recent hacker attacks on Amazon-owned Ring smart doorbells.

Apple, Amazon and Google have already started work on CHIP, and Zigbee is inviting other companies to join the effort.

Email Marian McPherson

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