Amazon, Apple, and Google Partner to Standardize the Smart Home

Posted on December 18, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Amazon, Apple, Google, Smart Home with 36 Comments

In a long-overdue move, Amazon, Apple, Google, and others are partnering on a standard for the smart home industry. It’s called Connected Home over IP.

“Our goal is to bring together market-tested technologies to develop a new, open smart home connectivity standard based on Internet Protocol (IP),” Google vice president Grant Erickson writes in that company’s announcement. “Google’s use of IP dates back to the launch of Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011. IP also enables end-to-end, private and secure communication among smart devices, mobile apps, and cloud services.”

Google says that it will contribute two of its open-source smart home technologies, Weave and Thread, to the initiative. Both are already installed in millions of homes, the firm says, and Weave, an application protocol, works over many networks, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, cellular, and Thread.

The goal of this partnership is as obvious as it is necessary: To create a single standard by which every part of a home—including “thermostats, cameras, locks, lights, switches, sensors, and even doggy doors,” in Erickson’s words—can be connected to the Internet and managed locally or remotely in a secure and seamless fashion. This will also help end consumer confusion and frustration, since they will no longer need to worry about what works with what.

“Smart home devices will be compatible with various platforms, so you can choose between Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri or other platforms,” Erickson notes. “We’re excited to partner with the industry on the next stage of growth for the thousands of smart home developers in our Works with Google Assistant program. This project brings us closer to the vision of the helpful home that takes care of the people inside it.”

So what other companies are involved, you may wonder? An organization called the Zigbee Alliance is the only other major player involved in this partnership, and that includes IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian. So it appears that Microsoft (and Cortana) are not involved, at least not directly. But it’s early days, still, and I’d expect other firms to join the standard in the coming year.

UPDATE: Apple has released an announcement about it joining this initiative too.

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Comments (36)

36 responses to “Amazon, Apple, and Google Partner to Standardize the Smart Home”

  1. rickeveleigh

    Wonder if Microsoft should just stay out of this one. Cortana is dying and they don't have any devices. What do you think?

    • h8zgray

      In reply to RickEveleigh:

      I would agree, since they not only lack any compelling hardware or consumer facing software solutions for this market, but their track record with abandoning platforms to the detriment of adopters is not very reassuring, though in fairness this criticism can be levied to Google and Apple as well (yeah I'm one of those who still mourn the shuddering of Windows Phone 10 and UWP).

    • lvthunder

      In reply to RickEveleigh:

      You would still want apps to control these devices. Microsoft could add something like HomeKit to Windows if they wanted to.

    • dashrender

      In reply to RickEveleigh:

      Microsoft should stay out of the public side of this. Instead they should continue to make secure frameworks that other vendors can use to support their products. MS should also continue to work on the cloud side of the management of these devices.

      If not already, they will eventually flip over making more money on back end services like Azure than they do front end ones like O365. There's nothing wrong with that - Why does MS need to be a household name? You can still be a huge company/huge value while the everyperson has no idea who you are.

  2. mefree

    I like the idea of standardization, or at least a compact to integrate with one another (I've been doing home automation for well over a decade starting with X10, INSTEON, Smartthings, Zigbee/ZWave, etc, etc) but I really don't like the idea of Google being the heart of it. I've avoided Google in my home automation due to their business model and if everything ends up going through them, this is going to suck......

  3. lvthunder

    As long as it makes more devices work with HomeKit I'm happy about it. I don't care about the voice assistants so if it works with HomeKit, but not Siri then I'm fine with it for example.

  4. simont

    In reply to SvenJ:

    In my company, we have what we call dynamic standards. Each standard is different even though its a standard

  5. brduffy

    I don't like the idea of my home being connected to the internet for things like locks and thermostats. Standards are good for those who wish to mix and match devices I guess but a standard makes a hackers job easier.

  6. Jeffsters

    Good news! Though I wonder how this will impact HomeKit privacy given the fact a majority of these OEMs only sell these devices to collect data and I can't see them agreeing to anything that restricts that or makes it more transparent. Hoping I'm pleasantly see surprised!

  7. hellcatm

    Let me guess whats going to happen Amazon and Google are going to do 99% of the work and when its done apple is going to say "we did it" and all their fanboys are going to clammier how apple made a standard. Why isn't Microsoft in there, they're more relevant to this sort of thing than apple.

  8. RonV42

    When every WiFi connected devices have to send all events directly to Amazon or Google vs. allowing direct interaction in the home I will not work with products like that. I have Zwave, Zigbee, and some cloud connected for Ecobee for only getting status from the thermostat. Amazon used to have a API like Nest to do explicit interactions from a local hub but those are now closed off. This is all about data gathering plane and simple. The Wild Card here is Apple and why would they sign on with the biggest data siphons in the world?

  9. jonsimon

    On a recent What the Talk, you and Andrew spoke of this very thing. This needs to work as more inter-connectivity is required as we enter the 5G world.

  10. codymesh

    can't help but to feel like something sinister will happen if all of these big tech companies are able to agree on something

  11. toukale

    This was badly needed. One of the main reasons I have yet to take the plunge on any home automation products is the chaos and minefield that it's been. I had no confidence in buying any home automation products. This is needed if those companies wants this market to move forward.

  12. RobertJasiek

    A standard is good in principle but I expect nothing for security and data privacy so I abstain smart home, the universal backdoor for secret services and hackers. On a related topic, there ought to be a standard for batteries of mobile devices.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      I don't think secret services or hackers care if the lights on my Christmas tree or porch are on or off.

      • tedroche

        In reply to lvthunder:

        No, they don't care about your lights. But if they can corrupt the shoddy software on your light controller, they can work inside your network, turning your DVR into a bot sending spam or an less-protected machine into a DDOS botnet. They don't "care" about you one whit; these are automated scripts just looking for machine to compromise.

      • RobertJasiek

        In reply to lvthunder:

        Some secret services store all data they can get hold of just in case they ever need them. Most interesting for them is audio / video and access via smart home to relevant computers. Hackers might be thieves, work for states preparing nation-wide blackouts, work for oppressive regimes, use smart homes as bot hardware (for DoS, mining or whatever), record for blackmailing or access computers for ordinary online crimes etc. They might not be interested in your light bulbs but their controlling smart home CPUs for aforementioned abuse. They would not mind overheating CPUs causing fire.

  13. simont

    Standards are good. Now hopefully all the companies actually follow the standards.

    • wright_is

      In reply to simont:

      And support them...

      One of the biggest problems with "smart" home devices is that they are a security risk on day one and after a couple of years they are a dumb, security joke, because they no longer get support...

      You put things in the home that should last a couple of decades (a doggy door, switches, dishwasher or fridge, for example) and after 2 years you have to turn off the "smart" bit, because it is no longer safe to share the network.

      Or worse the manufacturer goes bust and your light switch stops working or the doggy door is stuck wide open...

      • dashrender

        In reply to wright_is:

        This really is the issue.

        I don't see how this doesn't end up requiring a subscription to keep the companies interested. Right now companies expect to sell you a new widget every 2-3 years... apparently that's enough to keep the lights on. But if we move this truly forward, as you said, light switches, refrigerators, TVs, lights, security system components, etc - these devices need to last at least 10 years, and they need to come with a min of 10 years of support (i.e. software updates/security updates). They need to do this with zero expectation to sell another device to those people who already bought.

        So to keep revenue coming in - a subscription is the only thing I see keeping this possible. Now you need to educate the public that they need this subscription - they want this subscription so their devices stay safe and secure in use.

  14. spacein_vader

    Obligatory XKCD on standards.

    Also: “Google’s use of IP dates back to the launch of Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011." is false. The Nest thermostat did launch that year, but Google didn't acquire Nest until 2014. I appreciate thats the press release being disingenuous rather than this websites error though.

  15. JacobTheDev

    Glad to see this -- interoperability has always been the most frustrating thing for smart homes, so if everything "just works" in the future it should make building and maintaining a smart home much simpler for average users.

  16. dnwheeler

    You're better off using Home Assistant or OpenHAB and setting up your network to prevent home automation devices from connecting to the Internet.

  17. mrbill

    An "open smart home connectivity standard based on Internet Protocol (IP)" would surely make it easier to see ads on your thermostat and fridge display each time you walk by it, New Antimalware and ad blocker subscriptions for these devices will no doubt soon follow for purchase.

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