Apple, Google, and Amazon to develop a universal smart home standard

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Smart home tech and the Internet of Things (IoT) have quickly blossomed into something only for the rich to something that everyone can benefit from. Unfortunately, they are not without flaws. There are countless brands of smart home tech out there that don’t play nice together. Meanwhile, some gadgets work with certain virtual assistants while others don’t. Overshadowing both of these issues is the utter lack of security in today’s IoT gadgets.

Fortunately, three of the tech industry’s biggest players are teaming up to solve the smart home problem once and for all. Apple, Google, and Amazon are developing an open-source smart home standard that’s meant to be used universally across all devices. It will help ensure that they work together, integrate with the three major virtual assistants, and maintain better security.

Big Tech Teamwork

For anyone who isn’t familiar with IoT gadgets shopping for one can be daunting. Just because a smart wall outlet or thermostat works on its own doesn’t mean the two will work together. Likewise, one gadget might be compatible with your Google Assistant while the other only works with Amazon’s Alexa. This problem has become increasingly evident as more and more IoT devices launch into the hands of consumers.

The new smart home standard from Apple, Google, and Amazon seeks to simplify things for everyone. The companies will form a group called Project Connected Home over IP (yes, they could have tried a little harder on the name). Members of the Zigbee Alliance, including Ikea, Samsung, and the company behind Philips Hue, will join the three Big Tech companies.

A statement from the trio says, “Customers can be confident that their device of choice will work in their home and that they will be able to set up and control it with their preferred system.”

Users will be able to choose between Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, or Amazon Alexa to control their smart home devices. Though the three virtual assistants essentially do the same thing, they do have some differences. Knowing that any smart home device will work with the assistant of your choice will be a nice feature moving forward.

Apple, Amazon, and Google will commit their respective smart home devices to the standard first. A draft is expected to launch towards the end of 2020.

Simple and Secure

The joint effort between these companies will solve the two biggest problems facing smart home tech today—complexity and a lack of security.

As such, it will work alongside existing network protocols like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This is a tremendously smart move on behalf of Apple, Google, and Amazon. Other initiatives like Thread received a lot of hype but never actually got much use. The trio’s plan will keep things simple by working with today’s most widely used connectivity protocols while leaving device manufacturers some freedom. They will still be able to decide how their devices connect to each other and the Internet. This feature will help increase the standard’s adoption across the industry.

As the name suggests, Project Connected Home over IP will harness internet protocol (IP) technology. The trio says that building its standard around IP will simplify the transfer of data between smart home devices and the Internet. Since the protocol is both well-known and widely used, it will simplify the problem of smart home connectivity.

In the same manner, sending messages over IP will allow smart home devices to do so with “end-to-end security and privacy.” A quick glance at the headlines is enough to see that security is a big problem for smart home gadgets. From Ring cameras being hacked to malware that targets smart speakers, IoT devices are vulnerable to attack. To make matters worse, they often serve as entry points for hackers looking to gain access to your home network and the personal data it stores.

Easing Setup for Consumers

As of now, it isn’t clear how the new protocol will differ from existing ones. For example, many smart home devices are already compatible with multiple virtual assistants and gadgets from other brands. However, only a few support all three assistants or work universally with every IoT device.

It may turn out that the Big Tech trio’s protocol simply makes it easier for devices to connect to Siri and Google Assistant. However, in a more ambitious sense, it may help smart home gadgets work better together and let users control them in the same way regardless of what brand they are.

For consumers, the partnership is a big win. The simple fact of knowing that smart home devices will work with whichever control platform they prefer is a huge. That’s something that isn’t currently possible with today’s suite of products. Moving forward, the new protocol will make life easier for users whether they are adding their tenth smart home gadget or browsing the aisles for their first one.

Initially, the trio will work to implement its protocol on smart devices related to physical safety. This includes everything from smoke alarms to door locks and thermostats to security systems. However, other consumer devices won’t be far behind.

Timely Truce

It will take some time for the protocol to be perfected. Likewise, it could be a span of several years before every major brand adopts it. However, with Apple, Google, and Amazon leading the way, smaller manufacturers should be quick to follow.

Considering that the worldwide smart home device market is expected to grow by 23.5 percent in 2019, the protocol is timely. Estimates suggest that 1.39 billion IoT devices will be in use by 2023. A universal standard will surely boost that number.

By coming together for the greater good and removing some of the competition from the smart home industry, the trio of Big Tech firms is paving the way for a smarter tomorrow. As the new protocol goes into effect, it will bring together the fragmented ecosystem of IoT devices and create a simpler, more secure user experience.

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