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Amazon, Apple and Google joining forces could be what makes smart homes happen

December 19, 2019
A woman using a smart thermostat in her home
A woman using a smart thermostat in her home
A woman using a smart thermostat in her homeGetty

The news: Amazon, Apple, and Google have agreed to create an open-source standard for internet-connected home products, such as smart speakers. They’ll work with Zigbee Alliance, an association of companies working on open IoT standards, plus Samsung, Ikea, and other major players in the sector. The companies have set up a working group, called “Project Connected Home over IP" (or CHIP), which will meet, discuss, and (they hope) agree on a set of standards over the coming months.

The goal: It’s all about making smart home products compatible with each other, and making sure they reach a certain level of security.

The potential: If adopted by all the major players, this standard could kick-start adoption of smart home tech. Currently, if you want to buy IoT products for your home, you mostly have to pick one company and stick with it because products from different companies are not interoperable. For example, Google’s Home voice assistant won’t work with Amazon’s smart lightbulbs. Concerns over security have also held back adoption, as exemplified by the endless horror stories about the Ring camera and just how easy it is to hack into. An open ecosystem, better security standards, and the rollout of 5G could be a winning combination to push smart homes into the mainstream.   

A long way to go yet: Well, that’s the plan. In reality, it will be tough to get the biggest names in tech, all of whose smart home products are at differing stages of development, to agree. And there’s a risk that rather than creating a standard to unite them all, they just create an extra, optional standard.

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