Amazon, Apple and Google announced in mid-December that they had formed a partnership to co-define a new standard for the connected objects which can be found in today’s homes. The three tech giants are looking to get rid of the variety of different standards which are slowing down the work of developers and limiting consumer freedom. According to the companies involved, the future standard will be royalty-free and respect user privacy.
Pixabay / geralt
At some point in the near future, Alexa will be able to chat with Siri. Connecting the two digital assistants from Amazon and Apple is the aim of the partnership that was unveiled on Wednesday 18 December and formed by three tech giants, namely Amazon, Apple and Google, in conjunction with the Zigbee Alliance foundation. The joint venture is designed to create a new standard for connected home devices which can communicate and interact with one another.
Improve the user experience
The future standard will be royalty-free and designed "to increase compatibility between smart home devices with security as a priority", a shared press release explained. The various partners will form a working group to homogenise the wide variety of standards which currently exist.
The aim of Amazon, Apple and Google’s project is "to improve the experience of consumers who at the moment use smart devices which are not compatible", the firms said. "We believe that a new protocol could be widely adopted by the various systems used and by digital assistants."
Too many different standards
The Zigbee Alliance foundation which is also part of the project was founded in 2002 by a number of major companies including Samsung, Ikea, building infrastructure specialists Legrand and retailers Kroger, with the aim of implementing a universal standard for the smart devices which the firms involved manufacture or sell. These voice-activated speakers with alarms have slowly but surely been taking over our homes in recent years, and according to statistics published in September, the "smart home" market was set to grow by 23.5% in 2019, with 815 million objects sold.
This figure could be as high as 1.39 billion by 2023, but the proliferation of different standards limits their scope. The general public is often forced to stick with one brand only or to carry out constant updates – stumbling blocks which the new alliance, called "Project Connected Home over IP", is hoping to remove.
Experts unsure of favourable reception
"Developers and consumers are set to benefit from this new universal compatibility standard," said Nick Sathe and Grant Erickson of Google Nest, the connected device division of Google. "For developers, it will simplify product development and reduce costs by giving them a standard to manufacture by. You will then be able to choose how you control your homes, regardless of the technology you choose."
According to the new alliance, a draft of the new single, royalty-free standard should be published by the end of 2020. Avi Greengart of consultants Techsponential believes that while it is a step in the right direction, it is far from certain whether all the various manufacturers of smart devices will greet it with enthusiasm. "I am optimistic because it’s a good idea," he said, "but sceptical because good ideas don’t always have the impact you would hope for in the market."
The sector is "highly fragmented", Greengart continued. "A partnership between various major players in the Internet of Things and home automation is a good move, but the key factor will be how it is implemented." He does, however, believe that the presence of Apple will ensure that the respect of privacy will be a main priority for the new standard, saying: "If Apple is supporting the project then it’s likely that it will be implemented reliably".
Cover image : Pixabay / geralt
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