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Tech rivals join forces to increase smart home compatibility and connectivity

Image credit: Akarat Phasura - Dreamstime

Consumer tech rivals Amazon, Apple and Google have created a joint technology standard designed to improve the compatibility and connectivity between their smart home products.

The new standard, snappily called ‘Project Connected Home Over IP,’ is aimed at smart home products such as Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s HomePod and Google’s Home.

Announcing the collaboration via its new website, the companies said the aim of the standard is to “simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers”.

The firms, which are also collaborating with the Zigbee Alliance, said the standard will help make smart home products more compatible with a wider range of operating systems and speakers, thus making them easier for consumers to set up and use.

According to the group, the aim of the standard is to also “develop and promote the adoption of a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products, with security as a fundamental design tenet”.

The Zigbee Alliance includes firms such as Ikea and Samsung SmartThings, both of which also manufacture smart home devices, such as speakers and smart light bulbs, and thermostats and sensors respectively.

Amazon and Google, through their respective voice assistants Alexa and the Google Assistant, and the smart speakers in which they are housed, hold the majority of market share in smart home products.

However, to date, the smart devices produced by these firms have mostly used different connectivity standards. In practice, this has meant that a lot of smart devices – which can include connected lightbulbs, entertainment systems and kitchen appliances – aren’t necessarily compatible with every virtual assistant or platform.

“The lack of an industry-wide connectivity standard leaves people confused and frustrated when trying to understand what devices work with each smart home ecosystem,” Nik Sathe and Grant Erickson, engineers at Google’s Nest unit, said in a statement.

“It also places a heavy burden on manufacturers to make sure all devices are compatible with each other,” they added.

The group also said it wants to develop a connectivity standard – with security a fundamental feature - which all their respective smart home products would use. Furthermore, the companies hope a shared approach will resolve current issues around compatibility in the market.

The group said: “The project aims to improve the consumer experience of trying to use smart home products that aren't compatible with each other.

“We believe that the protocol has the potential to be widely adopted across home systems and assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google 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 set up and control it with their preferred system.”

The group said it hopes to publish its first draft specifications on the issue by the end of 2020.

Earlier this month, UK smart home gadget company Hive revealed savvy parents are turning to smart technology to keep the magic of Christmas alive for their young children this festive season, using motion sensors and indoor cameras to convince their children that Santa has stopped by their house.

Meanwhile, in August, Ikea announced its plans to bring smart home devices to 700 million customers worldwide, with a range of items including smart lighting and wireless charging lamps.

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