Amazon, Apple and Google’s smart home partnership is close by


Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP), the clumsily mentioned but interesting smart home collaboration between Apple, Amazon, Google and over 170 other companies that should make everything more compatible, should finally show some results later this year. According to a webinar hosted by the Zigbee Alliance earlier this week, companies participating in the program will be able to get smarthome devices certified to the standard by the end of 2021, meaning we might see some stuff on the shelves for the Christmas shopping season. That first wave of devices includes things like lighting, blinds, HVAC controls, TVs, door locks, garage door openers, security systems, and Wi-Fi routers.

The CHIP standard is built around three technologies: Bluetooth LE for installation, Wi-Fi for high-bandwidth usage scenarios such as streaming video from a security camera, and the still burgeoning Thread mesh network protocol for low-bandwidth devices such as motion sensors. (Thread has been a work in progress for a while, but it’s now on the Apple HomePod Mini, the latest Google Nest Hub, and Eero routers, so maybe it’s finally going to happen.)

Manufacturers can also provide CHIP support for older products via bridges, so devices you already own may work with CHIP products in the future.

The program, which was first announced at the end of 2019, has suffered some delay due to the pandemic. Originally it would have products within the CHIP standard in late 2020, but then the group announced last September that we wouldn’t be seeing anything until sometime in 2021. That time is apparently the end of 2021, so it is very possible that this launch will slip even further into 2022.

CHIP’s goal is to provide a unified standard for smarthome products so that customers don’t have to worry about whether a device they buy will work with the other devices they already have. The technologies replace older smart home protocols such as Zigbee and Z-Wave and are designed to work with any voice assistant you want. Of course a new standard is not a guarantee to resolve confusion, and it is entirely possible that the CHIP program will just add yet another option to the list of standards that already exist.

Stacey Higgenbotham at Stacey on IOT has a deep dive into all the announcements created by the Zigbee Alliance this week, including how it plans to improve smart home security through … the blockchain, so I recommend reading her analysis to learn more about the topic.