Jan
08
Smart home news – Apple, Google, Amazon working together?


right at the end of the year smart home
enthusiasts got an early Christmas present with a massive announcement from
Apple Google and Amazon they’re working together on a single smart home standard
called the project connected home over IP or chip after reading the news this
was my initial reaction but what is chip and why is it such a big deal for the
future of smart homes and why should you even care
I’m Matt Farrell welcome to undecided If you’ve watched my channel with any
regularity you know two things about me I like to dig into the how and the why
of technologies that can impact our lives and two I’m a big fan of smart
homes because they’re far more than eye candy and smart phone parlor tricks they
can add secured accessibility and help with energy conservation in any home but
recommending smart home gadgets and setups is tricky I’ve often referred to
the current state of smart home technology as being a bit of the Wild
West every company is out for themselves creating systems that often don’t talk
to a competitor system which means consumers can often get left holding the
bag it’s why I’m very selective in the gear that I recommend on this channel
the number one requirement is that it’s easy to use and setup the second
requirement is that it’s safe and secure and the third is that it’s
cross-platform as it possibly can be and sometimes you have to make trade-offs on
that last one to ensure the first two well with the announcement of chip it’s
looking like there may be a light at the end of the tunnel if it plays out like I
hope it does we may have all three of those items addressed going forward the
wild west may finally be tamed today we have several competing standards with
protocols like ZigBee, thread, z-wave, bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, works with nest, apple
homekit, x10, Lutron … you get the idea each of them have their pros and their cons
start building out your smart home with one of these technologies but you need
to branch out to another you’re going to need to use some kind of bridge device
or service and most often we’re talking about
like smart things or habitat or services like ifttt which is if this than that
and like I said before it’s the Wild West this makes for a very challenging
user experience chip is aiming to put all of that behind us
things like ZigBee thread Bluetooth Wi-Fi aren’t going anywhere but there’ll
be a standard smart home communications protocol that operates amongst all of
that so the devices can seamlessly talk to each other in theory if you buy a
chip certified device from one company it’ll be able to work with another chip
certified device from a competitor for instance a smart thermostat would have a
standard way to communicate temperature humidity and fan speed as well as to
receive commands to adjust temperature or turn the fan on or off nest ecobee or
honeywell shouldn’t matter as long as they’re all chip certified one of the
most interesting things to me is that the heart of the effort is coming from
the ZigBee Alliance Apple Google and Amazon those are some of the biggest
players in smart homes today other partners include IKEA Legrand smart
things and silicon labs the last one is even more interesting
because Silicon Labs owns z-wave which is one of the other major smart home
wireless standards today z-wave in theory is open sourced but Silicon Labs
is the only company allowed to produce the z-wave wireless chips needed to make
it work it’s not exactly open a couple of days after the announcement of chip
silicon labs announced that they were opening up z-wave to allow competitors
to manufacture z-wave chips that move alone shows how massive chips impact on
the industry may end up being Apple also has open source aspects of home kits ADK
which is an assessment deployment kit which will make it easier for accessory
makers to test out and experiment with home kit without needing to pay upfront
and to quote Apple from their blog post about chip by open sourcing its home kit
technology Apple will be helping to jumpstart the initiative and ultimately
deliver an even better experience to customers starting today developers can
use the home kit open source ADK to prototype non-commercial smart home
accessories Apple will also contribute its home kit accessory protocol to the
working group the siloed nature of current smart home technology has been
holding it back I hear from a lot of people that they
just don’t get the appeal of smart home technology advertisers tend to focus
heavily on the hey look I can turn my lights red by using my phone and that
gives the perception that spark home technology is just eye candy and doesn’t
provide real value others have been burned by buying something that requires
a specific app and setup to use and it can’t talk to anything else in their
house nobody wants to have to jump between a half-dozen different apps to
configure things and the industry has finally woken up to the user experience
challenges and is attempting to fix it they’ll get a lot further working
together instead of trying to maintain such strict silos this is the first
smart home standard I’ve actually gotten excited about because of all the major
players that are involved the system is abstracting and unifying the underlying
communications between the devices that means companies like Apple Google Amazon
can focus on creating engaging software experiences on top of that
communications layer devices will just work and users will have a cohesive user
experience using whatever software platform they’re happiest with whether
that’s Amazon Apple Google smart things fill in your favorite platform here you
know the gadget side of things it should simplify development and
manufacturing a company doesn’t have to design their own light bulb or smart
thermostat to work specifically with Alexa
Google Amazon or even smart things and they don’t have to necessarily create
their own app just to get things up and running they can focus on creating
well-built smart home products this in theory should help to commoditize those
products and drive down prices lowering development costs will lower final
product cost and in the end we should hopefully see a wider variety of
products in the market with a lower cost and a far better user experience and set
up and use but what’s the downside I see two possible issues first groups like
this can get bogged down in corporate politics and infighting can slow down
agreement on a final standard so while this sounds like it’s a great concept on
paper there’s still a lot of details for the group to iron out they’re hoping to
have a finalized chip specification out by late 2020 which is great if they can
stick to that timeline the world wide web consortium took years to finalize
HTML five specification for websites it’s not
exactly an apples-to-apples comparison but standards bodies aren’t known for
their speed the second problem could be that it just
adds to the mess of standards that are already out there instead of one
specification to rule them all we just end up adding yet another this
could manifest through half-hearted adoption of the standard and since the
standardization will commoditize many smart home products like lights some
manufacturers may want to hold back certain features and functions for their
proprietary systems of software otherwise they could risk not standing
out from the crowd and we’ve seen similar issues and web standards and
browsers browser makers want to iterate and roll out new features that are part
of the standard yet and developers start creating websites targeted at those
browsers with non-standard HTML and CSS which makes other browsers not appear to
be fully functional and you end up seeing websites that say things like
best viewed in Chrome well that happened with this I hope not but will most
likely see some non-standard half-hearted implementations along the
way those potential pitfalls are far outweighed by the upside of this
announcement the smart home industry has needed a shake-up something to pull the
major players together in order to take Smart Homes truly mainstream it’ll take
a year or so for the standard to be agreed upon in a few more years to see a
lot of chips certified products hitting the market but it’s a start the timing
of this announcement couldn’t be better Wi-Fi 6 is a major leap over Wi-Fi 5
which is what we’re all using today and one of the big reasons I tend not to
recommend Wi-Fi smart home gear over ZigBee or z-wave is that most Wi-Fi
routers can’t handle a lot of devices connected at once most routers start to
choke when they hit around 50 devices which is pretty easy when you start
adding in things like lightbulbs and thermostats and door locks and even more
to your home Wi-Fi 6 changes that by being able to handle 4 times the number
of devices requiring less power from each device maintaining connection and
it’s also able to communicate with a dozen devices at the same time chip and
Wi-Fi 6 strikes me as the perfect pairing it’s the chocolate and peanut
butter combo that could accelerate adopt and improve the smart-home experience
does that mean we should hold off on buying gear until this stuff gets
finalized no well there’s still no information on upgrade ability of
current devices to the new standard Apple Amazon and Google have all said
they’re not deprecating old devices everything that works today will
continue to work into the future the chip announcement makes me even more
bullish on smart home technology in general I’m looking forward to the day
when I have a smart TV charger that can coordinate with my home’s battery and
solar panels to optimize my charging schedule to save me money all without me
having to do anything other than plugging the car into the charger there
are so many possibilities for how these devices can coordinate to save us energy
money and make us safer now are any of you excited about the possibilities
around this update jump into the comments and let me know and give this
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