Authors: Jennifer Kent, Avni Mithal
It’s no secret that fragmentation plagues the smart home. Due to an incredibly diverse ecosystem of products, plus numerous competing communication protocols, seamless device-to-device interaction is difficult to achieve. For instance, 40% of smart home device owners who have had technical problems with a smart home device report having difficulty getting the device to interact with other devices in their home. Device-to-device integration issues are among the top 4 technical issues smart home device owners experience, along with loss of wireless connectivity, device unresponsiveness, and short battery life.
Major industry players, including Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung, Comcast, NXP, and others joined with the Zigbee Alliance in December 2019 to launch Project Connected home over IP, also known as Project CHIP. Project CHIP is an open source, single IP-based standard designed to increase interoperability and compatibility among IoT devices in the home. The initiative aims to expand the number of smart devices that can work together and simplify the buying experience by providing a unified and compatible experience to consumers. Project CHIP also aims to make smart home products easier to produce for manufacturers and developers.
Today, Project CHIP made several announcements about how the technology will be implemented:
- Expect CHIP-certified products on market this year: In Q1 2021, draft tech specifications were made available to Project CHIP’s 180+ members and are in the process of being ratified. Testing and certification of target device types will begin in the second half of 2021, with the first certified products expected to be released by late 2021.
- Specific device types will receive CHIP support first: Initial targetdevice types includesmart lights and plugs, blinds/shades, smart thermostats, TVs, access control devices like garage door openers and smart locks, safety and security devices and systems, and access points and bridges. This means that appliances, water management devices, connected health products, and connected entertainment products (beyond TVs) will have a longer roadmap ahead of them. Scoping exercises are under way for additional device types, and backward compatibility/upgradability to CHIP may also be available for certain existing smart home devices in the future.
- CHIP will leverage blockchain to enhance security: CHIP requires standard industry security protocols, such as AES 128-bit encryption of data between devices, and between devices and the cloud, as well as ongoing software/firmware updates to patch security vulnerabilities. It will also leverage blockchain to establish the provenance of the device – that is, confirm devices are who they say they are.
- Wi-Fi, BLE and Thread get CHIP support: Project CHIP is based on Internet Protocol (IP) and will initially support Thread, Ethernet and Wi-Fi local networks allowing connectivity and communication between devices using any of these three technologies. Because CHIP is based on IP, cellular and broadband may also be in scope in the future.
- CHIP sets its sights on commercial applications: Project CHIP’s foundation at the core is the smart home. However, target device types have immediate applications in the commercial space as well. As such, Project CHIP Commercial Groups are working on professional, commercial use cases to be deployed in the future
The quest for interoperability in home automation is a long one, predating the current generation of smart home devices that emerged 8-10 years ago. However, the participation of nearly all major smart home players in Project CHIP makes this effort one to watch. Should the effort be successful in truly removing the work of interoperability from the consumer’s plate, the vision of the smart home will have taken a meaningful step forward.
To keep up with major industry and product announcements, subscribe to Parks Associates Smart Home Tracker. Parks Associates is also tracking key metrics that quantify smart home industry progress through its surveys of 10,000 US broadband households in Consumer Insights Dashboard: Smart Home.