Smart Home Gets Organized

Project CHIP devices will debut in 2021

Last week, the Zigbee Alliance said in a webinar that companies participating in Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP) will be able to get smart home devices certified for the new standard later in 2021.

The Zigbee Alliance, along with Amazon, Apple and Google, announced in December 2019 the creation of the CHIP working group to develop and promote a new, royalty-free connectivity standard that will make more smart home products compatible with each other. Other companies involved in CHIP include Ikea, NXP Semiconductors, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify and Silicon Labs.

The partnership aims to address customers’ frustrations with the smart home space, which has long been a mess, with different competing ecosystems and devices that might or might not work with each other. Consumers still have doubts about whether devices they buy for their smart homes will play nicely with other gadgets they already own.

The CHIP working groups says it aims to offer a secure, reliable and seamless system. By building on Internet Protocol (IP) communications, the project aims to allow smart home devices, mobile apps and cloud services to communicate with each other, as well as to specify a set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.

CHIP devices will use Wi-Fi for high-bandwidth applications and Thread for low-bandwidth uses. Bluetooth can be used to allow customers to set up their devices, which is most likely to happen using smartphones. Makers of connected devices such as lighting, blinds, heating and air conditioning, TVs, access controls, safety and security products, smart home controllers and bridges have said they plan to launch products supporting CHIP.

Given concerns about the security of connected devices, CHIP will require AES 128-bit encryption of data between devices, and between devices and the cloud. Manufacturers and developers will focus on security by design, rather than addressing it later. CHIP will also require over-the-air updates for software and firmware so that manufacturers have a way to address new vulnerabilities as they’re discovered.

The group’s decision to take advantage of technologies from pioneers of smart home devices including Apple, Google and Amazon is expected to speed up development and adoption of the protocol, and deliver benefits to manufacturers and consumers. The initiative is also expected to make it easier for manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and others. The protocol will complement existing technologies, and CHIP members have been encouraging device-makers to continue innovating using technologies already available.