Project Connected Home over IP, or CHIP, the working group dedicated to creating a building standard for the interoperability of smart home devices, closed out 2020 by sending out a draft version of the spec to all of its member companies. Someone from the Zigbee Alliance has confirmed receipt of the draft and says that members are now reading it with an eye toward making final revisions before its publication in early 2021.
This means that if you want to see the specification or have any input into the process of deciding what goes into the spec, you need to join the Zigbee Alliance and the CHIP working group. I’m still hoping to get my hands on the spec, or at least get some feedback on how it treats digital assistants, security, provisioning, and any devices already in homes, but these last two weeks are the toughest time of year to reach people.
I suspect the Zigbee Alliance wanted to share the draft version of the spec to prove that the effort to create a standard for the smart home was still proceeding and that we can in fact expect products that adhere to it in 2021. Project CHIP was announced in December 2019, and to mixed reviews. I was incredibly excited and hopeful even despite my questions about how it would handle interoperability. Meanwhile, many others in the tech world doubted it would ever come to fruition at all given the “egos” associated with the companies involved and the general challenges of throwing another standard at an already fragmented industry.
Member companies initially said they expected a specification by the end of 2020. But while I won’t quibble if the published standard takes a bit longer, since it’s clear that much of the actual work has been done just to get it to this stage, I do wish I knew exactly what it comprises.
Here’s what we know so far: Anything that makes it easier for consumers to buy smart home devices without worrying if those devices will work with HomeKit or Nest or Amazon’s Alexa will be welcome.
Implementing a standard for security can only help device makers meet that standard — so long as it’s a robust one. And making some form of provisioning standard will help consumers get devices onto their home networks without wondering if they will have to scan a QR code, let their phone listen for a series of beeps, wait for a cloud connection, or do any number of other things that I’ve had to do while connecting my devices.
Now, as I set up my smart home after roughly two years of moving and renting and moving again, I realize that the biggest benefit of a good smart home standard will be that, going forward, fewer and fewer consumers will need to buy a bunch of connected devices. New homes will increasingly come kitted out with intelligence built into light switches, HVAC systems, outlets, locks, doorbells, and appliances that can accept whatever digital assistant the homeowner chooses. And add-on devices will be easy to purchase if people want more.
All of which will reduce the sense of digital clutter that owning a smart home can currently engender with its seemingly endless number of devices to maintain and apps to consult, never mind the ever-present fear that changing one thing will break all the others. Or at least, that’s my hope. We’ll have to wait and see. Hopefully, I’ll get some insight into what the CHIP standard actually consists of sometime in the next week. Or maybe I’ll have to wait until the end of January or early February for the published specification, like everyone else.
Then the real fun will begin.