Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

Los Angeles  — Silicon Valley companies Apple,  Google and Amazon — three of the biggest smart-home and voice-assistant providers — are joining forces to make internet-connected homes easier to set up and safer to use.

The rivals announced on Wednesday that they are  working with the Zigbee Alliance, a foundation that promotes standards for the Internet of Things (IoT), and its members including Samsung Electronics, Somfy and Ikea, on a new standard that will ensure their products work with each other. 

While an increasing portion of the home can now be controlled by a voice-activated speaker or remote app, from thermostats to lights and even refrigerators, “the lack of an industry-wide connectivity standard leaves people confused and frustrated when trying to understand what devices work with each smart home ecosystem,” Nik Sathe and Grant Erickson, engineers at Google’s Nest unit, wrote in a statement.

“It also places a heavy burden on manufacturers to make sure all devices are compatible with each other.”

Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Nest  have relatively open systems already, which have allowed tens of thousands of third-party devices to link up with their smart speakers. Apple’s Siri only supports a few hundred via its HomeKit standard.

The global smart home market is projected to grow to $174.2bn by 2025, according to MarketWatch, up from $55.7bn in 2016.

Apple said the project is built around “a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable and seamless to use”.

But the Connected Home alliance could also raise privacy and security questions. For years, Amazon and Google collected data every time someone used a smart speaker to turn on a light or lock a door and asked gadget makers such as Logitech to send a stream of information whenever someone turned on a light or locked a door.

Bringing more devices together in a home raises the prospect of personal data being shared with a higher number of companies, some of which may have more lax security or privacy standards. Google pared back the number of companies its Nest devices connect to earlier in 2019 due to privacy concerns.

After lagging behind Amazon and Google, Apple has rebooted   its smart home efforts, developing new software and devices from a new team.

The alliance is aiming to have its new joint protocol ready by the end of 2020.

Bloomberg  

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