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What does the proposed smart home standard mean?

What does the proposed smart home standard mean?

Ever since smart homes came onto the market, one thing has held the technology back from becoming mainstream: 

The lack of a standard.

In the current state of the market, devices are not all compatible. Different manufacturers develop devices for different standards. Apple, Google, Amazon, and Zigbee devices don't always play nicely together, which makes setting up a smart home frustrating for most homeowners.

Homeowners have to do hours of tireless research to see if a new device will play nicely with all their other devices. Then when an incompatibility is undocumented, they have to spend hours troubleshooting the source of the problem. 

And when setting up tech is frustrating?

There's no mass adoption. 

But a new proposed standard could change all that.

Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung, and Zigbee (among others) have announced they're creating a working group to create a standard protocol for smart home devices. Called Project Connected Home over IP, the working group hopes to fix the biggest problem holding smart home tech back.

The proposed standard will be open-source and based on Internet Protocol Address.  The ultimate goal is to ensure that smart home devices are compatible with all other devices on the market. The idea is that, if you have an Alexa and want to add on a Nest thermostat, for example, it won't be nearly as frustrating as it can be now.

The Verge described the current situation like a plumbing problem where nobody can agree on how to route hot or cold water. In order to get your sink fixed, you have to commit to using one plumber for the rest of your life because using a new plumber could be disastrous.

That's much like the current state of smart home tech. Just adding a smart thermostat or doorbell to your home can be a nightmare for the homeowner, which is why here at Zeus Integrated, we advocate for fully integrated systems like Savant. Savant is a system that is set up by a professional smart home installer, so you can rest easy knowing that everything will work together. 

But what about the homeowners who can't afford a professional system? Or the hobbyist who gets a kick out of kludging these devices together for fun on the weekends?

For them, the current state of smart home tech is a frustrating experience.

Up until this point, it has been in the best interest of major device manufacturers to ensure their devices only work on their platform: it builds repeat business. As a device manufacturer, there is a substantial financial incentive to locking consumers into your own ecosystem.

The downside to this is that smaller companies have difficulty breaking into the market, and the consumer is stuck. 

The new working group aims to change all that.

This is certainly not the first time a working group has been proposed nor created, but this is the first time all the major players in the market have signed on. 

The major problem the working group seems to be tackling is this:

Network accessibility. There are so many different radios devices can use to connect to the internet that it is frankly overwhelming and confusing. (Do you get Bluetooth, Z Wave, 802.15.4, or Wifi?) The new standard would unify all accessibility under the Internet Protocol standard. IP is well understood, easier to secure, and it wouldn't matter which radio the consumer chooses.

While most homeowners are completely unaware of how their devices actually connect (thanks to their smart assistants handling that), it is a complete mess for developers who have to ensure their tech will work on at least three major platforms. Invariably, things are forgotten, and bugs are inadvertently created.

In theory, the new standard could solve all that.

It's unclear how long it will take for these companies to agree on the new standard. The website indicates a draft will be ready in late 2020, which means implementation could be as far as 24 months out. Anyone who remembers the days when major tech companies were trying to agree on internet browser protocols can surely remember how hard it is for tech companies to create a protocol that's beneficial to everybody.

So what does this all mean?

It means that in the next 2 years smart home devices could be compatible with devices outside their own ecosystem. It also means smart home tech might finally become mainstream and standard in America.

But what does this mean for smart home installers? Are they suddenly going to be out of work?

No. Not at all. Just because there are standards in plumbing and electrical work, doesn't mean the average homeowner will try to do the work themselves. It will still take the help of a professional to ensure a smart home system is refined, fully integrated, and bug-free.

Are you interested in getting your smart home project on the books for 2020? Give us a call. (800) 878-9705

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