Smart Home Standards

Yesterday, Apple, Google, and Amazon annonuced that they are teaming up with Zigbee and creating a working group called Project Connected Home Over IP. The Verge has a good post on what is going on here and why. And in that post they show this great xkcd comic:

I am hopeful that something good and useful will come of this new partnership between Zigbee and the largest tech companies in the world.

Over the last two weeks, the Gotham Gal and I have been moving into a new home we built and we have had moments of joy (like when we easily programmed our cars to open and close the garage doors) and pain (when we could not use a Nest thermostat in our office because “that HVAC unit doesn’t talk to Nest”).

When I sit back and compare this move-in experience to one we had twenty years ago, when smart home technologies were new and we were early adopters, I can see how far we have come. You can make a new home “smart” so much less expensively and easily now.

But we are still very far from where things should be and will be.

I am hopeful that some new open industry standards can and will help.

There is nothing wrong with going from 14 standards to 15 standards if the 15th standard is actually useful. And it may well be that the other 14 are too.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    If you care to share I’d be interested in the tech schematic of your house, or a normal house built by tech geeks.

  2. William Mougayar

    The good thing about Standards is…there are so many of them to choose from! (been the case for a long time)The only real standards are the ones that get adopted. De-facto standards are often more powerful than concocted one. I’ve been involved with standards development since the late 80’s (with open systems, IEEE standards, etc.) and the process of industry standards has not changed.If an HVAC unit doesn’t talk to NEST, it was probably a manufacturer decision. I’m not sure that standards would make it easier.Getting to a plug-and-play stage is not going to be easy for the home. The standard is the iPhone or Android phone where you can install different Apps that control these appliances.

    1. awaldstein

      I always thought that outside of certs and laws everything was de facto driven by the market–no?

      1. William Mougayar

        well, I was thinking of the IEEE, W3C and other organizations who have also proposed standards that get adopted later.

  3. jason wright

    When there are fourteen none of them are standard.

  4. Amar

    The Amazon response to the NEST security breach is really disappointing and reflects poorly on the tech industry as a whole.<rant>I am amazed no hardware manufacturer (Eero maybe?) has nailed deep integration with a home builder/security company/HVAC company to simplify network management for homes by making them invisible. Why hasn’t the thermostat been extended to allow for things like “secure my internet connected devices” (aka automatically create a internal subnet just for IOT devices in the house and/or bake in basic 2FA)We expect people to pay premium dollars to buy “perennially beta” offerings and self educate on things like MFA, VPN, NATs and what the heck… #SMH Yes, yes the market will self correct but that is a disingenuous statement. The marketing and branding we employ for consumer tech is hyper sophisticated. It communicates psychologically safety that far outstrips what the reality of the product offering is. Combine that with challenge of finding facts in today’s media environment. Consumers are really at a disadvantage.</rant>

    1. John Fitzpatrick

      Resideo may be doing what you want, or something close to it. They’re uniting the control of four home systems–air, water, energy, and security–into one, controlled by a single app. Their mindset, however, is that the smart home is “not a DIY adventure,” and they’re betting that you’ll be willing to hire professionals to install, configure, and manage it all.

  5. obarthelemy

    Most upvoted comment on Ars Technica (by a 2x factor):The “S” in “CHIP” stands for security.

  6. JaredMermey

    If only Facebook positioned Libra this way…

  7. John Fitzpatrick

    The goal of CHIP is interoperability. Build a device to the standard and it’ll work with the big three smart home platforms–Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit. That’ll be a big step forward for the smart home, if they pull it off.

  8. Mike

    A few ideas:1) I think you are going to need broad adoption in new building construction as a channel. Contractors won’t want to add costs that can’t be passed on to consumers, or help sell a property. Retrofitting existing properties might involve too much friction for most – time, money, discovery, decision process; outside early adopters and tech enthusiasts. But once consumers start prioritizing automation and smart features in their purchasing decision you could see the industry move pretty quickly in that direction.2) Need a strong value proposition beyond convenience (and novelty) to get to mainstream markets. Energy efficiency is a good one that goes right to the household bottom line, but needs to be meaningful. The security market seems to be moving along on its own.

    1. John Fitzpatrick

      Insurance discounts may be another value prop to drive adoption. For instance, water damage accounts for a big chunk of homeowners claims. Preventing this with tech that can recognize a leak and automatically respond by shutting off the water could get you a lower premium on your homeowners insurance.

  9. Roelof Reineman

    With all those different protocols and standards around, I picked up an Athom Homey a few years ago. It supports a large number of them and makes devices more interoperable.For example, a WiFi switch to trigger the Zigbee lights, or a ZWave sensor to change the setting on a thermostat.For details: sure if that is available for US (I’m in EU).

  10. Leor Grebler

    From an end user perspective, the standard doesn’t matter. What really matters is how easy it is to control or interact with the connected product.Any unifying standard should address:- What is required for me to get the device connected?- How easily can I control it?- How can I see what’s happening on the device?And the answers should be:- No setup is required.- Control from any interface (voice, phone, desktop)… device just shows up.- Information from device should also be accessible from any system.It still might take some time for a true “set it and forget it” type of setup through a new standard. Maybe it won’t be with this new unifying standard but the next generation or two of it.

  11. JLM

    .You are on the money with reduction of residential power consumption.The low hanging fruit is lighting and HVAC.I just replaced 6,000 SF of incandescent can lights with LED lights. Enormous power savings. Better color light, much brighter and controllable at the switch. Less AC load because of the lower amount of internally generated heat.HVAC efficiencies — just replaced 3 units — are incredible. I opted for the bleeding edge with variable fan speed, dual compressor, humidity control with programmable thermostats that can be made to sense occupancy which works like a champ. When you have 40% humidity, you can live and work in 80F and feel comfortable.I had a company come and seal everything. The house is from the 1950s, doubled in size in teh mid 1990s, and renovated this year. Tons of infiltration.There is a huge amount of meaningless power consumption all over the place in a house. I got rid of at least 10 things — programmed info on appliances as an example, pool equipment that is left on when off.I can see the difference in my bills immediately.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  12. sigmaalgebra

    I typed in a comment on corn LEDs, but somehow a strange keystroke got the Disqus messed up multi-line text box to delete nearly all my post. Bummer. I don’t want to take the time to post it again.

  13. Amar

    Did you pick a specific manufacturer for the LEDs? I want to do the same and knowing what manufacturer to use is one less decision to make and gets me one step closer to acting on it ;-)thanksamar

  14. Richard

    I’ve been hang Drying sheets and clothes – saves energy – as well as the lifespan of your clothes. Rich man poor man.