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Apple, Amazon, Google Unite for Smart Home Project


Dec. 19 2019, Updated 7:52 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, Apple (AAPL) Amazon (AMZN), and Google (GOOG) announced their partnership to promote compatibility between all the smart home devices. The project is called “Connected Home over IP.” Joining Apple, Amazon, and Google is the Zigbee Alliance, a leading IoT protocol maker. On the board of Zigbee are companies like IKEA, Samsung smart things, Schneider Electric, Legrand, and more.

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Project Connected Home over IP affects Apple and others

The idea behind this alliance is to increase interoperability between smart home devices while retaining security and reliability. This project will offer more options to the consumers so that they can seamlessly switch amongst the devices. There will be communication amongst all consumer devices like smartphones, smart assistants, and cloud services through IP (Internet Protocol).

The project is aimed at technology innovation, so manufacturers can create devices compatible with Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. The project will benefit not only consumers but also device manufacturers, chipmakers, and other developers.

Vox cited an FAQ released by Google, which indicates that the group will release the draft specification and “preliminary open-source materials” in late 2020. The first area of focus will be smart home devices for physical safety, such as smart locks, CO sensors, window shades, et cetera, notes CNBC.

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The new project could change the smart home landscape

Currently, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri are competing with each other in the market. However, this competition has made the smart home industry fragmented and resulted in increased confusion amongst consumers. Also, smart home device makers are at a loss because all the products aren’t compatible with each other. Imagine a consumer buying smart home lighting that turns out to be compatible only with Alexa, but not Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri.

Similarly, a device manufacturer would have to continue upgrading their product to make it attuned with the other smart assistants if it’s already not. This would result in more cost overruns. Thus, the current arrangement only complicates things.

For the industry to grow and achieve its goal, this new standard is the need of the hour. All the devices must be able to communicate with each other irrespective of the brands. Smart home devices that work across all the three big brands is a definite win for the customers. The project also gives high importance to the security and privacy of the customers while working on smart devices.

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Next year could see huge changes

Three significant technology disruptions are out to rule the world in the next decade. They are 5G, IoT (Internet of Things), and blockchain. As per Gartner, the connected devices will surge to 20.4 billion in 2020 from 8.4 billion in 2017, reported ZDnet in February 2017. The research firm predicts consumer IoT to be a dominant phenomenon in 2020 with 12.86 billion installed units.

Thus, the growth potential is immense, but a lack of a free-connectivity standard could be a big hurdle. We anticipate that the newly proposed standard will result in a more seamless adoption of connected devices through IoT.

Siri is more popular than Alexa, suggests a new report

A Futuresource Consulting report, released yesterday, indicates that Apple’s Siri has a 35% market share in the global virtual assistant market, stated the Cult of Mac. Google Assistant commands 9% of the market, while Alexa’s market share is just 4%. The report further indicates that Microsoft’s Cortana (MSFT) had a 22% market share due to its wide base through Windows 10.

The presence of Siri across iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and the runaway hit AirPods are the significant reasons for Siri’s popularity.

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Futuresource’s report is in sharp contrast to the scenario of the home speaker market in the US. A Consumer Intelligence Research Partners report in August revealed that Apple’s Home Pod had a 5% market share in the US. Leading the pack was Amazon Echo, with a 70% share and Google Home with a 25% share.

Apple HomePod could benefit from the new standard

Project Connected Home over IP is aimed at increased penetration of smart home devices in the households. According to the editor of Voicebot.ai, Bret Kinsella, Apple’s HomePod will benefit the most out of this project, noted Vox. Kinsella said, “Apple has hundreds of smart home integrations compared to tens of thousands for Amazon and Google.”

The market share of HomePod is low due to its non-compatibility with other devices. However, the new standard could solve this issue.

It is still unclear as to how this standard will function and what will be its capabilities. Will it create a common ground on which the smart home devices work? Or else, will it standardize the technicalities of these devices?

We are awaiting further details on the implementation of this new alliance. Until late 2020, things would continue to function the same way. However, we may see a significant change in the smart home market after the standardized protocol is adopted.


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