The Zigbee Alliance has publicly announced a major ongoing initiative to make smart home and IoT products easier to develop, deploy, and sell across ecosystems. The “All Hubs Initiative” is driven by a Zigbee Alliance workgroup comprised of leading IoT companies including Amazon, Comcast, Exegin, Kwikset, Landis+Gyr, LEEDARSON, Legrand, MMB Networks, NXP, OSRAM, Schneider Electric, Silicon Labs, Somfy, and many others with the goal of improving interoperability between IoT devices and major consumer and commercial platforms.
The product of this effort is a set of features at the application and network layers of Zigbee that will be incorporated into the upcoming 3.1version of Zigbee technology. While Zigbee Alliance members are able to participate in this workgroup and contribute to and access these evolving specifications, the Alliance is publicly announcing this initiative today as a number of smart home systems will add these features to their platform certification requirements ahead of the ratification of the full 3.1 feature set to more immediately take advantage of these enhancements.
Meeting the Evolving Needs of Major Ecosystems
IoT and smart home ecosystems can vary in their supported features, business models, value propositions, customer experience expectations, security requirements, and other factors. This is the nature of the openness and innovation of the IoT, and the Zigbee standard was designed to support this flexibility across innovative offerings from Amazon, Samsung SmartThings, Philips Hue, IKEA, and others. However, this flexibility can sometimes create challenges for device vendors trying to build and market products that meet the requirements of different ecosystems and earn their coveted “Works With” badges – and challenges for businesses and customers using those products across a number of hubs.
The All Hubs Initiative is not a specific version of Zigbee technology, but rather a list of features that will contribute to the core Zigbee roadmap. More specifically, they are a set of updates to the Zigbee specification at both the application and network layers that maintain the flexibility of Zigbee to meet diverse market needs, while improving interoperability.
Key to maintaining this flexibility, these improvements establish a robust method by which hubs can communicate their supported and required features to new devices that join their networks, and how those devices should configure themselves appropriately. They also further standardize the process of commissioning and operating Zigbee devices based on the best practices and real-world experience of Alliance member companies. These updates will be part of Zigbee 3.1— the next iteration of the Zigbee standard, which is currently scheduled for release later in 2019.
These updated features and Zigbee 3.1 itself will be backwards compatible with Zigbee 3.0 certified devices and hubs. Some ecosystems however are participating in “early implementations” of the All Hubs Initiative’s features and may request device vendors support these features as part of their “Works With” programs, ahead of the formal launch of Zigbee 3.1.
Bringing the Industry Together: How the All Hubs Initiative Started
The project was envisioned in the fall of 2017 at the first Hive Executive IoT Summit organized by the Zigbee Alliance. These exclusive events take place annually around the globe to bring together market-moving individuals and organizations from across the IoT industry. Attendees represent companies from within and outside the Zigbee Alliance and include technology executives, visionaries, and leaders from other standards bodies.
As a result of key discussions on the interoperability challenges facing major platforms, device vendors, and consumers, key ecosystem participants committed to working together to solve these issues. Together, they formed the All Hubs Initiative, which now operates as a technical workgroup under the Zigbee Alliance umbrella. Securing buy-in from leaders throughout the IoT landscape gives the All Hubs Initiative strong backing and diverse support as an ‘all hands in’ effort for the growth of the entire industry.
How to Get Started
The All Hubs Initiative feature set is available to current Zigbee Alliance members. If you’re already a member, visit here for details. If you’re not yet a member, click here to learn about how to join. For more information about the Zigbee Alliance, its Board of Directors, and benefits of being Zigbee Certified, visit www.zigbee.org.