The Future of IoT, Zigbee Alliance Project CHIP Webinar Recap

The Zigbee Alliance hosted one of their first public Project CHIP (Connected Home over IP) webinar this morning (April 13, 2021). The Zigbee Alliance is a consortium of tech companies that have come together to create a new way for your IoT devices. The new communication protocol is considered to work with Zigbee, WiFi, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), and Thread. Zigbee hosted a number of panelists from the different companies to speak on topics such as:

  • Who is the Zigbee Alliance?
  • What is Project CHIP (Connected Home over IP)?
  • The new CHIP standard vs. every other standard
  • The Device Types included in the CHIP project.
  • How Devices will connect to each other: Network Topology

You can also download the slide deck from the link here (Zigbee Alliance).


Who is the Zigbee Alliance?

The Zigbee Alliance started in 2002 to create a global membership of companies to make Zigbee a viable communication protocol standard for IoT devices. The Zigbee Alliance looks after Zigbee and other companies like:

  • Jupiter Mesh; low-power industrial IoT connectivity using Neighborhood Area Networks (NAN’s) to connect seamlessly between Smart Meters in your home to the industrial devices that keep industry running.
  • Smart Energy: Uses Home Area Networks (HAN’s) to monitor energy usage at every energy production and consumption cycle level. From the Utility straight to home. All the data is monitored and transferred between each component to give a full picture of the Utility industry. It uses the Jupiter Mesh system a
  • DotDot: DotDot is the language (specification) used between smart devices to communicate on any network. It’s an open standard and is used for the Thread IP Network.
  • Project CHIP: Project Connected Home over IP is the new open-source communication standard that allows devices to communicate over any IP network including, WiFi, Thread, BLE, Zigbee, Ethernet, and Cellular. So there is communication for low-power devices (BLE, Thread) and others.

What is Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP)?

Project Connected Home over IP or CHIP is a subset of several companies within the Zigbee Alliance banding together to create a new royalty-free connectivity standard. The intent is to create more compatibility between IoT devices that can communicate securely and seamlessly.

When devices enter the CHIP protocol, you can be assured that the devices are certified and can work with other devices around the world with Blockchain technology. I didn’t know Blockchain was used, however, when thinking about it, that makes sense when your data is going over the cloud.

Consumers like you and me will get more choices of devices to use with CHIP. However, the companies involved in manufacturing the devices will ‘chip in’ (see what I did there?) into a $53B market by 2022. Can you say cha-ching!? And this is just the residential market.

CHIP vs. Other Standards

CHIP is an application layer that delivers interoperability between devices. It is not the network layer (WiFi, BLE, Thread). The reason CHIP is supposed to work so well is that it can communicate between devices so well in the Network layer through WiFi and Thread, using BLE to set up or commission a device. Compared to other standards, CHIP is meant to be used with as little computing power as possible (remember those old PCs or the Apollo spacecraft. We’re talking Kilobytes or less than 1MB bits of data.

CHIP Device Types

You’re probably wondering which devices CHIP will work with. It’s easier to say that it will should work with almost all device types including:

  • Lighting, Electrical: So far, we’ve seen Nanoleaf get into the thread communication protocol.
  • Blinds, Shades:
  • HVAC Controls: We are hearing that Nest Learning Thermostat
  • TV:
  • Access Controls:
  • Safety and Security:
  • Access Points, Bridges:
  • Controllers embedded within Devices, Hubs, etc.: The Nest Hub 2nd Gen has a Thread border router.

CHIP Networks

We mentioned above that your Smart Home devices will communicate using Internet Protocol (IP). This allows all the devices to work with each other.

Device types like Controllers (Hubs, Control Panel, Mobile Device, Phone, etc.) will use CHIP when communicating over WiFi or Ethernet. They could also have a Cloud connection. You could use BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) between your controller device (Phone) and the device type to start the configuration and settings.

You would then connect to you WiFi network between the controller device (Hub, Phone) and the device type (thermostat) that you would like to use.

If you also have a Thread Border router (like the one in the Nest Hub 2nd Gen), you can then communicate between the Nest Hub 2nd Gen back to your WiFi router over WiFi. Now you have a way to communicate to each device in the network. The WiFi becomes the bridge between the devices using Thread and the devices that are solely WiFi. Now you have a huge network of smart devices in the home that can talk to each other directly!

If you had smart devices that use communication protocols outside of CHIP, you could use CHIP-enabled bridges to communicate to those other devices. Then you can ensure that you’re connected.

The Connected Home over IP

Project Connected Home over IP is slated to open CHIP certification in Late 2021. This means that developers and manufacturers are working hard to get their devices and product to market right now. Testing will have to occur to make sure that the device meets the communication spec. However, it’s more likely that devices are actually being released already to communicate using CHIP. For example, Google has already released the second generation Nest Hub which has a Thread Border router. The new Nanoleaf lights also have Thread mesh capability. The idea for CHIP is to create an open-source communication protocol that can bridge the largest number of IoT devices at one time. Google CHIP devices will be able to interact with Amazon CHIP devices. Samsung CHIP-enabled devices will be able to work with Apple products, and vice versa. The market will be open to the new protocol. Remember when we asked if our PCs or devices worked with Windows? Maybe we’ll avert the next Y2K. But seriously, a massive number of important companies have banded together to create a new open-source communication protocol that should help keep our IoT devices secure and seamlessly connected.

Image and Article Credit: Zigbee Alliance