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Emerging Connectivity Standard for Smart Homes Headed for Commercial Buildings

Neil Strother
Dec 01, 2020

Guidehouse Insights smart city

A new working group has emerged from the Zigbee Alliance to drive adoption of the Project Connected Home over Internet Protocol (CHIP) standard beyond the smart home market and into commercial buildings. So far, more than 50 companies have signed up to help mold the commercial aspects of the standard. The basic goal is to enable Internet of Things (IoT) devices to more easily interoperate in offices, hotels, retail outlets, restaurants, healthcare facilities, airports, data centers, warehouses, and multitenant residential buildings.

Meeting Needs Along the Commercial Building Value Chain

“An IP infrastructure is the necessary backbone for any network to enable companies to leverage a digital architecture and connect their IoT-enabled devices,” said Manish Kumar, senior vice president of the Schneider Electric digital buildings business unit. Companies will be able to easily build and add CHIP-based “devices to their existing networks in a way that is IT-compliant with the current architecture and management infrastructure.”

In addition to Schneider Electric, companies joining the CHIP for commercial buildings effort include Allegion, DSP Group, DSR, Latch, Legrand, MMB Networks, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP Semiconductor, OSRAM, Qorvo, Signify, Silicon Labs, Somfy, and ubisys. The working group intends for the standard to meet the needs of a wide variety of commercial building stakeholders that make up the value chain: IoT device manufacturers, installers, facilities managers, owners, tenants, planners, IT personnel, and systems integrators. That is a tall order, given the number and diversity of stakeholders that are part of this commercial value chain and the existing communications standards for devices that need to work in conjunction with each other.

Building Momentum for CHIP Support

Fortunately for the new CHIP working group, previous efforts have already laid the groundwork to help smooth their path. Last June, leading global technology alliances announced a collaborative effort to better align the connectivity needs in commercial buildings and improve the integration of smart building products. BACnet International, Zigbee Alliance, KNX Association, Open Connectivity Foundation, and Thread Group joined forces to create the IP Building and Lighting Standards (IP-BLiS) initiative. The IP-BLiS members are promoting a secure multi-standard IP-based infrastructure as a pillar of building automation, seeking to replace inefficient yet commonly used siloed solutions. Their purpose is to harmonize commercial building connectivity, reduce fragmentation, and promote wide acceptance of coexisting solutions. Another development in favor of CHIP is how it is designed; it operates at the application layer, which means it can function with a variety of protocols, including Thread, Zigbee, and Bluetooth.

Given the work underway by the IP-BLiS participating groups, there is market momentum to help reinforce the commercial CHIP effort moving forward. And movement is taking place. Final technology specifications for CHIP are expected to launch in early to mid-2021, with the first CHIP-enabled products expected to be available by the end of 2021. 

Target Milestones and Timeline Goals for Project CHIP

(Source: Zigbee Alliance)

Despite all the excitement and momentum for CHIP, there are lingering questions and issues. For instance, keen observers have questioned how long CHIP will remain part of the Zigbee Alliance. Also, a lot of big cats need herding in this CHIP den, including tech heavyweights taking part such as Apple, Amazon, and Google. Nonetheless, the backers of commercial CHIP tell me they are confident their efforts will pay off. We shall see. For more on the commercial buildings market and how this development is likely to unfold, check out Guidehouse Insights’ recent report, Market Data: IoT for Smart Buildings.