How CHIP Could Make Smart Homes More Intelligent

Chipping away at the frustrations

Key Takeaways

  • Project CHIP is an open-ended program created to help unify smart home devices.
  • The first CHIP-supported devices are expected to arrive by the end of the year and will make connecting smart home tech from different companies easier.
  • If picked up widely, CHIP could revolutionize the current state of the smart home industry, making smart devices easier for users and manufacturers to work with.
Someone adjusting smart home controls on a tablet computer.

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Getting smart home devices from different companies to work together is about to get a lot easier, thanks to Project CHIP.

Initially revealed in 2019, Project Connect Home Over IP (CHIP for short) is a royalty-free, open-ended software program created by Apple, Google, Amazon, and the Zigbee Alliance―which currently consists of over 170 companies―to make smart home devices work better together.

While originally set to release in 2020, we could finally see devices with CHIP support by the end of this year. The currently fragmented nature of the market makes it difficult for users to purchase new smart home devices that work seamlessly together, something experts say CHIP will help relieve.

"To cut right to the chase, I genuinely believe that CHIP will be a gamechanger in the smart home business," Charlotte Robinson, a smart home blogger and software engineer, told Lifewire in an email.

"Lack of interoperability between devices is the biggest factor that’s been slowing down the growth of this industry."

Growing Pains

The idea of the modern smart home and the internet of things (IoT) is an exciting one, but for the most part, it just hasn’t worked in the past. Frustrations from both consumers and manufacturers have arisen, and it has led to one of the most fragmented markets that tech users can dip their toes into. 

It's a game-changer for the industry, and I believe it will make the technology much more accessible and hopefully more affordable...

Instead of worrying about whether or not a smart home device could meet your needs, you have to spend more time worrying about how it will work with your current devices―if at all. 

"Different companies have made excellent products in some niches of the smart home business, such as video doorbells or automatic sprinklers," Robinson explained. 

"But they leave a lot to be desired regarding their other products, such as smart thermostats and smart smoke detectors. This causes a lot of headache for consumers as they are left with the equally terrible options of not buying the product that would best suit their needs, or buying said product, but facing struggles in operating it smoothly."

By making interoperability easier, CHIP has the potential to remove many of the growing pains that smart homeowners have been struggling with―including the frustrations of whether or not a new device can work with their old ones.

It also will make it easier for manufacturers to create new smart home devices. They won’t have to worry about creating them for one particular ecosystem, like Apple or Amazon. Instead, they can make them using CHIP, allowing them to work within all of those ecosystems with other CHIP-supported items.

Come Together 

The problem with introducing new standards is that they often only add to the complexity of the situation. That’s true here, too.

While CHIP does a lot to remove the frustrations caused by the current smart home ecosystems, it has to be picked up by manufacturers to actually work.

Thankfully, Amazon, Google, and Apple―three of the biggest manufacturers of smart home tech―are on the ground floor and already offer support in the HomePod Mini, Amazon’s Eero routers, and Google Nest Hubs for Thread, one of the biggest parts of CHIP.

Thread has been in development for a while now and is designed to integrate with internet protocol (IP) networks seamlessly. This makes it easy for devices that support Thread to connect to your network and communicate with other devices without needing additional gateways, like hardware or software, to run correctly.

Someone adjusting smart home controls on a wall-mounted tablet computer.

Hispanolistic / Getty Images

Products that don’t support Thread will connect over Wi-Fi, and the two technologies will work together to combine the different parts of your smart home.

Still, there’s no guarantee that every device these companies make will feature CHIP support or that the other various manufacturers out there will build technology with it included.

Because it has so much universal appeal for both manufacturers and consumers though, Rex Freiberger, the CEO of GadgetReview, says the chances of widespread support are likely.

"It's a game-changer for the industry, and I believe it will make the technology much more accessible and hopefully more affordable as companies have to jump through fewer hoops to create software and hardware that pairs nicely together," he said.

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