Amazon Is Taking More Control Over Smart Home Tech

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Amazon currently has a say in the development of a commonly used smart home standard, giving the company more power as it keeps on pushing smart speakers, cameras, doorbells, and every other sort of devices into its customers’ homes.

Starting today, Amazon grabs a chair on the board of the Zigbee Alliance, which oversees implementation of the Zigbee wireless protocol. Zigbee isn’t as famous as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, yet you can consider it a lot like them — it’s a wireless protocol for letting gadgets communicate; yet unlike Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Zigbee is particularly good for low-control gadgets and can travel longer distances, making it perfect for simple smart gadgets like a light switch.

Amazon introduced a version of the Echo with Zigbee support over a year back. That support enabled the speaker to specifically connect to a new world of smart home gadgets, similar to lightbulbs, electrical plugs, and tiny sensors that it otherwise couldn’t have reached. The home alarm system for Ring, which Amazon claims, likewise connects to Zigbee.

It’s a moderate start, yet Amazon’s climb to Zigbee’s board proposes the organization will need to make more use of the protocol later on. Other companies on Zigbee’s board include Samsung-owned SmartThings, which makes a smart home hub; Signify, the company behind the popular Philips Hue smart lights; and Comcast, which uses Zigbee on its Xfinity Home security solution.

Getting onto Zigbee’s board isn’t actually some sort of accomplishment for Amazon, yet it is a reasonable and deliberate decision. Getting on the board implies becoming one of the Alliance’s highest-paying members — $75,000 every year — and it gives those companies an important standpoint: they’re able to “drive specification development, prerequisites, and test plans.” Or fundamentally, characterize where Zigbee goes next.

If Amazon is paying that money, it implies the company wants a say in what future version of Zigbee can do and how unique Zigbee devices function together. It additionally indicates Amazon taking an opinion on which smart home standard it’d like to see win out. Zigbee’s most immediate rival is an alternative called Z-Wave, which hardware makers have criticized for depending on proprietary chips from a single company. Amazon is likely among the many companies in the smart home industry that would prefer to abstain from managing the expensive parts that could come along with that if Z-Wave were to grow in popularity.

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