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Xerafy releases ceramic RFID tag; Zebra Technologies intros data-intelligence platform; Triax Technologies adds access-control functionality to its construction platform; Zigbee Alliance announces initiative to strengthen IoT security, interoperability, reliability; Tuya, Microsoft collaborate to power smart-home products on Azure Cloud platform; Global Market Insights predicts automotive NFC market will be worth $6 billion by 2025.
By Rich Handley

Zigbee Alliance Announces Initiative to Strengthen IoT Interoperability, Reliability, Security

The Zigbee Alliance has announced an 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 composed of such IoT companies as Amazon, Comcast, Exegin, Kwikset, Landis+Gyr, LEEDARSON, Legrand, MMB Networks, NXP Semiconductors, OSRAM, Schneider Electric, Silicon Labs, Somfy and 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 3.1 version 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 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.

"Consumers and businesses want connected devices that offer value and convenience, work great, and work together seamlessly," said Chris DeCenzo, the chair of the All Hubs Initiative workgroup, the board director of the Zigbee Alliance, and a principal engineer at Amazon, in a prepared statement. "Through the All Hubs Initiative, leading IoT companies in the Zigbee Alliance are working together to define interoperability standards to help device makers innovate and expand selection while continuing to deliver consistent, reliable experiences for customers."

IoT and smart-home ecosystems can vary in their supported features, business models, value propositions, customer experience expectations, security requirements and other factors. The Zigbee standard was designed to support this flexibility across offerings from Amazon, Samsung SmartThings, Philips Hue, IKEA and others, but this flexibility can create challenges for device vendors trying to build and market products that meet the requirements of different ecosystems.

"As innovation across the IoT continues to accelerate, device vendors need to ensure their products can adapt to the diverse and evolving requirements of multiple ecosystems, and reliably work across major IoT hubs," said Tobin Richardson, the Zigbee Alliance's president and CEO, in the prepared statement. "The All Hubs Initiative is not just an important effort in strengthening interoperability, but a phenomenal example of how global industry leaders and innovators come together within the Zigbee Alliance to share best practices and solve industry-wide challenges."

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. 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. These improvements establish a method by which hubs can communicate their supported and required features to new devices that join their networks, as well as indicate how those devices should be configured. They standardize the process of commissioning and operating Zigbee devices based on the best practices and experience of Alliance member companies.

The updates will be part of Zigbee 3.1, the next iteration of the Zigbee standard, which is currently scheduled for release later this year. These updated features and Zigbee 3.1 will be backward-compatible with Zigbee 3.0-certified devices and hubs. Some ecosystems are participating in early implementations of the All Hubs Initiative's features and may request that device vendors support these features as part of its Works With programs, ahead of the formal launch of Zigbee 3.1.

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 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.

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