What is Project CHIP?

What is Project Connected Home over IP?

IoT ZigBee 
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Feb 9, 2021

Connected Home over IP (CHIP) is a new, open-source, royalty-free connectivity standard that has been developed to increase compatibility among smart home and Internet of things (IoT) products and software. CHIP aims to improve the consumer experience of trying to use smart home products that aren’t compatible with each other by building upon a widely adopted and secure standard – Internet Protocol (IP).

Project Connected Home over IP is the new Working Group within the Zigbee Alliance which plans to develop and promote the adoption of CHIP. The project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. By building upon Internet Protocol (IP), the project aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.

A major challenge today when shopping for smart home products, is that there is a seemingly endless choice of technology - Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth, Thread, OpenWeave etc. Many of these standards don’t work together either, even though they seem similar. If devices can’t communicate or work with one another because of their differences in technology and standards, how can the Internet of things truly come to fruition?

The Project CHIP aims to solve this problem by relying on an existing and tested standard: IP. CHIP’s goal isn’t to replace the existing standards but to bring the best of those protocols together under one shared umbrella. Internet Protocol can be relied on as a unifying standard to tie everything together. IP has been around for ages, and manufacturers understand its benefits and security needs. It also drives down the hardware costs and increases security.

Today there is no widely adopted open standard for smart home which is built on IP and yet IP is the protocol of the internet and is the most common network layer used in homes and offices. With IP, messages can be routed across networks independent of the physical and link layers underlying them and there are ample battle tested algorithms and infrastructure for performing routing, switching and firewalling in robust and resilient ways. On top of IP, well-known transport protocols like TCP and UDP are also inherited. Consequently, IP is an ideal way to deliver end-to-end security and privacy in communication between a device and another device, app, or service.

Many Smart Home devices use proprietary protocols today, requiring them to be tethered to a home network using dedicated proxies and translators. By building upon IP, some of these devices may instead be able to connect directly with standardized networking equipment.

The development and implementation of CHIP is open source. The project intends to use contributions from market-tested smart home technologies from Amazon, Apple, Google, Zigbee Alliance, etc. that are currently competing with one another and leverage these technologies to accelerate the development of the protocol, and deliver benefits to manufacturers and consumers faster.

Project Connected Home over IP is developed with the following goals and principles in mind:

  • Unifying: Project CHIP will produce a new specification, building with and on top of market-tested, existing technologies.
  • Interoperable: The specification permits communication between any Project CHIP-certified devices, subject to users’ permission.
  • Secure: The specification leverages modern security practices and protocols.
  • User Control: The end user is in control of authorization for interaction with devices.
  • Federated: No single entity serves as a throttle or a single-point-of-failure for root of trust.
  • Robust: The set of protocols specify a complete lifecycle of a device — starting with the seamless out-of-box experience, through operational protocols, to device and system management specifications required for proper function in the presence of change.
  • Low Overhead: The protocols are practically implementable on low compute-resource devices, such as MCUs.
  • Pervasive: The protocols are broadly deployable and accessible, thanks to leveraging IP and being implementable on low-capability devices.
  • Ecosystem-Flexible: The protocol must be flexible enough to accommodate deployment in ecosystems with differing policies.
  • Easy to Use: The protocol should aim to provide smooth, cohesive, integrated provisioning and out-of-box experience.
  • Open: The Project’s design and technical processes should be open and transparent to the general public, including to non-members wherever possible.

Click here to visit the GitHub page for Project CHIP.

Current Status of Project Connected Home over IP 

The Project aims to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. Compliant devices are expected to implement at least one supported technology and not necessarily all.

The goal of the first specification release will be Wi-Fi, up to and including 802.11ax (aka Wi-Fi 6), that is 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax; Thread over 802.15.4-2006 at 2.4 GHz; and IP implementations for Bluetooth Low Energy, versions 4.1, 4.2, and 5.0 for the network and physical wireless protocols.

The Project Connected Home over IP Working Group will also look to embrace other IP-bearing technologies like Ethernet, Cellular, Broadband, and others. Some companies might focus their product offerings on the protocol over Wi-Fi/Ethernet, while others might target the protocol over Thread or BLE, and others might support a combination.

CHIP is backed by some of the biggest names in the smart home world, from Google, Apple, and Amazon to IKEA and Signify (formerly Philips Hue). Apple already announced that it is open-sourcing parts of its HomeKit Accessory Development Kit (ADK) to help the process along.

CHIP’s goals are lofty, and smaller groups have tried to accomplish its goal without much traction. But, if the smart home titans can work together long enough to see the process through, this could be the standard that finally makes smart homes accessible to everybody.