A rare détente in the smart speaker turf war has seen the territory’s three main protagonists – Amazon, Google, and Apple – agreeing to work towards a royalty-free connectivity standard to open up the market for smart home gadgets.

Despite what has been a fierce race for dominance in the smart speaker market, in which Amazon has typically led the field, the companies, announcing the initiative on a website for the new working group, are putting the growing market of smart home devices ahead of the short-term interest of tying customers into particular ecosystems.

The same website lists the companies that will also join the initiative, as part of the Zigbee Alliance: IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian.

Writing on the site, the group explains that the “project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use.” And adds that it “will take an open-source approach for the development and implementation of a new, unified connectivity protocol.

“The project aims to make it easier for device manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and others.”

Over one-tenth of internet users in Italy, the UK, the US and Canada use a smart speaker, according to data from YouGov and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

This year, the market is expected to grow another 14.4%, according to International Data Corporation figures cited by the FT.

Effectively, it will mean that consumers will no longer have to worry about whether the smart lightbulb or fridge they’re about to buy will be compatible with their smart speaker. Competition for dominance over the smart speaker market, however, will remain undimmed, as this announcement just opens up a market downstream from the core voice technology space.

Part of the protocol’s purpose will also be to improve security on these devices, which has emerged as a key concern this year following news that some recordings were being passed to human contractors, sparking privacy fears. The working group says it wants to introduce “security as a fundamental design tenet” of the protocol.

Though there is great excitement about voice technology and manifest consumer adoption, its use is still complex and distant for the advertising industry. In WARC’s 2020 Marketer’s Toolkit, a survey found that as many as 69% of marketers remain unprepared for voice, signalling that the voice revolution is still largely a hypothetical for most brands.

Sourced from Project Connected Home over IP, WARC, Financial Times