Samsung's SmartThings joins ZigBee Alliance board

SmartThings, the well-known Internet of Things (IoT) startup acquired by Samsung last year, is the newest member to join the ZigBee Alliance board of directors, joining at the "Promoter" level.

"The ZigBee Alliance has been a longtime trusted partner of ours and we've always been closely aligned on our vision to build an open ecosystem for the Internet of Things," said Dan Lieberman, head of research and standards at SmartThings, in a press release. "Joining the Board of Directors will open up even more opportunities for collaboration as we look to deliver the best smart home experience possible to consumers for enhanced peace of mind, security and convenience in their everyday lives."

Mark Walters, vice president of strategic development at the ZigBee Alliance, said SmartThings is joining the board at a time when the alliance is gearing up for its big ZigBee 3.0 release later this year. Walters became aware of SmartThings' Kickstarter campaign when he was at the Z-Wave Alliance. Z-Wave is one of the technologies that SmartThings supports; all the products it has released in the market use ZigBee technology.

The vast majority of products that use ZigBee do not use the ZigBee brand, so the brand isn't as well-known as it is deployed. ZigBee board members include Comcast Cable, Philips and The Kroger Co., which are better known by their own brands than via ZigBee. "Part of the problem with ZigBee is there are so many options on how to use the technology" and there are many options on how the brand is used, Walters told FierceWirelessTech, adding that it's part of his role at the ZigBee Alliance to help the industry make the brands live in the marketplace so they are more meaningful.

While it aims to unify ZigBee technologies, the alliance maintains many different types of ZigBee, such as ZigBee Pro, the mesh networking stack that is used in tens of millions of devices. But Walters says it's important to note that ZigBee is a non-profit, open global consortium that puts all of its technology into the public domain, "so literally anybody can go to the ZigBee Alliance website and download the ZigBee Pro specification," he said. Any number of silicon providers can provide ZigBee and they can build a product and take it to market. They don't have to be an alliance member or certify the product. The caveat is, if they do that, they can't use the brand name ZigBee. If they want to use the ZigBee brand, they have to certify the product.

Walters joined the ZigBee Alliance in May. At that time, he said one of his goals is to craft partnerships and agreements with other organizations to increase interoperability across the IoT. The alliance already is collaborating with the Thread Group.

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