Zigbee Alliance morphs into CSA, introduces Matter

Internet of Things
Zigbee isn't going away, according to CSA, but the alliance is expanding to include a lot more initiatives. (Pixabay)

The IoT technology known as Zigbee isn’t going away, but the Zigbee Alliance is rebranding to a new name and focus: the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA).

The Zigbee Alliance has been around for almost 20 years, and it’s well-established as a global standards organization for IoT. Its founding technology, Zigbee, is in millions of products.

But if there’s ever been a need for inclusiveness in IoT, it’s here, and CSA fits the bill. The organization is expanding to include more specialized IoT protocols, including Matter, which is taking much of the limelight these days.

The name change was going to happen regardless. “But it also comes at a time when we have a lot of new initiatives and a pivot for the organization,” said CSA President and CEO Tobin Richardson, who was president of the former Zigbee Alliance. “Zigbee will continue to be a very important pillar of our standards, but it’s one of many.”

They’re adding working groups, including Project CHIP (Connected Home over IP), now called Matter, which is focused on interoperable standards for the smart home. In addition, the organization will be taking on more active roles, including with policy makers and regulators while continuing to develop different technologies deemed foundational for the IoT and connected devices, Richardson told Fierce.

The CSA counts more than 350 organizations among its membership, and they range across the value chain – from silicon, software and devices to service providers and retail.

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For Matter in particular, that effort ties its roots to a collaboration that involved Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Google and Samsung’s SmartThings in 2019 to promote the CHIP standard, joined by fellow Alliance board member companies like IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Schneider Electric, Signify, Silicon Labs, Somfy and Wulian. Now, according to CSA, more than 180 organizations of all sizes are working to bring the Matter specification and associated programs to life.

Interoperability with IoT devices in the home has been a challenge and a focus for the IoT industry for years. According to CSA, Matter will make it easier for device manufacturers to build devices and make sure they’re compatible with smart home and voices services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit with Siri, Google’s Assistant, SmartThings and more.

The first specification release of the Matter protocol will run on existing networking technologies such as Ethernet (802.3), Wi-Fi (802.11) and Thread (802.15.4), as well as accommodate Bluetooth Low Energy.

The Zigbee spec was introduced in 2004. According to CSA, 2020 was a record-breaking year, with more than 560 Zigbee technology devices certified, an increase of 30% over the year prior. Nearly 4 billion Zigbee chipsets are expected to ship in 2023; momentum is expected to further increase with the addition of Matter devices later in 2021.

Other technologies have their specific organizations: Bluetooth SIG and the Wi-Fi Alliance are two examples.

“We’re trying to create a place that can help accelerate the market for the Internet of Things and do that in a way of working that is very open and community-based, which is the hallmark of where we’ve gotten to where we are today,” Richardson said.

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He’s cognizant this isn’t the mother of all ships where they’re trying to bring in every single standards organization. But it’s a place that’s focused on the underlying foundation of IoT. “We’re only as strong as our member companies,” he said.

The Matter project is on track to see the first devices through certification in late 2021, depending on manufacturers’ go-to-market plans. Devices targeted at launch include lighting and electrical products, such as light bulbs, plugs and outlets; HVAC controls such as thermostats and air conditioning units; and door locks, garage door sensors, window coverings and TVs.