IoT Company SmartThings Joins ZigBee Alliance

The company, which is owned by Samsung, offers a home IoT platform that enables users to connect multiple devices through a single interface.

SmartThings, the developer for a smart home platform that was bought by Samsung last year, is joining the board of directors of the ZigBee Alliance, one of a number of industry groups that are working on the issue of interoperability between the growing numbers of devices and systems that make up the Internet of things.

SmartThings officials this week said the move makes sense given how closely aligned their vision is with that of the ZigBee Alliance. In addition, Samsung also is a member of the group.

"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," Dan Lieberman, head of research and standards at SmartThings, said in a statement.

The rapidly growing number of connected systems, devices and sensors—from home appliances and cars to industrial systems, light bulbs and security systems—is increasing the demand to make sure these things can connect and communicate with each other. Cisco Systems executives expect the number of connected devices to grow from 25 billion last year to more than 50 billion by 2020. Other vendors and analyst firms expect the same sort of growth, though the estimates of the number of devices vary.

The demand for interoperability has given rise to a number of industry groups—such as the AllSeen Alliance, Thread Group and Open Interconnect Consortium—that are developing open technologies to allow devices to connect and talk with each other. SmartThings offers a platform for the home that comprises essentially a central hub that connects to a residence's Internet router and a mobile app. Users can then connect as many smart devices as they want through the platform through a single interface.

The platform supports ZigBee-certified products.

The acquisition of SmartThings in 2014 was part of a larger aggressive push Samsung is making into the Internet of things (IoT). Samsung officials in January announced that within five years, all of the company's hardware will be able to connect to the Internet. In addition, they said Samsung is investing $100 million on its IoT developer efforts.

The ZigBee Alliance—which has about 400 members, including such companies as AT&T, Comcast, ARM, Texas Instruments, Cisco and Huawei Technologies—for more than a decade has offered an open wireless standard for a broad range of systems. In November 2014, the group brought together all of those technologies to create a single standard—ZigBee 3.0—that officials said will offer interoperability for IoT devices.

In April, the ZigBee Alliance and Thread Group announced they are partnering to enable ZigBee's application layer protocols to run over Thread-based networks. It's one of several alliances between IoT standards groups in recent months.

Having SmartThings join its board "is another step toward a more consumer-friendly ZigBee Alliance," group President and CEO Tobin Richardson said in a statement. "We are expanding our consumer presence to help our members not only develop and certify interoperable connected devices, but also to prepare an open and thriving market for those devices."