The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Home Networks Committee formed a new working group to develop an industry technical standard to improve interoperability between home automation devices. The new standard will also reduce the time and effort required to develop software applications that provide consumers with access to their home automation devices and systems. The new working group is called the Device Interoperability Working Group, also known as R7 WG17. Anyone with an interest in this work is encouraged to join the working group and its parent committee, the Home Networks Committee. CEA is particularly interested in adding new committee members (called “users”) who acquire home automation products from those who create them.
Home automation is experiencing dramatic growth, in part due to the availability of manufacturer and third-party applications that enable consumers to monitor and control devices from different manufacturers anywhere, anytime from their mobile devices. To achieve interoperability, app developers must create a custom application programming interface (API) based on each device's capabilities, messaging formats, privacy and security features, and the network and protocols the device uses.
"This requires the developer to work closely with each manufacturer to develop an API or gain access to the manufacturer's API, followed by extensive testing to ensure compatibility," said Bill Rose, president of WJR Consulting and chair of CEA's new working group. "Some developers simply forego this and attempt to develop APIs on their own or use open source APIs, resulting in interoperability problems and service calls to the manufacturer for problems over which the manufacturer has no control."
CEA's new working group will define Extensible Markup Language (XML) schema templates that a manufacturer can easily complete and post online for use by developers. The schema will include everything necessary to enable an application to monitor and control the device, including non-standard features that may not be included in standard device profiles defined elsewhere. The standard will not require additional device firmware, enabling communications with legacy devices. Schemas that comply with this standard would ultimately be posted on a secure server hosted by the manufacturer or a third-party for use by application developers and others for interoperability testing. Each manufacturer will have control over who can access its schema to ensure that only developers that meet a manufacturer's approval criteria may download the schema.