All Hubs Initiative - FAQs

What is the All Hubs Initiative?

The Zigbee Alliance is a member-driven standards body. As in most industry standards bodies, when a group of members determines there is a market need for improvements or additions to a Zigbee Alliance technology standard, they’re able to work together within the Alliance to develop solutions that are then incorporated into updates to the standard. This happens on an ongoing basis in any number of areas within the Alliance.

The All Hubs Initiative is the name for a particular, but important, member-driven initiative, started by key industry leaders within the Zigbee Alliance. This includes major Smart Home ecosystems Amazon, Smart Things, Comcast, Ikea, and others, and companies that support them like ourselves.

These members joined together to develop enhancements to the Zigbee standard, that further the Alliance’s goal to continually improve interoperability amongst IoT devices. To that end, the All Hubs Initiative set out to evolve the requirements for IoT hubs and the end-products that connect to them, in order that device vendors can create products they know will work across any ecosystem, ecosystem vendors can maintain flexibility in specifying how devices should behave on their networks, and consumers can have confidence that Zigbee products will work as expected in any ecosystem they are using.

Who is involved in the All Hubs Initiative?

The All Hubs Initiative is currently driven by a technical work group within the Zigbee Alliance. It is open to any members that wish to participate in the effort. Currently the participating companies are:

Amazon, Comcast, Exegin, Kwikset, Landis+Gyr, LEEDARSON, Legrand, MMB Networks, NXP, OSRAM, Schneider Electric, Silicon Labs, Somfy

How did the All Hubs Initiative start?

The Zigbee Alliance hosts a number of events throughout the year, from Members’ Meetings to industry consortia, that bring together leaders from across the IoT to discuss the needs of the market, often resulting in initiatives like this one being created.

In this particular case, the All Hubs Initiative began in the fall of 2017 at the Zigbee Alliance’s HIVE event,  hosted in Silicon Valley. HIVE brings together leaders from across the IoT, including Alliance members and non-members, technology executives, and leadership from other standards bodies. One of the many discussions at that event was the challenge faced by device vendors who want to sell a standard product into multiple ecosystems, but often must contend with different and implementation requirements from each ecosystem, who can expect devices to behave in different ways to meet their business or applications’ needs. This limits ecosystems’ choice in devices that will conform to their requirements, and in turn impacts consumers who want broad selection of IoT devices, while knowing they will work with any ecosystem they choose (today and tomorrow).

As a result of these discussions at HIVE, a number of key ecosystem vendors (some not yet Zigbee members at the time) committed to working together to solve these issues, and soon after formed the All Hubs initiative as a technical group within the Zigbee Alliance to do so.

What is the output of the All Hubs Initiative?

As a work group within the Zigbee Alliance, the All Hubs Initiative members have been working on updates to the Zigbee specification at both the application and network layers that improve and further standardize the process of commissioning and operating Zigbee devices within all home ecosystems. These updates, once approved through the Zigbee Alliance process, will become part of Zigbee 3.1, the next iteration of the Zigbee standard, along with other improvements, and certification and testing tools.

Zigbee Alliance members can access the current version of specification in development by clicking HERE.

What exactly are these updates or features?

Zigbee was designed to enable flexibility and innovation in the IoT. Ecosystem vendors vary in their supported features, business models, value propositions, customer experience expectations, security requirements, and other factors. This is a natural consequence of openness and innovation in the IoT, and Zigbee includes a number of features that can be implemented in different ways in order to meet the varying needs of different applications. For example, a product vendor may be asked to change the sleepy characteristics of their battery-powered device, in order to strike a different balance between battery life and responsiveness.

However this can sometimes create challenges for device vendors who want to sell a standard product into multiple ecosystems, but often contend with different implementation requirements from each ecosystem.

The All Hubs Initiative aims to establish interfaces that allow the platform or ecosystem vendor to dynamically configure the behaviour of devices on their network to the preferences of their application or users. Features and behaviours of devices that were previously “hardcoded” will be subject to this dynamic configuration, reducing the need for multiple product SKUs carrying different software builds, or cumbersome and power-consuming upgrades of connected devices in the field. This continues to provide flexibility and encourage innovation while reducing fragmentation.

There are many more updates that enhance various aspects of joining and operating on a network. While in development, Zigbee Alliance specifications are only available to current members. Members can access these specifications HERE.

Does this mean there’s going to be a “All Hubs” flavour of Zigbee? Or a new version that’s not compatible with today’s Zigbee devices?

Not at all. The All Hubs Initiative is just that — an initiative. Many of the specifications and features that are the product of this initiative — like many others going on at any time within the Alliance — will be incorporated into the next version of Zigbee, that is, Zigbee 3.1. Some may make it into future versions of the standard. As the IoT evolves, and new innovation inspires new applications, Zigbee will continue to evolve with it.

But it’s also extremely important that today’s devices hundreds of millions of which make up the infrastructure of our homes and offices — don’t get left behind. The Zigbee Alliance, and the All Hubs Initiative members are always working to ensure forwards and backwards compatibility in Zigbee standards and devices.

Why did you give this initiative a name?

Most initiatives within the Alliance have some kind of working code name. You may have heard this initiative previously referred to by a number of names such as “Works with all hubs” (or “WWAHu”). Usually these names don’t get used much outside of the Alliance, because their output ends up in the latest version of the standard.

But sometimes, these efforts are particularly exciting and attract external interest, or there is a need to talk about them in advance of a specification launch, and so a name is needed for the effort. Sometimes that name is the technology that it will produce (like Dotdot), sometimes it’s a name given to a particular initiative, in order to tell the story about how leaders from across the IoT are coming together in the Zigbee Alliance, to drive the evolution of this key technology.

How does this affect Zigbee specifications and certification?

The features that have emerged from the All Hubs initiative are part of the Zigbee technology roadmap, and will become part of future versions of the Zigbee standard. A number of these features will be incorporated into the forthcoming Zigbee 3.1 specification. These features do not break or invalidate Zigbee 3.0 standard or certification, and Zigbee Alliance is committed to promoting backwards and forwards compatibility.

So developing a Zigbee 3.0 device today allows you to participate in today’s market while being ready for the future. However, if you’re starting out building a product or ecosystem and want to make sure you’re incorporating these enhancements in your roadmap, talk to us!

I heard Ecosystem X requires All Hubs features. What does this mean?

Some ecosystem vendors may start requiring features that have been developed through the All Hubs initiative, ahead of the formal launch of the Zigbee 3.1 specification. While all Zigbee 3.0 certified ecosystems must still be compatible with Zigbee 3.0 devices, some ecosystems may require these new features as part of their “Works With X” type programs. This is often how innovation works in its way to being standardized.. Here though, these features are not part of one particular vendor’s set of requirements, but will apply broadly across the industry as Zigbee 3.1 is ratified.

Similarly, those ecosystems may have their own testing or qualification programs to ensure compliance with these features. Again, these will be absorbed back into the standard Zigbee certification process as these features are formally released in Zigbee 3.1.

As these features do not negatively impact Zigbee 3.0 certification, they can simply be treated as additional requirements or rather an “early implementation”, that exist as additional features on top of Zigbee 3.0 certified devices.

How to I get the specifications? When will the All Hubs Initiative features be released? How do I start implementing these features?

The All Hubs Initiative is currently being driven by a technical work group within the Zigbee Alliance. The features and requirements they are generating are rolling up to the Zigbee 3.1 specification. As always, specifications currently under development are only available to current Zigbee Alliance members.

If you are an Alliance Member, you can go HERE to find the latest version of the All Hubs Initiative documents, or as available, Zigbee 3.1 specification. If you are not yet an Alliance member, now is a great time to join! Please see HERE for more information on membership.

As a reminder, the All Hubs Initiative is not a specific version of Zigbee, but rather a list of features that will contribute (amongst others) to Zigbee 3.1. While some ecosystems may request device vendors to support these features ahead of the formal launch of Zigbee 3.1, this still represents an “early implementation” of some features, and is not in itself a standard for release or ratification.

The current target for the Zigbee 3.1 specification is late 2019, with certification targeted to open shortly thereafter. But you really shouldn’t wait. Building a Zigbee 3.0 device today gives you access to a wide market of Zigbee ecosystems including Amazon, Samsung SmartThings, Comcast Xfinity, and others, with a straightforward path to updating to 3.1 as the standard evolves.

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