Home Assistant SkyConnect USB Stick announced - will be compatible with both Zigbee and Thread (including Matter/CHIP over Thread)

FYI, Nabu Casa’s Zack Barett has announced on Twitter that Home Assistant founders are working on an official Home Assistant SkyConnect USB Stick (ie. a physical radio adapter/dongle hardware).

Nabu Casa electronics engineer developer (and Home Assistant developer) agners is designing the hardware for this USB RF-radio hardware for direct-attachment via USB will be based on a Silicon Labs EFR32MG21 SoC and that is an IEEE 802.15.4 multi-protocol 2.4GHz radio MCU that is capable of concurrently running both Zigbee 3.0 (EmberZNet/EZSP) and Thread (OpenThread/Spinel inc. Matter/CHIP over Thread) stacks/protocols at the same time by using firmware in RCP RCP (Radio Co-Processor) mode. Direct local serial communication will be done via an onboard USB-to-UART bridge/converter (presumably a chip in Silicon Labs CP210x series).

https://twitter.com/ZackBarettHA/status/1537168472131739648?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1537168472131739648%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.redditmedia.com%2Fmediaembed%2Fvdmpl6%3Fresponsive%3Dtrueis_nightmode%3Dfalse

Be sure to fill out Home Assistant SkyConnect interest form so they know how many they should make:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScEjHSBJszUZfgO3MIDO51IHr3Oeohcs8BLpRIjY1liJ58IpA/viewform

Again, this USB dongle hardware is based on the EFR32MG21 SoC same chip used in Home Assistant Yellow (formerly Home Assistant Amber), although rather than a board built from scratch like this Home Assistant SkyConnect USB Stick the adapter inside the Home Assistant Yellow uses an Silabs MGM210P radio board (which in turn is a pre-certified RF module that contains the combination of an EFR32MG21 SoC and an onboard Ceramic Chip Antenna as its core components + will use a different firmware as GPIO pinout are not the same as the Home Assistant SkyConnect USB Stick dongle/adapter).

Home Assistant / Nabu Casa developer agners are also working on several add-ons that will also allow both these adapers to concurrently as Zigbee Coordinator and as an OpenThread Border Router (OTBR) for Thread-based Matter/CHIP-compatible devices (communicating locally over a USB-to-serial port using OpenThread RPC Spinel interface over UART. Silabs EmberZNet EZSP interfaces for Zigbee via the zigpy libraries will also enable support to the ZHA (Zigbee Home Automation) integration out-of-the-box.

https://github.com/home-assistant/addons-development/tree/master/silabs-multiprotocol

https://github.com/home-assistant/addons-development/tree/master/openthread_border_router

https://github.com/home-assistant/addons-development/tree/master/chip_tool

https://github.com/home-assistant/addons-development/tree/master/chip_controller_repl

https://github.com/home-assistant/addons-development/tree/master/matter_server

https://github.com/home-assistant-libs/python-matter-server/

There are also some discussions about Zigbee and Thread radio hardware adapter compatibility here:

https://github.com/zigpy/zigpy/discussions/894

PS: EFR32MG21 is by the way the same Silabs radio MCU chip used in ITead Zigbee 3.0 USB Dongle Model: 9888010100045 (Hardware Revision Version 1.3), more information about that adapter here:

https://community.home-assistant.io/t/itead-zigbee-3-0-usb-dongle-stick-adapter-based-on-silicon-labs-efr32mg21/271144

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@agners While this first-generation Home Assistant SkyConnect USB Stick has not yet even been released I would personally still very much like to suggest/request that Z-Wave Controller support is also considered for the next-generation of Home Assistant SkyConnect USB Stick hardware (e.g. “Home Assistant SkyConnect 2 USB Stick” if you will). Especially if Nabu Casa is aiming to get a Z-Wave Certification for Home Assistant with the Z-Wave JS integration as recently mentioned a few times.

Such a next-generation Thread + Zigbee + Z-Wave combination all-in-one dongle would be a great spiritual successor to the still popular Nortek GoControl QuickStick Combo Model HUSBZB-1 (which has a Silabs Z-Wave 500 chip + a Silabs Ember 3581 Zigbee chip inside it) and would make it an more universal RF radio dongle. I think Nabu Case could even sell such an as a White-Label product to other open-source home automation projects (such as for example OpenHAB, Domoticz, ioBroker, Hubitat, and Jeedom) for them to rebrand it and offer their own support when used with their platforms, even if only to potentially gain cost advantages from economies of scale when manufatcuring more of them.

Maybe also add an EFR32BG24 chip for Bluetooth Low Energy 5.3 (BLE) with Bluetooth Mesh support?

https://www.silabs.com/wireless/bluetooth

Anyway, my reasoning for requesting Z-Wave 700/800 support too is that Z-Wave 300/500 series devices are widely available + new Z-Wave 700/800 series devices are just now starting to be released, and as Z-Wave controllers are backwards-compatible many end-users who already have an established Z-Wave network mesh are likely to soon want to upgrade from a Z-Wave 500 series controller to a newer Z-Wave 700 or 800 series controller to be able to use all long-range and battery-life features/functions of latest devices while still being able to take advantage of their Z-Wave mesh network.

Silicon Labs has released EFR32ZG23 (ZG23) SoCs and ZGM230S modules for Z-Wave 800 series:

https://z-wavealliance.org/silicon-labs-z-wave-800-series-now-available-socs-and-modules-lead-industry-in-long-range-energy-efficiency-and-security/

https://community.silabs.com/s/share/a5U8Y000000bwgaUAA/zwave-500-vs-700-vs-800-why-use-the-new-800-series-for-smart-home-devices?language=en_US

PS: Might then also be a good idea to upgrade to the newer EFR32MG24 chip for Thread and Zigbee?

https://www.silabs.com/wireless/zigbee/efr32mg24-series-2-socs

Adding Z-Wave makes the project quite a bit more challenging, as multi-radio certification is quite a bit more challenging.

What is the advantage? From what I understand it has the same RF frontend, its just a bit more powerful which is necessary for Matter device (which we are not). The chip is fairly new, and typically volume availability is worse with new products. It probably would only delay SkyConnect.

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Perhaps instead consider making/selling a separate Z-Wave 800 series (“Z-Wave Plus LR”) dongle?

I do not believe that there are any other Z-Wave 800 series USB dongles on the market as of yet(?).

I do not think there are even any Z-Wave Long Range 700 series (Z-Wave LR 700) dongles for sale(?).

I understand that the Z-Wave LR specification is managed and certified under the Z-Wave Plus V2 certification program that currently mandates the inclusion of the enhanced S2 security framework as well as Z-Wave SmartStart plug-and-play setup feature for the consumer smart home, both of which the Z-Wave JS integration already support.

https://z-wavealliance.org/z-wave-alliance-promotes-enhanced-certification-for-next-generation-z-wave-devices/

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I know EFR32MG24 is not available at volume yet, so I only meant if you would ever consider making a next-generation of “Home Assistant SkyConnect 2 USB Stick” with Z-Wave support within a few years or so then I think it would probably make the most sense to try to use newer components for all protocols just to make it more future-proof. From a marketing point-of-view it usually helps sales to use the “very latest and greatest” components if available even if do not affect performance. From a supply chain point-of-view one would also think that older components will have earlier end-of-sale and end-of-life.