Home Assistant has announced an in-house Zigbee communications dongle, designed to add Zigbee, Matter, and later multi-network Thread support to Home Assistant OS servers via USB: the SkyConnect.
"The Home Assistant SkyConnect is the easiest way to add Zigbee support to your Home Assistant instance and make it Matter-ready," the company explains of its device, referring to the recently-finalized royalty-free home automation communications standard Matter — formerly known as Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP). "A future firmware update will bring Thread support, allowing SkyConnect to power your Matter and Zigbee networks at the same time."
The USB dongle is based on the Silicon Labs EFR32MG21 system-on-chip, which offers a 2.4GHz radio with up to +20dBm transmission power. The USB end of the device uses a Silicon Labs CP2102N USB-to-UART bridge on a full-speed USB 2.0 connection to tie the radio into the host machine's Home Assistant software — while providing the dongle's power requirement of up to 150mA at 5V.
The dongle's true capabilities, however, require the use of Home Assistant's own operating system, rather than a Home Assistant installation on a third-party distribution. "A standalone Zigbee or standalone Thread stick works by turning radio signals into radio packets and then processing those radio packets and making that available over a serial port," the company explains. "With multi-protocol, the processing of the radio packets is moved into Linux daemons. This means we run one daemon to split the radio packets into Zigbee and Thread streams, one daemon to process the Zigbee radio packets and one daemon to process the Thread radio packets."
"To make this all work together," Home Assistant continues, "we need to strictly manage the version of the firmware on the stick and the three different Linux daemons. The easiest way for us to do this is using Home Assistant add-ons in a known host environment, which is Home Assistant OS. We will be looking into making this available for Home Assistant Supervised and Home Assistant Container installations afterwards."
The dongle is now available to pre-order from a range of resellers listed on the Home Assistant website, priced at $29.99 and with shipping expected in late November or early December 2022; its setup is, the company promises, plug-and-play with no manual driver installation required.