'Matter' could solve smart homes' biggest problem

‘Matter’ could solve smart homes’ biggest problem

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Illustration: Aida Amer/Axios

The beautiful day when all of our smart home devices talk to each other – and lower our energy bills – took a giant leap forward on Thursday with the introduction of Matter, a widely supported connectivity standard.

Why is this important: Many consumers are wary of purchasing Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart light bulbs, blinds and door locks, fearing that they are difficult to set up or do not work together. with the others.

  • Matter is meant to make setup easier and solve interoperability issues between products from different manufacturers.

Driving the news: In a glowing announcement, the consortium developing Matter said it has officially released version 1.0 and hundreds of products are in the process of being certified, ensuring we’ll start seeing the “Matter” logo on shelves soon.

  • More than 300 companies are on board so far, including strong backers like Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung, with more signing up every day.
  • 190 products are already Matter certified (or close).

How it works: Customers will be able to mix and match smart home products from different manufacturers – robotic vacuum cleaners, light switches, doorbells, thermostats, appliances, entertainment systems, and more. – and Matter will (ideally) make sure they all talk to each other.

  • At Matter’s press conference, Marja Koopmans, Amazon’s director of health and smart home, described her current smart home setup: “The lights come on when I come down in the morning and go off when we as a family are recording.”
  • Thanks to Alexa, “my espresso machine will be warmed up while I’m downstairs, and I’m talking to my TV when I want to watch the next episode of ‘Rings of Power'”.
  • When she and her family leave for the day, “our smart lock secures the house, the thermostat drops, and I can keep an eye on our aging pet rabbit and rambunctious 9-month-old black Labrador through my cameras.”
  • Matter, Koopmans said, will make these conveniences more readily available to all consumers — with a lot more room for customization.
The material logo.
The Matter brand logo, soon to be familiar?

🔌 State of play: On the product side, Amazon – for its part – says it will have “17 different Echo devices, outlets, switches and bulbs with an Android configuration” working with Matter in December.

  • Some of these devices have already been released and are being updated with Matter support. Many other gadgets will follow next year.
  • Manufacturers have shown great interest in having their products certified by Matter.
  • “We’ve already had 20 new companies jump in, throwing their weight behind integrating new devices,” said Tobin Richardson, president and CEO of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, which oversaw Matter’s development. “And that ranges from new devices, from medical devices to toys.”

What they say : “This is a major inflection point for the IoT,” Richardson added.

  • With Matter, “smart home devices will feel as fast and reliable as your old light switch, while doing so much more.”

“This will enable use cases and experiences we can’t even imagine today — I’m not mistaken — added Manish Kothari, senior vice president of software development at Silicon Labs, which embeds Matter into its chips.

💡 Bonuses: Matter could be “good news for your energy bill,” said Sitao Ma of Schneider Electric, which sells a smart home energy management system.

  • When all of the energy-intensive products in a household talk to each other, “we can monitor” what’s going on, “and we can control it and maximize optimization.”

Yes, but: As Scott Rosenberg, Axios’ editor for technology, put it, “you never know when these standards will take off or crumble.”

  • Matter’s release has been plagued with delays and its governing organization, formerly known as the Zigbee Alliance, has transformed over time.
  • Most consumers haven’t caught IoT fever yet: Only 39% of US households own at least one smart home device, according to Ben Wood of tech research firm CCS Insight.
  • Ease of use is only one concern, security and privacy are others.

The bottom line: There’s a lot of smarts, money and goodwill in Matter and its enticing promise of device interoperability and smarter homes. And that’s a promising sign.

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