I have a home security system and an outdoor security camera, but they do not talk to each other, nor do they support the same platforms, either Google Home or Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit, etc. I am betting that this confusion may surprise you. Today''s smart gadgets look weird. There, I said it.
Today, the Connectivity Standards Alliance, a newly renamed group of over 550 technology corporations, has unveiled the new Matter specification, which aims to alleviate the major issues you, me, and everyone else face with today''s smart home.
Why collaboration matters to Matter
If you buy a smart doorbell or a lightbulb, most ordinary consumers will have no idea if it will work with their existing devices, their Alexa speakers, or Google Home gizmos. It turns out, technology has made simple things like doorbells harder to use, rather than easier, and the technology giants know this.
Turner told me that Google has a saying. If its not as fast and reliable as a light switch, why are you doing it?
The unfortunate reality of smart home today: I saw a demo recently from a major technology manufacturer, which pushed a button on a smartphone, and a light went out. Its smart home today feels like a box: It''s less difficult to operate, but it''s difficult to imagine the future. One of the problems was the lack of collaboration: For a CE company to win, it felt like consumers had to lose.
We and Amazon were just battling it out for who could have the largest ecosystem, according to Google''s Turner. "But we realized that consumers were getting a mix of devices in their homes. Just like they have Android and iPhones in their homes, they have Google Home devices and Alexa devices. So we wanted to make sure we were doing the right things by ourselves.
That''s a breath of fresh air, but frankly unheard of in the tech industry since the golden days: FireWire vs. USB, CompactFlash vs. MemoryCard, Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD, and on and on. Matter is different. It may be because of the foundational support of the world''s largest corporations; Matter came from a partnership between Amazon, Apple, Google, and ultimately Samsung.
While platforms were absent, from Apple''s HomeKit and Google Home, and Amazon Alexa, to the proprietary devices used on Samsung devices and Comcast TVs, you get the picture. It was a war. It still exists.
If its not as fast and reliable as a lightswitch, why are you doing it?
As we investigated this notion of standards, it was not just Zibgee radios, but the language they were carrying over the top, explain Tobin Richardson, the company''s CEO and president. That''s the Connectivity Standards Alliance, your opinion, the IoT focused group, which is pushing one protocol to rule them all, and not the Consumer Technology Alliance, the people behind the CES.
The CSA was once the Zigbee Alliance, and that protocol today represents one component of the new Matter standard. But Zibgee was doing too much all at once, he says. However, things must be simplified so that the process works.
Here''''s the takeaway
So what does it all mean? Here''s the rest of it: Whereas a Zigbee device once had a Zigbee radio communicating using Zigbee standards, a Matter device will speak Matter and use whatever protocol it wants to communicate. That will involve Bluetooth Low Energy for initial pairing, which happens more quickly thanks to some recent tweaks. It may happen across any of those many existing communication channels. The language spoken across those channels is finally unified.
The Matter alphabet and language define the simple stuff: I am a lightbulb. I turn on and off. It may be used as Fuschia or tangerine or teal. For whatever reason, Philips'' next line of Hue smart lightbulbs will all sing a sea shanty when you triple tap a certain spot on them, that functionality will exist outside of the Matter spec. It may and should probably be quite useful, but you see it.
Everything sounds fantastic, but getting there wasn''t easy. Matter will leverage development work and protocols from many existing systems, including Amazon Alexas Smart Home, Apples HomeKit, Googles Weave, The Alliances Zigbee Cluster Library (a.k.a. Dotdot) and more. It''ll take a while to be integrated into the stuff you own, and the stuff is going to be released soon.
What Matter means for you
Today, buy a smart doorbell or a lightbulb, and most ordinary consumers will have no idea if it will work with their existing devices, their Alexa speakers, or Google Home gizmos. What do my iPhone do? Everything is changed. Here''s what the Big Four means:
Apple: Matter accessories will be seamlessly supported by the Home app and Siri on Apple devices, such as the HomePod mini and Apple TV, irrespective of whether they were designed by Apple or were built to support Apple''s HomeKit protocol. This autumn, Apple will begin developing an all-new Home app. Finally, Apple will update its software platforms to include support for Matter for all users.
Google says that it intends to make any Nest device that is Matter-capable compatible with the standard and to incorporate Matter into other devices in the future.
"We are constantly working to ensure that all Nest speakers, displays, and WiFi are updated for Google Home," Turner said. (At Google I/O 2022, the company announced that its Google Home, Google Home Mini, Google Nest Hub, Google Nest Hub, and Google Nest Audio will all support Matter.) We want to ensure that virtually every user with a Google Home ecosystem is ready for Matter devices, and to make it simple for new users to adopt.
Amazon: While its older Echo devices will be supported by its Echo 4th gen smart speaker and Eero mesh routers, it''s still unclear whether or not.
So when will Matter matter to me?
Matters is still a work in progress despite the release of the specification, which opens the way for a certification process for the first group of 50+ companies that have been part of the testing process. In early November, matters will be backed by some of the world''s leading companies, but it''s really too early to say. Now that the foundational technology has been completed, the real work can begin. Heres hoping we end up with something really livable.