Illustration: Aida Amer/Axios
The halcyon day when all our smart home devices talked to each other — and our energy bills went down — took a giant step forward Thursday with the introduction of Matter, a widely supported connectivity standard.
Why it’s important: Many consumers are hesitant to buy Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices such as smart light bulbs, blinds and door locks, fearing that they will be difficult to set up or won’t work with each other.
- The content is intended to make the setup a snap – and to solve interoperability problems among different manufacturers’ products.
Driving the news: In an exciting announcement, the consortium developing Matter said it had formally released version 1.0, and that hundreds of products were being certified – ensuring we’ll start seeing the “Matter” logo on shelves soon.
- More than 300 companies are on board so far, including powerful backers like Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung, with more signing up by the day.
- 190 products are already certified for Content (or close).
How it works: Customers will be able to mix and match smart home products from different manufacturers – robotic vacuums, light switches, doorbells, thermostats, appliances, entertainment systems, etc. – and Matter will (ideally) make sure they all talk to each other.
- At the Matter press conference, Marja Koopmans, Amazon’s director of health and smart home, described her current smart home setup: “The lights turn on when I come down in the morning, and they turn off when we check in as a family.”
- Thanks to Alexa, “my espresso machine will be warmed up by the time I come downstairs, and I’ll talk 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 down, and I can keep an eye on our aging pet rabbit and our 9-month-old black Lab ‘age rambunctious through my cameras.”
- Mattere, Koopmans said, will make these facilities more readily available to all consumers – with much more room for customization.
🔌 Situation such as: On the product side, Amazon – for one – says it will have “17 different Echo devices, plugs, switches and bulbs with Android setup” working with Matter in December.
- Some of those devices have already been released and are being updated with Matter support. Many more new gadgets will follow next year.
- Manufacturers have shown a lot of interest in getting their products Certified for Content.
- “20 new companies have already dived in, putting their weight into integrating new devices,” said Tobin Richardson, president and CEO of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, which oversaw Matter’s development. “And that goes from new appliances, medical devices to toys.”
What they are saying: “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 an experience that we can’t even imagine today – I can’t imagine,” said Manish Kothari, SVP of software development at Silicon Labs, which is baking Matter into its chips.
💡 Bonus: Content 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 home’s energy absorbing products talk to each other, “we can monitor” what’s happening, “and we can control it and optimize it.”
Yes, but: As Axios managing editor for technology, Scott Rosenberg, said, “you never know when these standards are going to take off or flop.”
- Matter’s release has been delayed, and its governing organization, formerly known as the Zigbee Alliance, has changed over time.
- Most consumers haven’t caught IoT fever yet: 39% of US households don’t have 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 another concern.
The bottom line: Brainpower, money and goodwill are pouring into Matter and its remarkable promise of device interoperability and smarter homes. And that’s a promising sign.