Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios
Starting next year, consumers will be able to buy smart home devices – such as thermostats, lighting systems and kitchen appliances – that can talk to each other via a new connectivity standard called Matter.
Why it’s important: Home device interoperability is a distant dream, but big boys like Amazon, Google and Apple have rallied around Matter, hoping it will become a common brand name that rules the Internet of Things (IoT). .
How it works: Sometime in 2022, companies will start selling Matter-branded products that will (ideally) work together seamlessly and securely—integrating everything from Siri and Alexa to your TV controls, home alarm system and even your pet tracking device.
- A likely scenario is that a customer will buy a base unit as a hub for all Matter-related devices, and then control everything through a single app.
- More than 200 companies have signed up to support Matter, which is overseen by a group called the Connectivity Standards Alliance.
😎 The cool part: When you start adding devices to your Matter system, the system will start recognizing patterns, and “ambient computing” will kick in, enabling you to make predictions and suggest ways to make your life easier :
- Lighting that is switched on while driving home: The lights in your driveway and living room will know you usually get home at 6:30 – in part because they work with your smart door locks – and ask if you want them on until automatically before you arrive.
- More 411 from your home security system: “A customer is out of their house, their smoke detector goes off, and they are able to see if their pet is inside or outside the house,” says Don Young, executive vice president and COO at ADT, the home security company.
- Sensors in your plumbing can detect leaks or other problems: “Anomalies in normal behavior – like consistent [water] flow between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. when the owner is usually away—trigger an installed automatic shut-off valve to close,” says Young.
- The forgotten hot stove: Smart plugs and appliances, smoke and temperature detectors, etc., will all communicate. “The predictive protection feature says: stove is on, nobody’s home, no human movement detected in the house – let’s automatically turn that stove off for the customer,” says Young.
Yes, but: This halcyon vision has been an industry pipe dream for a long time, and who knows if it will come true – even this time.
- The Connectivity Standards Association, or CSA, until May was known as the Zigbee Alliance, a longtime initiative to develop global open standards for wireless technology. (And Matter – previously scheduled to launch in 2020 and 2021 – was previously known as CHIP, or Project Connected Home over IP.)
- Most consumers have yet to catch IoT fever. “New research from Parks Associates shows that 36% of U.S. broadband households have only one smart home device, a percentage that decreases if every household is monitored,” reports CNET.
The other side: Tobin Richardson, president and CEO of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, tells Axios: “I haven’t seen this level of commitment and this level of energy” in the standards field to date.
- “You know, we have more than 2,000 engineers involved in the effort, and that’s really unprecedented.”
Be smart: Privacy and security are other obvious concerns regarding content, and regulators are starting to sniff out those issues.
- Richardson points out: “We don’t have any details – we’re just creating a standard by which all these devices connect and talk to each other.”
- “Privacy is really going down the relationship between the seller and the consumer.”
- ADT’s Young says: “None of this is meant to be Big Brother – it’s all about customer consent.”
The bottom line: Matter is committed to tackling the “app fatigue” that comes from disparate systems operating in silos — and making our homes more efficient and helpful.
- “It addresses the problem you get when you start adding smart home stuff,” says Aaron Emigh, CEO of Brilliant, which makes a smart home system that controls everything from your lighting and sound system to your doorbell video and baby monitor.
- With the advent of Matter, competing firms can compete on something other than proprietary standards: “We don’t think integration should be a form of competitive differentiation,” says Emigh.