Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios
“smart home” promise — when you easily tell your devices what to do for you and you can easily add new devices to your home mix — it’s coming to fruition.
Why it’s important: Once we’re able to take full advantage of smart home technology, everything from our lights and garage doors to our entertainment and security systems could seamlessly work together and obey our voice commands – making our lives more convenient, more enjoyable and more energy efficient.
- That’s the dream. For now, it takes a bit of expertise to set things up and get gadgets from competing brands to play nice together – if they want to at all.
- “Our future product line, the whole line is meant to be DIY-able,” says Frances Raya Sevilla, chief technology officer at ADT, which is known for its security systems but also sells smart home automation appliances. go-nuts. .
- Right now, the easiest option for most consumers is DIFM, or “do it for me.” This usually means that professionals make a house call to set things up—and try to minimize the number of apps, switches, and hardware devices needed to control everything.
Driving the news: Makers of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices for the home are pinning their hopes on an upcoming technology standard called Matter, which is meant to ensure the interoperability of smart home devices.
- A long time in the making, Matter is still being blocked out by a coalition called the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA).
- Manufacturers have committed to using Matter devices in their future products, so consumers will know when they see the Matter logo that they can easily add the product to their home setup.
- Companies in the CSA – a list that includes heavyweights such as Amazon, Apple and Google – hope that the first Matter-branded devices will hit the shelves in 2023.
- The goal of easy plug-and-play interoperability will probably not be achieved until 2024 or 2025.
- “We really want the town to be smart, not just connected to the internet,” Sevilla tells Axios. “It’s really about being safe, smart and sustainable.”
How it will ideally work: Members of the coalition developing Matter envision a day when you’ll be able to use voice commands, biometrics or an app (if you prefer) to automate the tasks we do now.
- Wake up your home: Your system will automatically turn on lights, get coffee brewing, put on your favorite morning show and open the pet door to let Sparky out into the yard.
- Put your house to sleep: Turn off the lights, close the garage door, lock all perimeter doors and deploy security cameras at night.
- Monitor everything: Sensors will be able to detect if there is a leak in your plumbing or if you accidentally left the stove on. They could even alert you to your elderly parent in another state getting up in the morning (via a motion sensor next to their bed), opening the medicine cabinet and taking a shower.
- Smart appliances: Everything from washing machines, fridges and dishwashers to air purifiers, mousetraps and microwaves will be able to tell you when they’ve done whatever they’re supposed to do.
Reality check: Parts of these scenarios are already mainstream, but others are distant or may be unrealistic.
- Today’s tech-savvy consumers can already control many features in their homes—notably lighting, thermostats, security and home entertainment systems—albeit typically through multiple apps rather than a single command module.
- All kinds of gadgets now advertise themselves as “connected,” “smart” and “simple.” (See this PC Magazine guide to the best smart home devices of 2022 and how to make your home comfortable with them.)
But there are many problems:
- Technology glitches This means things can go wrong in a number of ways – from appliances only recognizing one family member’s voice to devices not syncing with each other.
- Privacy concerns the third rail of voice-activated, internet-connected home technology, and regulators are looking at the security of these systems even as consumers weigh the trade-offs of convenience vs. Big Brother.
- Much of the technology is not ready for prime time, meaning it can’t be easily installed, doesn’t do exactly what it’s supposed to, or isn’t as time-saving or convenient as we’d like.
“We are not in a good space, I would say at the moment, to the traditional definition of IoT devices,” says Adam Hotchkiss, vice president of product at Plume Design, which offers a smart home management system called HomePass.
- After you buy IoT devices, like a sensor or a light bulb, “it’s very fragmented about how you get it on board,” he says. “You have to download an app. There are a lot of different ecosystems that have come and gone.”
- In addition, many people have “a number of IoT devices in their own homes that they probably forget about and can’t use very effectively,” Hotchkiss tells Axios.
For these reasons, he said, “I think the industry itself wanted to do a kind of restart – how do we go and wipe everything clean and start over?
The bottom line: Hype has died down in recent times, as consumers looking for smart home convenience instead face frustration and restrictions. But the industry is aware of the problems and working on them.
Go deeper: Coming in 2022: A giant leap in smart home technology