The concept of home automation started in the early 1900s with the introduction of electric household appliances such as toasters, refrigerators, dryers, vacuum cleaners, and more. With the surging commercialization of electrical appliances, ‘electric home’ was touted as the future of homes. The focus then shifted from electrical appliances to remotely controlling them and enabling them to make decisions. Though the term ‘smart home’ came into use in the 1980s, the actual smart home boom started post-2010 with the smartphone era and the increasing availability of smart devices and systems.The global smart home market is close to $80B and is proliferating due to the rising number of internet users and the need for sustainable solutions.
The rising need for interoperability
The smart home industry is crowded witha various spectrum of vendors battling to capture the market share; it includes HVAC manufacturers, kitchen and domestic appliances OEMs, security and surveillance system providers, consumer electronics manufacturers, and more. Even though this is one of the key factors that keeps the market competitive and affordable, it also becomes a limitation, as it creates technological fragmentation limiting interoperability. Consumers are currently forced to operate/control smart devices individually. Though there are a few third-party applications that provide universal control, it still does not communicate or work with all devices. Also, various manufacturers limit connectivity with other devices due to security and data-sharing issues.
In the current market scenario, where the selling point of a smart device has shifted from connectivity to the service offered by the ecosystem, interoperability and cross-industry partnership are essential. Home automation ecosystem partnership has become the new battleground, with manufacturers racing to partner with vendors from adjacent industries to expand their ecosystem. For instance, due to the growing popularity and ease of use provided by voice-first control devices, smart speakers have become one of the fundamental and must-have components in setting up smart homes. Various manufacturers from adjacent industries, such as kitchen appliances, HVAC, smart electronics, etc., have started partnering with technology giants to enable their devices to be compatible with Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and more. Though it allows interoperability for the devices within the partner ecosystem, the smart home automation landscape is still fragmented with too many small ecosystems.With the increasing number of smart devices and appliances, interoperability has become a crucial element.
The Matter standard
There are multiple projects and alliances focused on addressing the need for interoperability by creating a common connectivity standard. Project - Connected Home over IP (CHIP)was one such ambitious project for creating an industry unifying connectivity standard. Project-CHIP, which started in 2019, has finally reached its milestone. The Connectivity Standards Alliance (formerly known as the Zigbee Alliance) officially announced the update along with the new rebranded avatar for the Project CHIP - ‘Matter’, signaling the birth of the new connectivity standard for smart homes.
The Matter Experience
By enabling real interoperability, Matter provides better affordability and security while enhancing the user experience for consumers right from purchase. Consider a scenario where the family members have a different brand affinity, their smartphones are different with various smart assistants/speakers, and they decide to buy a coffee machine. In a typical scenario, they would have to do considerable research and carefully pick from few brands to ensure the new smart device (coffee machine) is compatible with their smart assistants (control devices). With Matter, they can pick any Matter-certified device and pair it with their own smart assistants without worrying about compatibility issues or being limited to the ecosystem. With real interoperability among all Matter-certified products, you can use the Amazon Echo Smart device to seamlessly connect and control a Google Nest doorbell or use Google smart display to control Apple HomeKit devices. Matter enables the true smart home experience by seamlessly integrating various systems such as appliances, lighting, HVAC, security & surveillance, garage door openers, TVs, audio systems, entertainment devices, etc.
Does it actually Matter? Or will it just be another addition to the existing standards?
Though Matter is still in the early stages of adoption, it has most of the right ingredients to revolutionize the industry.
- Simplifying smart home connectivity - Matter solves interoperability issues for consumers, offering them better control, more choice, and improved compatibility. Not just consumers, even manufacturers and retailers get good value. Manufacturers get a considerable advantage in reduced development time and cost, as they don’t have to support and maintain compatibility with multiple ecosystems. It also results in fewer compatibility issues and a simplified purchase experience. Even the commercial building market will benefit from Matter as it simplifies the use of in-house apps and interaction products.
- Strong Alliance – Widespread adoption is the most important factor in deciding the connectivity standard’s success, and Matter has got it right. With theblessing of almost all the major players in the industry like Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, LG, Schneider Electric, Signify, Huawei, Ikea, Texas Instruments, NXP, etc. and participation from more than 180 member organizations across industries, Matter is well connected for success.
- IP-based architecture - The Matter communication stack is based on proven internet protocol (IP), enabling a reliable and secure ecosystem. The royalty-free, open-source approach enables accelerated adoption among a wide range of smart devices across industries.
- Competitive advantage - Especially for the smaller players competing with industry giants, it is a competitive disadvantage not to have interoperability. By enabling interoperability, Matter provides them with the level playing ground in the crowded smart home market. Drawing a parallel, ‘Matter Certified’ branding provides a similar selling point to what ‘Intel Inside’ did to the laptop industry.
But there are still few hurdles to be crossed.For instance, the millions of existing smart devices.At this stage, very few manufacturers have promised to update and provide Matter support to old devices. Though most manufacturers will be updating the devices to work with Matter, they might not extend support to all of their old devices. Also, since it will take some more time for the full wave of Matter-certified products to be available in the market, it is yet to face the real test of consumer adoption. It has all the technical merits to disrupt the industry, but we will have to wait to see if Matter will become the new standard that matters.
- Matter (buildwithmatter.com)
- Who We Are - Connectivity Standards Alliance (zigbeealliance.org)
- 4 Google smart home updates that Matter (blog.google)
- Amazon Matter
- Samsung SmartThings Unveils New Interface, Offering Customers a More Dynamic Connected Home Experience – Samsung Global Newsroom
- GitHub - project-chip/connectedhomeip: Matter (formerly Project CHIP) is creating more connections between more objects, simplifying development for manufacturers and increasing compatibility for consumers, guided by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (formerly Zigbee Alliance).