Why Apple, Amazon and Google are uniting on smart home technology

The new standard, coming this year, provides a common language for all your devices to communicate with each other

If you think of smart home gadgets, you’re probably thinking of thermostats or energy-saving lights that you control with an app. Most people don’t worry about how they work, let alone how they might work together.

Some of the biggest tech players – Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. – have introduced smart home platforms, so your iPhone can power off the lights or that Alexa can change the thermostat without too much extra setup. But that still means shoppers need to check whether new products work with the technology they already have at home.

Compatibility issues and configuration complexity have made people slow to get started with smart home technology. A new standard, called Matter, aims to change that.

When launched this year, Matter will act as a common language spoken by most new smart home products and many old ones. You can buy any gadget of your choice and connect it to the application of your choice. You’ll be able to control it with the voice assistant of your choice, or even use multiple assistants and apps inside your home.

While Matter would work behind the scenes, it could mean devices that are more affordable, easier to set up, and even play well together.

What’s perhaps most surprising: all the biggest names in smart home tech are on board, so going forward you won’t be trapped in a walled garden. If you’re tired of Alexa and want to upgrade to Apple’s HomePod Mini, you can do so without having to buy new automated blinds as well. (It’s kind of like the movie industry going all-in on VHS back then.)

“We all really recognized that if we didn’t address some fundamental issues that plagued us all in the industry, this industry just wasn’t going to grow,” said Michele Turner, senior director of home ecosystem. smart from Google.

Besides tech giants, more than 220 other companies support Matter. By the end of the decade, vendors will ship more than 5.5 billion Matter-compliant smart home devices, according to ABI Research.

Matter is designed to be more secure and private than other smart home systems, in part because it can perform some basic functions without sending messages to the cloud. And you probably won’t have to throw away all your old smart devices.

That’s not to say the companies that support Matter won’t try to lock you down in some way. Matter defines basic features, but advanced features will still be business-related, like how AirPods work better with Apple devices.

‘So simple’

Initially, Matter will work in door locks; motion sensors, air quality and more; thermostats; lighting; garage door openers; blinds and blinds; smart plugs; and smart TVs. More complex smart home products, such as security cameras, robot vacuums, and household appliances, will not be supported at launch.

When a developer wants to add a feature to their smart home product, they have to spend resources to update the software for each platform. With Matter, most changes would only need to be made once, so developers could lower their prices.

Once you’ve picked up your Matter-enabled product, setup is simple: just scan a QR code to add it to your network. “The goal is for the vast majority of devices — lights, outlets, switches, sensors — to make this initial setup so simple that it only takes a few seconds,” Ms. Turner said.

You can give your roommates smart home access, letting them turn on the lights with Alexa while you use Siri. And if you have a hodgepodge of equipment in your home, you could even make them work together. Right now, most people buy smart home devices to meet a “unique need”, said Adam Wright, an analyst at technology research firm International Data Corp., but that could change as more are compatible with Matter.

Leaving the Cloud

Home devices from Google and Amazon regularly communicate with the cloud, while Apple’s HomeKit is designed to work without relying on the internet as much. Smart home controls stay inside your home, which can make responses faster and more private. Matter takes a similar approach to HomeKit. If the internet goes down, your Matter-enabled products can still work, just like your Wi-Fi printer still works when your broadband is down.

“All smart home accessories will have the same level of security, privacy, and ease of use that Apple customers enjoy today with HomeKit accessories,” Apple spokeswoman Jacqueline said. Roy.

In the past, Eve Systems GmbH did not connect its smart plugs and sensors to Google and Amazon because they depend on the cloud, said Tim Both, Eve’s senior brand and product manager. Eve did not want to be responsible for user data. With Matter, system data can stay inside your home, even if you use Google or Amazon platforms.

Amazon and others will still use the cloud for certain things. Older Alexa-enabled smart speakers can’t process commands without it, said Chris DeCenzo, principal engineer at Amazon working on smart home and Alexa devices, adding that the cloud is “a critical component of the infrastructure for many, many smart home devices”. and services today.”

All the news?

If you’ve already embraced smart home living, you won’t have to start over. Not completely, anyway.

All Philips Hue lights will work with Matter when the Hue bridges that control them receive updated software, said George Yianni, co-founder of the Philips Hue lighting business, who now leads its R&D for parent company Signify. NV. “Even the ones we sold 10 years ago will become compatible with Matter.”

Most new products from the giants will work with the new standard. Google’s Nest Wifi and its recent Hub displays will become connection points for Matter, while all Nest displays and speakers will receive updates to control Matter devices. The latest Nest Thermostat will also be compatible.

Almost all Amazon Echo devices will also let you set up and control Matter. Apple’s HomePod Mini and second-generation Apple TV 4K will be able to act as Matter hubs, as will Samsung’s SmartThings Hub v3.

Products that cannot be updated will continue to work as before, but without the increased compatibility. Assa Abloy Group will upgrade some of its Yale locks, but it cannot update its August line. Matter was not designed “in such a way that we could reliably run it on a battery-operated Wi-Fi lock,” said Jason Williams, president of the company’s August and Yale smart lock business. The batteries would drain quickly, creating a poor user experience.

Some Yale locks can be upgraded with a hardware module. So you don’t need to buy a new lock, but you may still have to spend a little more. The company aims to ensure that all future consumer locks work with Matter, Williams said.

Despite all the initial shortcomings, Matter may be the key to smarter homes, even the homes of people without a doctorate in electrical engineering.

“We know we’re competing with a light switch,” said Samantha Fein, vice president of business development and marketing at Samsung’s SmartThings. “So if it’s not that simple, we’re not going anywhere.”

To subscribe to Mint Bulletins

* Enter a valid email address

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our app now!!

Comments are closed.