- Smart Homes
- IoT Standards
- Smart Devices
- CES 2023
Matter Enables Business as Usual for Smart Home Device Makers
The new year brought with it a new CES in Las Vegas, which meant new smart home announcements from companies large and small. The difference this year was that the Matter protocol for interoperability within a smart home has launched, so companies were also announcing new updates to their portfolios of Matter-compatible devices. For example, at Matter’s launch in October 2022, Amazon announced support for Matter over Wi-Fi for Alexa and Echo voice-activated speakers used with Android devices, but the company has now confirmed that support for smart homes using Apple devices will come in the spring of 2023, along with support for Matter over Thread.
For Everything to Stay the Same, Everything Must Change
Amazon’s announcement would have seemed odd in the context of the smart home market circa 2017: regardless of the fact that most smart home devices are tied either to an Android or Apple smartphone, the idea of expanding support for these ecosystems’ devices implies that Amazon is fine with consumers buying other brands of smart home products. Indeed, the smart home has long had a walled-garden model, where Amazon, Apple, and Google each had different certification standards for their platforms, and devices rarely worked for all three.
Yet all three companies—along with Samsung, Philips Hue, and a host of other smart home device manufacturers, chipset makers, and protocols—have joined Matter. While each of these companies would rather consumers bought their own ecosystem’s devices, joining Matter implies they’ve realized that being able to communicate with other companies’ devices will help grow the smart home market in the long run. For a company like Apple, whose Home ecosystem lags behind Amazon’s and Google’s, the benefit is increasing the number of compatible devices without giving up its own rigorous certification.
As an example, Eve MotionBlinds will receive Matter support by the end of March 2023, the company announced at CES. Because Eve has been certified only for Apple Home, enabling Matter support will make the devices available to users of Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Samsung SmartThings.
The calculation is the same for any of Matter’s participants: by making their devices compatible with any other platform, they no longer force consumers to choose devices that are only compatible with one or two platforms or connectivity protocols. This will allow companies specialized in certain types of devices, such as Philips Hue in smart lighting, to continue focusing on their strengths. It will also mean less need for dedicated protocol hubs to make their devices compatible with the rest of the home network.
Proprietary Protocols and In-Brand Synergy Aren’t Going Away
Matter can be seen as a way for smart home devices to talk to devices made by other manufacturers, but manufacturers will still look for ways to make their own devices communicate more effectively among themselves. An announcement that predates CES 2023 came from Trane and American Standard, which in December 2022 launched Link, a communication technology aimed at simplifying installation and operation of HVAC systems.
Link allows installers to use Bluetooth mesh to set up and install equipment and uses Wi-Fi to deliver software updates. It provides a rich dataset on its equipment, which includes air handlers and thermostats, so that technicians can tell customers which tests have been run and help them identify repairs or servicing needs via remote monitoring. It isn’t a replacement for Matter, though: Trane remains a member of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, the standards body responsible for Matter.
Schneider Electric also announced an ecosystem, under the umbrella of Schneider Home, comprising an app, smart devices, and power equipment, which promise to work together in innovative ways to help customers save on electricity and reduce their load during power outages. Products include the Schneider Pulse smart main electrical panel, which can control relays and interact with outlets to measure the power consumption of each device in a home. For customers who have Schneider’s smart inverter and battery backup, the app will enable them to remotely turn off and on devices, switches, or circuits, including EV charging or air conditioning. Schneider Touch Wi-Fi connected switches, dimmers, and outlets are compatible with Alexa and Google Home, and the company is also involved in Matter.