Smart homes: Getting to the heart of the Matter
by Leanne Goott. Finally, smart home automation’s immense potential of intuitive efficiency is about to be realised.Wednesday, 02 Feb 2022
by Leanne Goott. The star of 2022’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas every January, was undoubtedly ‘Matter’. With just about every announcement of a smart home device, tech companies also pledged support for this new connectivity standard in automation. It’s expected that the global smart home market will grow from $84.5 billion in 2021 to as much as $138.9 billion by 2026. Once Matter is officially launched – which should still happen this year – the 2026 projection should end up significantly higher. Matter, previously known as CHIP, is an open-source smart home standard, launched by the industry.
To date, however, all has not been harmonious on the smart home front. Consumers may have taken to the idea of having various home devices linked to the IoT, but so far, it’s mostly been a fragmented, frustrating, and not-so-smart experience. This is further stopping many from buying into the whole hyperconnected living ideal. The biggest challenge has been interoperability between devices from different manufacturers and their support platforms. For instance, systems like Google Home or Apple Home, mostly don’t work with Amazon’s Alexa or Echo. These tech giants prefer to keep their ecosystems incompatible, forcing consumers to stick with a particular brand instead of considering the competition’s products.
Figuring out what you’re looking for from your smart home and then mixing and matching devices, is an exciting prospect. Yet, for many, this is where the fun ends. The current plug-and-play generation doesn’t always have the time or know-how to install and configure multiple devices, only to find that they aren’t even compatible.
Why it Matters…
For a home to truly qualify as smart, its various devices, appliances, thermostats, entertainment systems, lighting systems and security systems need to be able to speak to, work with, and complement each other. This is where Matter, the new, unified connectivity standard, steps in. Founded by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), formerly known as Project Chip, Matter promises to bring a high-level IQ to the smart home. Primarily, Matter is a universal networking protocol that gives devices the freedom to work across all smart home platforms. If, for instance, you purchased LG’s latest smart oven or a Samsung smart aircon, and the device supports the Matter protocol, it won’t be necessary to first check if it’s compatible with any of the main ecosystems such as Samsung SmartThings, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, or Google Assistant.
Matter is, however, not a smart home platform. It doesn’t serve any automation or control functions; instead, it’s essentially the pipeline and language that enables all devices to speak to each other. Matter, therefore, becomes that missing link that brings a more holistic and synergised energy to the smart home.
Another big plus is that Matter mainly runs on your home network instead of over the internet. This allows for greater security and speedier interaction with devices and no operability issues when there’s no internet connectivity. Headed by the CSA, Matter is being developed by over 200 tech companies, including Google, Apple, Amazon, and Samsung. The first batch of Matter-certified products is likely to reach the market by the second half of 2022. More than 2,400 engineers from these companies are currently working on the specification, certification, testing tools and an open-source software development kit that complies with consumer expectations for quality and functionality.
Matter and Thread: smart home companions
While Thread doesn’t yet have the same market standing as WiFi or Bluetooth, it will soon become the most important wireless protocol used in the smart home. With Matter being the language that devices use to speak with each other, Thread is a relatively new low-power wireless mesh network that’s energy efficient in establishing a network of seamless communication between devices.
As Matter’s companion, Thread supports full end-to-end encryption between devices, including device-to-remote, device-to-mobile, and device-to-cloud.
Other popular protocols such as Bluetooth or WiFi have never been a perfect fit for home automation: Bluetooth has range limitations while WiFi is power-hungry, and Zigbee and Z-Wave come with their own set of challenges. On the other hand, Thread was particularly developed for the smart home and will circumvent all these issues. It’s also superfast, capable of turning devices and appliances on in a millisecond.
It took about 20 years, but finally, smart home automation’s immense potential of intuitive efficiency is about to be realised. It’s also a rare event when the world’s leading tech companies step outside the green walls of their ecosystems to embrace Matter (and Thread), thereby acknowledging that the interoperability issue can only be resolved through a collective effort to support the new standard. A true renaissance in the smart lifestyle is happening as we speak.
Main image credit: MIA.
Leanne Goott is marketing manager of Mobile in Africa (MIA). Her more than 12 years of experience includes digital marketing strategy and execution, integrated marketing, team and relationship management, and event management. She believes the role of marketing in an age of greater connectivity and intensifying customer expectations, has never been more important.
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