Year Zero: Moving Forward With Matter
This month’s launch event for the Matter interoperability standard was an undeniable high point in the nearly 50-year history of the smart home. Through the decades, we’ve seen plenty of smart technologies come and go, so some skepticism about Matter is probably inevitable. It’s also a mistake. We came back from Amsterdam feeling extremely bullish about this new standard, with due emphasis on the word “new.”
Everyone’s On Board
The launch had the air of an international peace summit. Imagine a kumbaya session where Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, Philips and LG, among others, were all singing from the same hymnal. Not only that, but also really showing the goods through successful interoperability demos. The turnout, and the announcement that 190 products have received certification, with at least that many more in the queue, significantly raised our confidence level that the commitment is there to make Matter successful. The Connectivity Standards Alliance has done a great job so far and achieved what it claimed it would achieve. The efforts of CSA President Tobin Richardson (pictured above), who was the hero of the event, deserve a special shout-out.
The Shock of the New
Is Matter ready to take over the world. No, it’s not – yet. This is a true 1.0 launch. A lot of work has been done, but lots more needs to happen, and not just by the Matter adopters. We as an industry also need to move forward. We need to stop looking back at the “current standards” and embrace Matter as a new standard that will continue for many years. The focus should not be about Matter’s impact on legacy systems. The better questions for manufacturers, resellers and integrators should ask how to take advantage of this new ecosystem that’s being supported by these powerful stakeholders. It typically takes 18-24 months to develop a product. If we were starting today, we’d embrace the Matter standard.
Curated or Open?
While the first products and marketing messages that have been teased are clearly consumer-facing, Matter is not just a DIY technology. We believe it has deep implications for integration professionals. Matter will have less impact on curated systems, but for open, non-curated solutions, interoperability means easier installs and less support, which should translate into smoother business for integrators. Easy also extends into the development cycle. It will be simpler for manufacturers to design features for their products because they now have an interoperable blueprint to work from. The technology is available to everyone, developers can download it from GitHub.
Who Gets the Data?
We’re early in the game yet, but there are still no clear answers to questions about data sharing with Matter. Sure, privacy and security have been baked into the standard, but data is the oil of the smart home industry. How data and learning are shared with Matter is still something of a question. We’re all moving toward the aware, “helpful” home. The home has to understand how people are going about their day so that the technology can make intelligent choices. The only way to do that is through learning, and the only way to learn is to collect data. Which devices will exchange what data to whom under which circumstances? We look forward to the answer(s).
Needs More Voices
No technology is perfect, and certainly not out of the gate. There are still early questions around Matter, not just in technology, but in technological direction. Lots of working groups are currently being formed, but so far the only way to join one is through a substantial monetary outlay for upper-level Alliance membership. Not all companies have the easy resources of the mega-companies previously mentioned. We hope that CSA recognizes this barrier to entry and will change it in the future. That would allow smaller, nimble innovators to become part of the discussion, which would only be to the good of the standard and the markets it will create.
With CES 2023 just weeks away, Matter is about to get its first serious public viewing. Behind the scenes in Amsterdam, we were genuinely impressed with what we saw. Matter is a reality. It should not be overlooked. You should not be cynical about it. Everyone is playing nice. What more could we be asking for in a 1.0 spec that will drive the next generation of smart homes?
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Managing Partner Avi Rosenthal is often known as "the IoT Whisperer." His unique industry experience and deep connections with manufacturers, dealers and retailers has helped both startups and established companies successfully leverage the IoT revolution.