How the new Matter standard could unleash innovation in IoT

“Matter is for consumers who want systems that just work, and for innovative enterprises who need a robust system on which to innovate. With a little luck it will open this industry,” says Tobin Richardson, president and CEO of the Connectivity Standards Alliance.

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In what may turn out to be an industry-defining step to unleash fresh innovation that inevitably extends beyond the consumer market, the Connectivity Standards Alliance today officially launched the Matter standard, following the introduction of final specifications in October.

The Internet of Things must be smart, not dumb

Speaking at the Matter launch event in Amsterdam, Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, explained why the introduction may become as important a moment to the future Industry of Things (IoT) as the formation of Bluetooth was elsewhere in tech.

“The next phase of growth in the smart home will be based on standards,” he said.

“Matter is for consumers who want systems that just work, and for innovative enterprises who need a robust system on which to innovate. With a little luck it will open this industry,” said Tobin Richardson, president and CEO of the Connectivity Standards Alliance.

Wood shared several statistics to articulate the current state of the smart home industry. He explained that 37% of households have at least one smart home device, Spain being the leading European market with 46% adoption. “One in three Spanish households have a robot vacuum cleaner,” he said.

In the US, where 36% of homes have at least one smart device, smart doorbells and CCTV systems are popular.

The evolution of Matter

The evolution of Matter has been a three-year journey in which some of the tech industry's biggest competitors found common ground to create a standard that seems likely to unleash rapid evolution across the IoT. It also has security and interoperability baked in. The work hasn’t always been easy, the CSA explained.

In essence, it means when you buy a connected device, you won’t need to worry whether it is compatible with your existing system, because it likely will be.

Matter compliance makes for easier setup using your choice of device and the capacity to give control to other people in your space in a platform-agnostic way. You might be all in on Apple, but your roommate can also control the smart systems from an Android device, for example.

The problem Matter solves is fragmentation. At present, smart systems all have different protocols and speak different languages. That fragmentation has stymied the evolution of smart spaces and meant the promised conveniences of automation and person-centered control had been obfuscated by competing standards, incompatible devices and all the other forms of friction that dent ideas and damage ambition.

Matter kind of brings all these together and means the barriers for innovation and growth in IoT product development have been lowered.

Moving forward, CSA is committing to a biannual release cadence, which means the nature of the standard can change over time and means new device families can be catered to.

Unleashing vast industry potential

Speakers at the launch event seemed keen to stress that now the standard does exist it becomes possible to innovate in use deployment models that haven’t been imagined quite yet.

It's important to think of the potential here. The number of smartphones on the planet has already reached several billion, but the future of IoT will see hundreds of billions of connected devices in place globally.

Speaking at the event, Manish Kothari, senior vice president for software development at Silicon Labs, stressed that the silicon used in connected devices will inevitably become more capable and powerful, which will enable new uses that haven’t yet been recognized. It provides a building block for the evolution of a global industry that will reach far beyond the home.

“We believe Matter is a game-changing standard that will eliminate current complexities and contribute significantly to added value for all of us, which simplifies the switch to smart systems and drives forward the intelligent use and saving of energy or other human assistance,” said Thomas Rosteck, division president for connected secure systems at Infineon Technologies.

Marja Koopman, director of smart home and health at Amazon, explained why Matter reflects the evolution of other industries with a story concerning shipping crates. She pointed out that one of the reasons those crates are an efficient part of the logistical experience is because they are standardized. So, too, in the digital space, IoT tech standardization in the form of Matter should be foundational to what will become a vast industry.

“It's an unprecedented, monumental step we are taking today,” she said.

Eve Systems is out the gate with an Android app

The first 190 products are now going through the Matter certification process. Eve Systems will begin to deliver Matter support across its entire line-up of Thread-enabled products on Dec. 12, via a free software upgrade.

The company makes a range of smart home devices, some of which may be of use in offices, home offices and beyond. These include smart thermostats, motion, window, and door activity sensors.

Eve is a good illustration of the significance of Matter, as it is now extending control beyond Apple-only to Android devices. Its iOS-only Eve app (which acts as an initial hub for its devices) will gain a sibling in 2023 in the form of an Android version of the same app.

"Eve is a great example of how smart home device makers can build helpful, innovative Matter devices, that deliver great out-of-box experiences with Android Fast Pair, and Google Home," said Karen Yao, director of product management for Google Home.

“The promise of Matter is the accelerated proliferation of connected things by bringing simplicity and interoperability to consumers who can now mix and match products from different ecosystems with greater ease and reliability. And the foundation of Matter’s interoperability begins at the silicon level,” said Matt Johnson, CEO of Silicon Labs.

The bottom line?

With tens of billions of connected devices expected to see deployment during the next 20 years, Matter may become a vital standard that helps realize the promise of the IoT -—one that gets used as frequently in smart workplaces as in smart homes.

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Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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