Smart home owners, and technology enthusiasts interested in smart home technology would be pleased to know that after almost 3 years in waiting, Matter 1.0 standard for certification of smart home technology is now open, and scheduled to be launched on November 3rd, 2022.
This is an extremely important event, which can help make smart homes a lot more common and mainstream than it is today.
So what’s the big deal about smart devices and how do they make smart homes?
Smart devices are all of the everyday objects which can be connected to a network (internal or cloud) to form the internet of things (IoT). Furthermore, they can then be interfaced with software in the smart home controller, like Google Home, or Amazon Alexa, and be programmed to behave and respond to situations intelligently, hence the term smart homes.
The devices range from thermostat sensors to refrigerators to audio speakers, wearables, light bulbs, doorknobs, etc others.
Most of us already reside in connected homes because we have broadband lines and wireless networks. When a home is connected, it means that devices in the home can interact with each other via the internet.
For example, a smart thermostat and motion sensor combination can track hours of your presence, and automatically turn your air conditioner on and off during hours of your absence, and also ensure that the room is at your preferred temperature while you are on your way home from work. A smart light bulb can detect when there’s no one in a room and learn to turn itself off, thus saving energy. There are many similar innovative applications of smart homes available.
What’s the current problem with Smart Connected Devices?
The major pioneers of smart home technology are the current big tech companies, namely - Google, Apple, Amazon and Samsung, who until recently, had all developed smart home capabilities strictly within their own ecosystems, which were not compatible with one another. So anyone wanting to implement smart home and home automation, must first decide which company’s tech he/she is going to follow and ensure all the components which will be part of the system are compatible with the respective tech company. For example, a smart light bulb compatible with Amazon’s Alexa, may not be compatible with Google’s Nest/Home. This created a rather problematic scenario not just for the consumers, but also for the hardware manufacturers, because there was very little cross compatibility.
What is Matter 1.0 and how will it help in solving the above scenario?
Way back in 2019, Google, Apple, Amazon and Samsung began discussions about a common standard, allowing smart home devices being cross compatible across tech companies. That discussion has finally culminated in the release of the universal connectivity standard - Matter 1.0 standard and certification, which is now open. This would mean that any smart home device which is Matter 1.0 compliant, will be able to work with all other systems which support Matter 1.0 devices regardless of which voice assistant or controller you are using. Matter 1.0 also introduces a new protocol called Thread, designed to make connectivity simpler and easier, and the connected devices more responsive.
It should also enable an easier setup process by integrating compatible devices automatically & showing up on your smartphones to allow you to connect them easily. Plus, with a common connection language that’s local to your home and doesn’t rely on the cloud, your devices can be controlled by more than one smart home voice assistant.
Digging Deep on the Much Needed Standard
The companies that have already agreed to support Matter 1.0 for now have all the resources that they need to begin the implementation of Matter 1.0 into their platforms.
One of them is Apple integrating Matter into HomeKit very soon. iOS 16.1 has already started laying the groundwork for Matter; so Matter could be announced with the launch of the update; as reported till now.
Google, of course, is another of the many corporate and tech giant pushing Matter support for the future of smart homes. It announced that updates to its speakers, smart displays and routers will likely improve their ability to control Matter devices as per requirement.
The brand new Nest Wifi Pro had also announced support for being a Matter hub and the company also showed off a fresh new look at how one will be able to set up Matter 1.0 devices from Android devices.
Matter 1.0 is said to be supporting smart home devices such as HVAC, lighting, media devices, door locks, sensors, electrical, & window coverings. Devices will be integrated and connected using a mix of Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Thread, and Bluetooth Low Energy.
This will likely come as a cheaper and easier option as per production and selling costs go with universally compatible hardware and software.
There’s still no actual release date for when Matter 1.0 will be available to consumers, but it’s clear things are moving forward.
But are there security and privacy concerns with a standard software and hardware system?
More than just a specification, Matter 1.0 standard will launch with test cases and comprehensive test tools for Alliance members along with a global certification program including eight authorized test labs who are primed to test not only Matter 1.0, but also Matter's network technologies; Thread & Wi-Fi.
Thread provides an energy efficient and highly reliable mesh network within the home.
On the other hand, Wi-Fi enables Matter devices to communicate via a high-bandwidth local network and also allows smart home devices to transmit data within the cloud.
Matter is also getting on new grounds with security policies and several processes integrating distributed ledger technology and Public Key Infrastructure to validate device certification. This will help in ensuring users are connecting authentic, certified,and up-to-date devices to their homes and networks and not fake networks; thus, ensuring security.
With greater adoption of smart home devices though, there is a greater concern about consumers and a debate over convenience vs privacy - whether all these smart devices also mean a greater intrusion of our privacy. It also raises the question of whether consumers will really be in control when they want to share their very private information with the big data companies or not. There has been incidents of technical glitches resulting in privacy breaches in Alexa, for example in Germany and reports of security flaws allowing attackers to access recordings. To gain more acceptance, the technology needs not just greater connectivity, but greater amount of checks and balances to gain the confidence of the consumers, as it attempts to be an integral part of their everyday lives.
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