Today is November 3rd, World Smart Home Day – and that means it’s the perfect time to discuss the Internet of Things (IoT). Recently we saw the launch (finally!) of Matter, an industry-unifying open standard for smart homes. If you build IoT devices, this (excuse the pun) Affairs.
Let’s see what it’s all about — and especially what it means for European companies.
What is matter?
Traditionally, smart home devices exist in different ecosystems with limited interoperability. They don’t play well together and are plagued by the requirement of multiple apps, complex setups and configurations. Moreover, there is often a lack of clarity about cybersecurity.
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Matter is developed through collaboration within the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), formerly known as the Zigbee Alliance. The organization is made up of more than 300 companies working to create, maintain and deliver open global IoT standards.
They develop a single open source stack that allows your developers to build compatible cross-platform devices. For example, imagine an Amazon device that integrates with Google Home or Apple Home Kit. That’s what Matter is trying to achieve
The extra benefits
In addition to interoperability, Matter also offers other major benefits for consumers and businesses:
- Mesh networks: Although Matter is IP based, you can control some smart home functions when the local internet goes down as the standard works as a layer on top of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Wire. This capability increases the reliability of the communication and means less loss of connectivity.
- Device Security: cybersecurity is often poorly or not configured at all in IoT. Matter certification includes mandatory compliance, which is a huge boost to the industry and will allay some consumers’ concerns.
The idea versus reality
The idea is this: Imagine your stoves talking to your lights and your oven. Your smart electricity meter communicates with your washing machine and EV charger and prioritizes tasks when energy is cheaper.
But so far, the Matter 1.0 standard only supports a limited number of smart home products. These are of the more conventional variety:
- HVAC Controls
- Window coverings and blinds
- Safety and Security Sensors
- door locks
- Media devices, including TVs
There is a lot of technology that is still not supported. However, this also has an advantage, as companies still have time to prepare their hardware for the next update of Matter. While more than 3000 devices are already Matter certified, a broader roll-out will take place from next year.
The challenges for European IoT startups
To be clear, Matter certification is not required, but those who don’t run the risk of being left behind. But this interoperability means that the playing field has widened as more brands compete with each other, rather than being locked into one particular hub. This raises the question of whether the norm is an opportunity or a challenge.
Applying the standard also means a lot more cybersecurity due diligence. In an ideal world, companies should already have it built into devices, and if not, they’re in some pain.
For example, Matter certification requires encryption of device data. They must also be able to accept over-the-air software updates. In addition, Matter-enabled hardware must use public key encryption, identity verification certificates, and secure enclaves to store private data that can only be accessed locally. In the long run, this is good for everyone.
Matter’s dream is to develop once and deploy everywhere. But of course there are issues – as certain features are not currently supported and companies may still need to build their own apps to get full functionality. In other words, Matter is still a work in progress.
And if a company makes devices beyond the more conventional smart home products mentioned earlier? Something like an EV charger? They are still waiting for support for a while. But there is a lot developer resourcesincluding the open-source Matter code repository on GitHub to help and prepare companies in more niche areas.
If a company makes a product suitable for Matter certification, the authorized testing labs are now open and live. This is arguably the biggest roadblock in Europe to getting a Matter product to market, so companies need to make a booking as soon as possible.
Be prepared for questions
Businesses are probably already getting questions from customers asking when to expect Matter on their devices. This is an opportunity to build relationships and get people excited. Be transparent about the process and share your timelines. Explain in understandable language how it works. This is a huge opportunity to grow and strengthen your community.
Let’s be clear. While Matter is still in development, if it succeeds, companies could develop products that work with any ecosystem using a single local protocol. And consumers will have it easier than ever before. That’s damn exciting.