Tech minds get over matter

Matter, a new smart home standard, showed up at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this month. Samsung, GE, Amazon and LG were among the brands that showcased devices and applications supporting Matter, which enables interconnectivity between devices.

Google announced in mid-December that it would adopt the Matter standard and has started rolling it out to all smartphones running its Android operating system. That means Samsung, Oppo, Xiaomi, Tecno and Honor will also have Matter support on their phones.

The importance of Matter at CES was that while the standard was first announced in 2019, it wasn’t officially launched until last November. CES 2023 was their first formal public appearance.

“As we become more connected and tear down the walls between the digital and physical worlds, we must work together to make those connections meaningful,” said Tobin Richardson, president and CEO of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, which oversees the standard, during the Matter media start in November in Amsterdam. “Through collaboration, inclusivity, and a deep sense of responsibility to the marketplace and consumers, Matter has the power to create a more connected, secure, and useful smart home.”

Attendees at the Amsterdam launch included Amazon, Schneider Electric, Samsung Electronics, Apple and TCL.

Marja Koopmans, director of smart home and health at Amazon. Said, “As services like Alexa continue to drive smart home adoption, Matter offers a new way to further simplify development for device makers and improve the customer experience of smart home devices across a range of different companies and brands.

“We’re excited to bring this open standard to over 100 million Echo and eero devices to make it easier for customers to set up and control their Matter-certified smart home devices.”

Google is probably Matter’s most significant supporter, given its presence in both the smartphone market and smart home devices such as the Google Home smart speaker and the Google Nest line of connected devices.

Karen Yao, director of product management at Google Home, said in announcing the company’s support, “We’ve worked with 300 companies for nearly three years to simplify the connection of smart home devices from hundreds of brands. With Matter, everything from smart lights, thermostats, blinds and door locks work better together with less time and effort.”

Yao said the next step for Google is to improve multi-administration support and work with Samsung to make the process smoother. It would also add support for Apple’s iOS devices.

At CES, the most hands-on insight into the role Matter will play came from Mexican consumer electronics brand Lloyd’s, which participated in a panel discussion on commercializing the standard.

Alessandro Kon, R&D manager at Lloyd, said the company has more than 20 years of experience in the electronics and smart house market, offering its customers a wide range of solutions for their security, lighting and energy needs.

“Matter brings more opportunities to the smart home market,” he said. “Customers don’t have to worry about compatibility when making their selection. They can focus on their needs, just as we can simply focus on developing products that meet our customers’ needs.”

New Matter devices unveiled at CES included a presence sensor, smart door lock, and video doorbell from Aqara. The company also demonstrated a door/window contact sensor and a motion and light sensor that will work with Matter.

Nanoleaf introduced smart light switches, lightbulbs and light strips, a motion sensor with an integrated night light, and a modular ceiling panel that can act as a router.

GE Lighting announced colored smart lightbulbs and indoor smart sockets, while TP-Link presented a range that included smart sockets, dimmer switches, WiFi socket extenders and smart lightbulbs.

According to online tech magazine The Verge, Matter controllers, which are required to manage smart home devices, are already in 17 Amazon Echo devices, as well as Apple’s, alongside Google’s Nest Hub smart displays and Nest speakers HomePod Mini and Apple TV range included.

“Samsung was all Matter at CES, with almost its entire booth dedicated to its SmartThings platform and a large section showcasing the launch of its $60 SmartThings station,” Verge reported.

Samsung also announced it would build Matter support into legacy connected fridges, TVs and monitors, while it would build a chip that supports both Matter and competing smart home protocols into new Samsung products in those categories.

Not to be outdone, LG, Hisense and Toshiba all announced plans to include Matter support in new TVs this year.

Participants at the Matter launch expressed cautious optimism about market acceptance and impact.

Speaking at a CES panel discussion about the Matter ecosystem, Rob Alexander, principal product manager at Silicon Labs, which provides a development platform for connected devices, said: “The market for smart, connected devices offers unprecedented opportunities, but challenges remain. Open standards like Matter can help everyone in the industry adopt the same protocols without expensive licensing.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is the founder of World Wide Worx and Editor-in-Chief of Follow him on Twitter at @art2gee