How many times in history can you remember a room full of competitive tech companies all in the same room with one common goal – not to compete, but to work together for something better? Now imagine that among these companies are lumbering giants of men, and you just imagined the room we were in earlier this week.
Along with other industry giants including Google, Samsung and Apple, Amazon has committed to the future of smart homes by joining the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), a collaborative group of more than 550 companies working together on the cause.
The result is Matter, a new standard, which was officially launched at an event in Amsterdam on November 3. Offering a level of interoperability we’ve only been dreaming of until now, Matter 1.0 is the true starting point for smart homes to become truly smart.
It’s the beginning of a long road. As of now, only certain product categories are compatible with Matter; These include lighting and electrical, HVAC controls, control devices and bridges, televisions and media, blinds and awnings, security sensors, and door locks. CSA expects to expand into more product areas in 2023, including security cameras and robotic vacuums.
Of course, Amazon is only growing in the prominence of its smart home, and with its recent acquisition of iRobot, its portfolio is only getting stronger. Today, Alexa supports more than 30,000 devices in its Works with Alexa program — but that number will grow exponentially with the launch of Matter.
Not a leap, but a step in the right direction
In Amazon’s keynote speech at the event, Marja Koopmans, director of Smart Home and Health at Amazon, discussed the company’s plans for Matter, and why it’s so important to them. Amazon intends to provide Matter support to “over 100 million devices” across 30 Echo and eero devices in what Koopmans described as a “significantly unprecedented mission.”
Later, in a conversation with Chris DeSenzo, Amazon CTO of Matter and Chair of Matter’s Steering Committee, he said that in addition to the critical opportunity for customers to have more choices regarding what will work interchangeably in their smart homes, Matter should increase the speed of product rollout. new in the market.
“Device makers can build a product and not have to invest in six different versions of it, six different types of hardware because of all the different protocols out there. It reduces the work of developers.”
In terms of compatibility, Koopmans announced a phased approach that would see compatibility reach Alexa and several generations of Eero routers and Echo smart speakers in December — but only for plugs, switches and bulbs, and only on Android. This will support connections to currently Matter-compatible devices via Wi-Fi exclusively. More Echo and eero devices and types are on the roadmap in early 2023.
So where does that leave users on iOS and string networks? Well, support for those is coming early next year, and there’s a good reason behind that. We spoke with Decenzo to find out more.
With patience you get what you want
One of the main talking points for the entire event is that the issue is a journey, and we’re just beginning – which is great, but Desenzo says customer experience is “critical” – which is why they are taking it slowly.
First, we got into the conversation about Wi-Fi vs. Thread, and why Amazon was sticking with Wi-Fi in the early stage of its rollout. The process of aligning credentials and APIs takes time, and integrating all the different companies that host thread limit routers is not easy. Decenzo uses the example that rushing Thread compatibility can result in four thread networks instead of one and end up with an “absolute disaster for the client”. “It prompted us to decide to wait until we had enough of an integrated industry,” he explains.
It’s a slightly different story for Android vs. iOS – Some of it has to do with timing. Apple only recently announced its iOS requirements for Matter, which includes completely new APIs that just appeared in Xcode 14. Unfortunately, this means that developers haven’t had enough time to make sure the integration works – until now.
Desenzo says that while Amazon is happy with its progress, customer focus remains key. “It won’t be long for customers to wait but unfortunately, we can’t be aggressive about this.”
Analysis: No risk, no reward
While many of the established companies that attended CSA’s Matter launch event have some serious bets on the new standard, Amazon holds an interesting position.
Wearing multiple hats, including seller and manufacturer, Amazon is at the front and center of this collaborative approach was somewhat of a surprise. After all, this kind of standard can move consumers out of the Amazon Alexa ecosystem, create more competition, and even create risks in the development of new smart products — and given Amazon’s product suite and its recent acquisition of iRobot, we’d anticipate more risks of adversity. .
However, speaking with Decenzo has led to a focus on the company’s stake in Matter.
For Decenzo, who sits between various areas of the business that may have conflicting interests about Matter, it has been helpful for Amazon to speak up as a hardware maker and service provider, allowing it to “earn a lot of trust” with other members of the standard.
On the other hand, Amazon understood the priorities of device makers. “A lot of hardware makers want to be able to differentiate – they don’t want to have a middleman that stops them from reaching the customer and enforces the features they can get.”
However, as a service provider, Decenzo makes it clear that Amazon is more attuned to the benefits of standardization — especially when it comes to security and privacy. He attributes this to the reason Amazon was able to “help try to find the right balance”.
So, what about the risks created by increased competition? Overall, Desenzo says, there have been more benefits to smart home development and product availability. “Sometimes you have to look around corners and see an opportunity for standardization and trust that your customers love the experience they get from your product. They still love it, even if you know things are completely open.
“We’ve always been in setting open standards which is why we’ve embraced it, and we’re glad we’ve been able to bring in other companies that haven’t always been involved.”
The measured approach that Amazon and the hundreds of companies that make up CSA now and in the future are taking speaks to a very unique movement in technology — one that we hope other industries will learn a thing or two from. We’ll keep our eyes peeled while Matter 1.0 gains traction in 2023.