5 Minutes to: Matter and Marketing the Smart Home

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If you’re in the smart home industry, chances are, you’ve been introduced to Matter – the new wireless interoperability standard that’s set to shake up the smart home ecosystem later this year. But what is Matter, and why will it impact the way we market smart home solutions?

 

What is Matter?

Formerly Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP), Matter is the brainchild of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, with the project group lead by Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung, Comcast and the Zigbee Alliance. Over 170 companies are currently involved, with Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Google and the Zigbee Alliance being the most prominent names.

Designed to simplify the interoperability of each of the disparate smart home ecosystems, Matter describes itself as “the industry–unifying standard”, heralding a world of “reliable, secure connectivity. Matter creates more connections between more objects, simplifies development for manufacturers, and increases compatibility for consumers.”

The mission statement of Matter is simple. They believe that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. So many of the major players in the smart home industry are coming together to develop a new standard that puts security, reliability and communication first and centre.

 

Why does Matter… matter?

Since the dawn of the smart home decades ago, which devices work together has been one of the stumbling blocks to mass adoption in the market. Often, the buying journey is interrupted or complicated by the question ‘will this work with my existing setup’, or worse, ‘I’d love to buy it, but it would mean having to replace all my existing devices.’

This standard could theoretically solve this issue. Matter describes its standard as ‘the seal of approval that says smart devices work reliably together — taking the guesswork out of the purchasing process. That trust allows you to choose from a wider range of the brands consumers love, and brings them the comfort of a secure and seamless connected home.’

Consumers can buy with confidence from retailers as well, whether online or in-person, theoretically allowing for greater category growth and further market penetration of the smart home. With lower training requirements in terms of the multiple existing standards and which ecosystems work with which, Matter could lead to higher margins for smart home offerings.

For developers and manufacturers, too, having a unifying standard built upon trusted IP-based connectivity protocols opens the door to faster, more exciting innovation and accelerated paths to market, something Matter is very keen to stress. With over 170 brands already engaged with the project and commitments being made from the major players in the smart home industry to adopt Matter going forwards, its open-source approach to the standard could drive innovation by breaking down barriers in the market.

 

How will Matter change how we market the smart home?

Breaking out of the confines of the rather embedded ecosystem approach we currently have to the smart home will take some time. But interoperability-by-design means that marketing the smart home could be much more focussed on the solutions that these products offer rather than the features of the products themselves.

If a particular use case means that through your Google Nest Hub you can protect your home with Amazon’s Ring smart home security, set your heating with Hive, and use your iPhone’s GPS in geofencing with Apple’s HomeKit, all natively, the barrier for ‘what works with what’ disappears.

It also opens the door for innovation in competitor brands if they’re able to build on an open-source platform and ensure their device or service can be certified easily to work with the existing smart home infrastructure in any home. The push towards innovation, of course, leads to lower price points for the consumer, and with improved ease of use, we may be able to begin closing the 0 – 1 device divide that many consumers are still reluctant to cross.

 

Can we ‘retrofit’ Matter? What about the existing market?

Talking about interoperability standards is all well and good for those in the industry, but what will this change mean for consumers? And how can we broach the subject with the market?

A lot of this depends on people’s hardware in their homes. As the standard is adopted going forwards, interoperability and the Matter standard will be just that, standard. This means that encouraging new customers to cross that divide from 0 – 1 should be that bit easier for new consumers. But for the loyal early adopters, who have often had to find complex solutions to get their devices to work together across ecosystems, what does this mean for their home setup?

The good news is that Matter has been designed to incorporate older / existing smart home devices. Mitch Klein of the Z-Wave Alliance says: “We can’t leave devices behind, or this whole program won’t work, the idea that everyone has to throw everything out and start again is just not going to work.”

More recent Wi-Fi / Thread devices or those using Z-Wave / Zigbee should be upgradable to Matter, either by upgrading the device directly or a software upgrade for a product’s existing bridge — Philips Hue has already committed to this approach.

However, individual devices are unlikely to be upgraded individually, primarily due to the heavy software burden on most of these products. On the upside is that the hubs they communicate through are likely to be upgraded or bridged to Matter, making them compatible via the existing hubs. In the future, though, the smart home should be hubless – with devices able to talk to each other, manufacturing costs are reduced, and setup processes are that bit simpler.

But for older devices that can’t receive these updates, support may eventually be phased out for these legacy products. But with the launch of Matter not coming until later this year, there’ll be support for these products for a while yet.

 

Future proofing the home

With consumers looking more for sustainable solutions and the ability to future-proof their homes, how do we communicate with customers thinking about getting into the market? The answer is that new devices, or recent devices to the market, are more than likely ready to upgrade to Matter when the standard is launched, so consumers shouldn’t have to wait to buy into the smart home.

So from a marketing perspective, the industry should begin talking about the benefit of interoperability as standard across every ecosystem.

Now is the time to begin phasing out the oft-seen ‘Works with’ badges – because the future should be that every product works with every other to offer a fully-fledged smart-home-as-a-solution approach finally.

And that’s kind of exciting, right?!