The Smart Home: A “Matter” of Simplicity
The smart home, as a concept, has endured a rollercoaster ride for over half-a-century – yes, smart home technology has been touted as far back as the 1950s, as some people might recall but, of course, I’m far too young and wasn’t even born!
Creating your intelligent smart home
Anyway, it is only now that, with today’s technology or at least technology that has emerged over the last couple of decades or so, we have begun to witness real and tangible technology that realistically provides a smart home experience – something that has become more palatable for everyday consumers. Naturally, we are still awaiting the I, Robot-like humanoids that will attend to our everyday whims.
What I mean by realistic, and tangible are things like intelligent doorbells and home security cameras provided by companies like Ring, for example; and smart lighting provided by products such as those from Philips Hue. In another example, we have air source heating systems that are connected to the internet so that they can understand and make predictions about the weather and, in turn, adjust the internal temperature of the water in your wet radiator or underfloor heating system accordingly. Yes, we have moved on from those science fiction movies and are now enjoying the benefits afforded to us by true smart home technology.
It’s all at our voice-command convenience
You see, I grew up in the 1980s and I was privy to such hyperbole (which I can only retrospectively recall as being farfetched). I lived in a time when you had to physically insert your video cassette into your VCR to record any TV programmes you didn’t want to miss whilst out dining. Over the years, I saw this technology evolve to become a hard drive set-top box and today, of course, we have on-demand services to catch-up on what we have missed.
Oh yes, we now live in a Marmite-like intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) world – and by that I mean you either love them or hate them – where we offer our command-like instructions to manage our time, gain information and control our homes. You may have an Amazon-, Google- or Apple-enabled IVA to manage certain aspects of your smart home ecosystem or perhaps you merely use one to order a pizza. In any event, we have created such an ecosystem of simplicity with technology because we, as humans, in our new world, have suddenly realised just how difficult it is to flick a switch or turn a knob – today, it’s all at our voice-command convenience because, let’s face it, life is hard. Yes, I am being cynical because I couldn’t resist, but having said that, ironically, I’m now one of those people who wouldn’t be without Alexa.
New Matter branding will help consumers decide when choosing products that will work across a united ecosystem irrespective of manufacturer.
What happened to the ZigBee Alliance?
With this all-in mind, there has been a very unlikely partnership with the likes of Amazon, Google, Apple, Philips, Samsung and many other companies collectively working together on a new open standard, which has been newly branded as “Matter.” It’s a smart home collaboration called Connected Home over IP (or CHIP) that aims to “create a unifying standard for the smart home industry” according to the Connectivity Standards Alliance (cas-iot.org) formerly known as the ZigBee Alliance.
I’m going to have to catch up with these guys at some point to find out more about their change in direction, but I do know that the ZigBee Alliance also purports many standards for their smart home strategy, as well as the smart metering sector and I’ll come back to this in a future column.
Creating a common experience for consumers
In the meantime, back to what matters: The name Matter has emerged due to innovative smart home products that have started the certification programme. The new Matter branding and its associated logo will now appear on products that have been certified. This will help consumers decide on choosing a product that will work across Matter’s united ecosystem, irrespective of manufacturer. I recall that, with an open standards mindset such as Bluetooth wireless technology, the industry went through a similar exercise which, of course, has been proven successful. After all, today most if not all Bluetooth-enabled products will successfully interoperate with each other.
However, many across the industry have suggested bringing numerous technology companies together with “one voice” and to simplify the smart home landscape is an arduous and ambitions task. But, as I have already mentioned, it’s possible because we have already accomplished unity with other technologies like Bluetooth and others, such as Wi-Fi, ZigBee and near-field communications (NFC). These are just a few examples of how companies can collaborate and create a common experience for consumers.
Until next time …
Of course, it won’t be easy or anywhere near straightforward, since in my many years as an engineer, I have experienced first-hand the common objectives of Bluetooth, ZigBee and NFC, which hasn’t been simple as such companies each have their own agendas and expectations. In fact, I recall with early Bluetooth products that, if a consumer had purchased a smartphone and had a headset from the same manufacturer, the consumer would receive additional features and benefits from their experience using the same manufacturer’s products.
Undoubtedly, we might see similar “buy-in” incentives from these manufacturers, but they must put their collective egos aside and strive to make “technology for good.”
So, this is where your “technology for good” Dr G. signs off.
Originally published in Technically Speaking.