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CSA interview: Matter will drastically improve your smart home experience
At CES 2023, we had the pleasure of talking to Chris LaPré, who is the Head of Technology at CSA (Connectivity Standards Alliance), the organization behind the newly-launched Matter networking protocol.
Mr. LaPré shared insight into the Matter protocol, explaining in detail what it is, what we can expect from it in the future, and much more. You can read a brief overview of the interview below or check out the whole thing in the video above.
Q: The Matter networking protocol has been in the news a lot lately, but a lot of people might not understand exactly what it is and why it’s important. Could you provide us with a basic overview of what is Matter and how it will improve our smart homes?
A: I won’t jump right into what Matter is, but rather the problem it went out to solve. We refer to it as the “walled garden of IoT problem,” meaning that consumers have to buy products that work with the products and technologies they already own since not all of them can communicate with each other. This is the problem Matter solves, as it allows different types of smart home devices to work together, as long as they are Matter-enabled.
We started with adoption in mind. We asked ourselves what one technology everybody would be willing to use. It wasn’t easy. It took us three years to get all the major tech players on board and to make sure they stayed on board.
Q: So if I have an Amazon and a Google smart home product, both of which support Matter, they can work together without me having to do anything extra? So that’s the basic principle behind the technology?
A: Yes. If both the Amazon and Google product support Matter, they can talk to each other. But at the same time, you have to use common sense. A light switch, for example, can talk to a light bulb. But there’s no real connection between, let’s say, a Google fireplace and an Amazon toaster. While they can both support Matter and technically talk to each other, they can’t do anything together since they are different products.
So as Matter becomes supported by all the major ecosystems, every product with its logo on it will work with other Matter-enabled products, regardless of the brand.
Q: You just mentioned the connection between light switches and light bulbs. But what about connecting other products that don’t yet work together, like a light switch and a robot vacuum? So when I turn on the lights in my office, the robot vacuum starts working automatically. Is this something that can be done, and what kind of a timeline are we looking at for that kind of integration?
A: At one of my previous jobs, we tried to be creative with those kinds of rules, meaning that turning on the lights could activate a bunch of other products. So, technically, something like this is already possible today.
But that’s not what Matter is trying to achieve right now. We started off focusing on a core set of smart home device types, with the exception of cameras. While we are working on robot vacuums as well, the technology isn’t ready yet but will hopefully be released in spring. Cameras are on a slightly longer trajectory at the moment and won’t be part of that release window.
Q: Matter has been something we’ve been talking about for quite a long time, and it’s only just now starting to gain some steam. What types of devices can we expect to see this year?
A: We’ll see a lot of smart home devices like door locks, blinds, garage openers, and light sensors come out in the next couple of months. But there are a number of others being worked on like the robot vacuums we already mentioned and various other kitchen appliances.
More complicated energy-management features that could save you money are on a slightly longer trajectory. These are connected to electric cars and solar panels, among other things.
Q: What are you personally looking forward to the most with Matter?
A: Energy management is one thing, and it’s especially important in regions like Europe, where energy is more expensive than in the US. Matter can help by saving consumers money or reducing greenhouse gases since it can manage your electric vehicle, your hot water heater, and your solar panels, for example. So it can get to know your preferences and habits and then make sure it doesn’t heat the water when you’re not home, which is just one of the ways it can save energy and money.
Another thing to mention is health care, which is a problem in the US and other parts of the world. Matter could help by allowing us to do more from our homes instead of going to the hospital to see a doctor for every small issue. There are privacy and sharing concerns that come with this and have to be solved first, so it may take a while before we get there.
This is just a quick overview of the conversation we had with CSA’s Chris LaPré. If you want to learn more, check out the video at the top of the page.