Amazon Offers A Full-Throated Endorsement Of The Matter Smart Home Initiative At Alexa Live 2022
Amazon used its Alexa Live conference earlier this week to unequivocally articulate that it wants every smart home product to function in the Alexa ecosystem. It believes that Matter is the enabling standard to achieve that objective. For more than two years, the Connectivity Standards Alliance has been promoting the Matter smart home initiative as the nirvana interoperability protocol for disparate devices to work with each other, regardless of whether the user utilizes Apple HomeKit, Google Home or Amazon Alexa as their smart home platform.
After some well-publicized delays, the new Matter “standard” is expected to arrive from a device-support standpoint later this year. It allows connected devices to seamlessly communicate using current IP-based wireless protocols such as Thread and Wi-Fi. The home run for users will be that while they have to commit to Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple HomeKit, a Matter-enabled device will not limit a user to one of these smart home platforms.
As Amazon sees it, Matter is actuating the company’s belief and long-term vision that ambient intelligence is required to optimize the smart home customer experience. Ambient intelligence, from an Amazon perspective, facilitates an environment where devices are entwined by artificial intelligence so they can deliver dramatically more value and functionality than any single device does by itself.
While actual Matter-supported smart home devices have yet to appear on store shelves, industry anticipation is high. Amazon, Apple, Google, LG and Samsung, just to name a few of the chief participants who have publicly vouched to support Matter, strongly embraced the initiative because it allows any device to work on their smart home platforms, regardless of who manufactured it. Matter achieves this without requiring any special platform-specific software coding from developers. The promise is that setup and use of a smart home device will just work. However, the initial defined device categories Matter will initially support focus on sensors, locks, lights, thermostats, blinds, Wi-Fi routers and smart lights.
Of course, for the Matter initiative to succeed, many devices must come along for the ride. At its Alexa Live Developer Event earlier in the week, Amazon unveiled a plethora of new tools and features to assist developers with building Matter devices. Google did something very similar at Google I/O; Apple and Samsung went down an identical path at their respective developer events.
One of the highlights of the Alexa Live event was Amazon’s announcement of its Frustration Free Setup process, which is designed to support Matter’s goal of a highly simplified smart home experience, particularly around the initial installation of a smart home device. This process promises to add a device automatically when it’s powered on without pairing. Smart home users will celebrate just this type of functionality.
In addition, Amazon’s new Ambient Home Developer Kit allows device manufacturers to tap tunnel deeper into Alexa’s capabilities that will permit the user to generate more ‘experiences” that might very well differentiate Alexa’s platform. In this way, a new Alexa Home State API will support various “modes,” such as Home, Vacation, Dinner Time and Sleep in a synchronized manner across all smart home devices. Unlike the current Alexa Routine that requires the user to state “I’m leaving” explicitly to initiate actions like locking the door, turning off the lights and lowering the thermostat, a future Home State could take on a more proactive and ambient posture that doesn’t require a verbal command.
Why is Alexa’s support of the Matter initiative so important?
All of this promises to come together and deliver a “context-based” smart home experience that should make consumers salivate. If Amazon genuinely delivers on this capability, smart home adoption is likely to get a jolt because it mitigates the home automation complexity perception that many users have, particularly when multiple devices are involved.
While Amazon didn’t provide specific guidance on how Alexa devices will integrate with Matter, the company reassured that existing Echo devices (thankfully) would get OTA updates so they can function with Matter over Wi-Fi. Furthermore, Eero Wi-Fi routers and fourth-generation Echo smart speakers will act as Thread border routers to connect any Thread-supported devices to a home network.
With nearly 70% market share in the smart speaker space, Amazon has much riding on Matter’s success. It’s refreshing not only to see the company so firmly committed to the initiative but continue to support its developer community with enhanced tools and capabilities to bring Matter-supported devices to market as quickly as possible.
It’s easy to be skeptical about an initiative that requires powerful competitors such as Amazon, Google, and Apple to cooperate. Still, it’s become clear that these entities realize the very future of the smart home is at risk if Matter fails.
Mark Vena is the CEO and Principal Analyst at SmartTech Research based in Silicon Valley. As a technology industry veteran for over 25 years, Mark covers many consumer tech topics, including PCs, smartphones, smart home, connected health, security, PC and console gaming, and streaming entertainment solutions. Mark has held senior marketing and business leadership positions at Compaq, Dell, Alienware, Synaptics, Sling Media and Neato Robotics. Mark has appeared on CNBC, NBC News, ABC News, Business Today, The Discovery Channel and other media outlets. Mark’s analysis and commentary have appeared on Forbes.com and other well-known business news and research sites. His comments about the consumer tech space have repeatedly appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, TechNewsWorld and other news publications.
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