Amazon, Google, Apple back alliance to certify smart home devices that work together

Matter smart device logo on a networked lightbulb

The three-arrow Matter logo shown on this smart lightbulb signifies smart-home tech that will work well with other devices.

Connectivity Standards Alliance; illustration by Stephen Shankland/HDOT

An industry alliance sponsored by Apple, Google, Amazon and other tech companies will begin certifying smart home devices later this year, a next step in making the technology more widely accepted.

Matter, the name of the alliance, will let smart devices, such as lightbulbs you turn on with Amazon Alexa or a video doorbell you monitor with Google Home, use its logo on their packaging. The logo looks like a trio of round-tipped arrows pointing toward a common center.

Tobin Richardson, chief executive of Matter, said in an interview he expects the logo to become as “ubiquitous” as the Wi-Fi logo currently is.

“As these different devices become more complex networks, it’s all the more important that they’re all talking the same language,” Richardson said. “That mark will be a helping hand to make sure that you can add whatever lightbulbs, whatever door locks, whatever you want to add.” Richardson made the comment in an interview ahead of a Matter press event on Tuesday.

The alliance’s certification process is more evidence of the rapid pace of change in the smart home, part of the internet of things movement to digitize everything. Like smartphones, the smart home could quickly become central to your daily life.

Matter is a new name for a smart-home alliance called CHIP, short for Connected Home over Internet Protocol. Unveiled in 2019, it employs the internet’s core technology to smooth over the complexities of connecting smart-home devices. The technology allows users to control lighting, heating, home theaters, video doorbells, door locks and alarms through smart speakers.

Getting all of these devices to get along — especially with Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Google Assistant competing to be your preferred interface — can be difficult. Matter is designed to unify the network domain, ensuring devices will work with any of those three main voice control systems. It should work even if you use more than one control system.

Matter allies developed their technology within the Zigbee Alliance, a group founded to work on the low-speed but energy-efficient Zigbee network technology that’s used in some smart-home devices such as smart lightbulbs and alarm sensors. That group renamed itself the Connectivity Standards Alliance on Tuesday to reflect its mission beyond Zigbee.

The event drew appearances from smart speaker leaders Amazon and Google, internet service provider Comcast, Samsung’s smart home SmartThings group, and Signify, which markets the Philips Hue lighting technology.

The allies have been developing Matter technology as a royalty free, open-source project on GitHub. In the last two weeks, they ratified the specification, a key step in letting device makers get to work on certification and making Matter support easier for developers.

Matter smart home device certification logo

The Matter logo signifies smart-home devices that are certified to get along well with each other and with the Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Google Assistant voice control systems.

Connectivity Standards Alliance; illustration by Stephen Shankland/HDOT

Matter should make setups more streamlined, said Michelle Mindala-Freeman, who runs marketing for the alliance. Setup codes should let you link up your devices without having to download apps or link to cloud services.

Matter also should lower barriers between different smart-home ecosystems so you don’t have to worry whether a new product will work within your smart home setup. It “breaks down the walls of the walled garden,” Mindala-Freeman said.

To succeed, the Matter allies also will have to convince us the technology is trustworthy, not just simple. Privacy is top of mind with iPhones now cracking down on app tracking.

“We still have a long road ahead in terms of building the trust,” Richardson said. “You have to earn it.”

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