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Internet of Things July 2022 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Rob Edmonds

Unifying Matter Will Boost Choice and Innovation in IoT

By Mark Smith
Smith is an independent consultant specializing in digital and connected technologies.

Overview

The Matter standard is set to transform compatibility in the IoT industry in the coming years. By having one unifying protocol, companies will be able to innovate more easily, and consumers will benefit from greater choice. But compatibility issues with existing technology will require further investment by consumers and manufacturers.

Description

The Matter standard is a single open-source protocol for ensuring that IoT devices and smart homes are compatible with one another. Home devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Nest have previously served to coordinate smart-home technologies such as automatic blinds, lighting, and entertainment centers. But as systems have become more ubiquitous and complex, interoperability has proved a challenge, and a new way of ensuring that they can all function in concert was necessary.

Matter uses both the Thread and Wi‑Fi wireless protocols to communicate and was originally Project CHIP (Project Connected Home over IP [internet protocol]). The Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA)—an industry group including Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, and Comcast—announced it in 2019. Now more than 200 companies are active in bringing Matter-compatible products to market, and a major vote of confidence took place when Apple announced integration with its existing smart-home platform, HomeKit. Swedish homeware giant Ikea has also announced the launch of a Matter-ready hub. Matter is a royalty-free standard and, although the code repository it is based on is open source, developers wishing to use the standard will have to pay certification costs to the CSA. Adopters will be able to use the standard in their mobile apps, cloud services, and smart-home devices to enable these devices and platforms to communicate with each other and with devices and platforms that other developers design. The first Matter products were due in 2021 but have experienced delay until the autumn of 2022.

Implications

Market analysts project that the IoT market will grow from $478 billion in 2022 to $2,465 billion by 2029. Greater interoperability will help drive that growth, especially in the consumer sphere. Matter's developers hope that the standard can improve overall interoperability in the consumer IoT sector and thereby encourage grater competition and innovation among smart technology and IoT manufacturers. Currently various consumer-focused IoT systems tie users into digital ecosystems supported by one or a small handful of suppliers. Promoting more open standards, in principle, means that consumers can make choices driven more by functionality and price rather than just purely on compatibility.

Google has announced that it will support developers who make products for its platform to integrate the developers' products with Matter via a Google Home Device SDK for Matter. The technology giant also plans to update its mobile devices with Matter support to enable it to control Matter devices. Smaller firms and start-ups will also benefit from cross-compatibility with Google's smart-home platform. However, a substantial population of legacy IoT devices and systems already exists, and although Matter is a promising step toward greater interoperability moving forward, integrating legacy devices and systems remains a potential headache for some IoT users.

Relevant Areas to Monitor

  • Big Tech Power

    Big Tech companies wield immense power through the massive scale of their digital platforms and their ability to centralize and leverage data. Because of their influence, Big Tech companies can create massive disruptions when they enter new markets, and they can dictate pseudo industry standards.

  • End-User Demand

    Internet of Things technology has an almost limitless number of potential applications, but most markets are nascent with limited end-user demand. As opportunity areas emerge, grow, and falter, suppliers and other stakeholders may struggle with decisions about how to allocate resources and develop new products.

Impact Scale

On a scale of low, medium, or high, the anticipated level of impact for this topic is: Medium.

Impact Timing

On a scale of now, 5, 10, or 15 years, the anticipated impact timing for this topic is: Now to 5 years.

Opportunities in the Following Industry Areas

  • Consumer Packaged Goods
  • Internet of Things
  • Sensors/Electronics

Relevant to the Following Explorer Technology Areas