Smart home technology has, until now, been primarily complicated and incompatible, being considered too advanced for the everyday consumer. But with the advent of a promising breakthrough, the landscape for smart home technology might be on the brink of transformation.
Big Tech Cooperation: The Game Changer
In a surprising and yet strategic turn of events, tech giants like Amazon and Google are embedding their efforts to revolutionize this sector.
The most striking example of this collaborative endeavor comes from their joint assistance in producing JBL smart speakers by Harman. These speakers are integrated with both Google’s Assistant and Alexa, an integration that would not have been possible without a hands-on approach from both these tech behemoths.
This incorporation isn’t just a one-off event but suggests an undercurrent of necessity to collaborate and facilitate the mainstream adoption of smart homes. It seems to be the plausible option to revitalize the industry after witnessing a slump in the sales of smart home gear after its peak in 2021.
Enter “Matter”: A Unified Software Standard
As Jitesh Ubrani, smart-home research manager at tech market intelligence firm IDC, aptly puts it, the beauty of the new software standard Matter is its transparency. Just as one does not question their laptop’s ability to connect to Wi-Fi or their phone’s capability to connect to their earbuds, the goal of Matter is similar – to provide seamless compatibility between smart devices for the users.
Developed by the Connectivity Standards Alliance, Matter serves as a common language among devices from various makers, making them compatible with each other.
One implication of this software could be providing much-needed freedom to consumers from worrying if their smart gadgets will become non-functional if they switch their mobile phones.
Matter’s Profound Potential
Although the first Matter-enabled devices were launched less than a year ago, their recent constant announcements and availabilities suggest steady progress in the market. As of now, nearly 1,800 applications and devices tested have shown support for Matter, signaling more arrivals in the future.
Devices currently embedded with this software include newer Amazon Alexa, Apple HomePod, and Google Nest smart speakers. It is interesting to note how Matter, being just software, an application layer, enhances its feasibility as it can be added to devices as a simple software upgrade.
For instance, older devices like the Philips Hue lightbulbs from 2012 can become Matter devices with a simple software upgrade to the wireless hub that powers those bulbs, scheduled for release in mid-September.
The Bumps on the Road to Matter
However, Matter’s journey doesn’t seem all smooth as there have been instances of Matter-compatible devices that failed to work with most of the Matter-enabled smart home controllers on the market. To guide users with compatibility, companies have resorted to labeling products as “works with”.
At the same time, it is essential to note that not every company participating in the alliance defining Matter has chosen to implement every protocol the standard includes.
The Road Ahead
Despite its few bottlenecks, the promising software standard, Matter, offers the industry a revolutionary outlook. Smart home device makers potentially now have the opportunity to expand their reach beyond one tech giant’s ecosystem and into others without the headache of cost and compatibility.
However, an important consideration remains to be acknowledged: Do the consumers really want their homes to be smart? While technology enthusiasts have been anticipating the mass-market phenomenon of smart homes for the past decade, it is yet to gain traction with the general public.
It’s now up for the device makers to craft their persuasions. Time will tell whether this seamless compatibility-driven approach will usher in a new era for smart home technology.
And a Rocky Road Ahead for Smart Home Devices
The smart home device sector is hitting a rough patch, with sales plummeting and no signs of recovery until 2024, reports the International Data Corporation (IDC). In a surprising turn, the first quarter saw a drastic dip in the sales of smart speakers and networked video entertainment devices, falling by 15.4% and 7.8% respectively compared to last year.
Despite the introduction of the Matter standard in November 2022, aimed at simplifying the use of smart home gadgets, the market remains stagnant. This downturn is mainly due to the absence of significant upgrades between device generations, causing a dip in consumer interest.
However, there’s a silver lining: IDC predicts a resurgence in growth from 2024, potentially skyrocketing to 1.1 billion shipments by 2027. This optimistic forecast is fueled by increasing consumer awareness and the rise of emerging markets, offering a beacon of hope for the industry.
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Martha A. Lavallie
Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.