On a recent Internet of Things Podcast episode, we took a Matter question during our Voicemail hotline segment. This particular question was submitted via email by Jon, and since it was such a good question, we decided to tackle it.
What intrigued me about the Matter initiative was the hope that it would decouple IoT hardware from the service model to the extent that a Matter-IoT device could and would still have basic functionality in the absence of the costly, ongoing support of a manufacturer that could no longer provide server support for it from the Cloud (think $5 smart Plug, the hardware for which might be able to work for 10 years but whose manufacture goes out of business in 5 years).
Is this another way that a manufacturer can plan to obsolete perfectly functioning IoT that they previously sold to make way for new but equivalent hardware they want to sell to boost their revenues?
Or, alternatively, would these Matter fees give rise to more subscription fees to use Matter devices you’ve “purchased” — more “hardware as a service”? (Effectively reducing a “purchase” to a “rental”.)
Well, this is a question that I should have thought of. Kudos to Jon for submitting it.
You might think that a company that doesn’t continue paying its annual Matter licensing and certification fees would leave its product out in the cold. However, that’s not the case, which is good for consumers.
We checked with the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) on what happens in this situation.
Any existing Matter-certified devices will continue to work as normal. If the company wants to keep selling its Matter devices in stores, however, it must pay the annual fees. In other words, for a product to be sold with the Matter logo, the device make must pay its annual licensing fees.
There is one caveat though. If a device maker wants to stop paying Matter fees, it can continue to support existing devices. The keyword here is “can” continue; it’s not a requirement.
Jon’s question is related to a topic we covered last week regarding DIY projects using Matter. At the time, we said there wasn’t a provision to handle self-built Matter devices without paying fees. We found that there actually is something in the Matter spec; Section 5.5 if you’re interested.
You can build your own Matter device using the spec and use that device yourself without paying any fees. It won’t be a trusted Matter device on your network because that requires testing and certification, which in turn requires paying fees.
The CSA recommends that you provide users of your device a warning about this. And you should allow users to then decide if they want to add the device to their Matter network or not.
To hear Jon’s question in full, as well as our discussion on the topic, tune in to the Internet of Things Podcast below:
Jon Smirl says
A $5 smart socket is the minimum possible price a device like that can be sold at. It is going to use the cheapest components possible. You will be lucky to get three years out of it. Ten could happen if your house AC is of very high quality — no noise or lightning on the lines — but don’t count on it. The cost keep a device online for a year using AWS to implement basic services is roughly $0.50 per device and about $5 per app (supports multiple devices). Smart device employees also need to earn a salary. Now you can see why these companies go under. Their revenue is not covering their costs.
Matter is allowing the smart device manufacturers to avoid the online fees by off-loading them to Google/Amazon/Apple. But consider that Amazon just announced it spends $10B on its devices division and it is loosing a LOT of money. Google said the same, Apple never says anything. Those online costs are not going away, they are just being shifted.
So you might be able to buy a $5 smart switch and have it work for 10 years on Matter. You’d need to be lucky for the electronics to last that long and you need to understand that Google/Amazon/Apple are subsidizing its operation. No one is gong to support it so you will need to limp along on the initial software for that whole time.
If you want 10 years of reliability with no hassles, buy a dumb light switch. It is nothing but a hunk of metal. It does not have complex electronic components inside, does not need an online server and it does not need security updates. Also note that you often spend more than $5 on a coffee and consume it in 15 minutes.
I think you missed the point. Matter, being a protocol that works locally, does not require the vendor or anyone else to have AWS. The only reason that would be needed would be to collect user data. Matter devices are able to function even if you completely unplug from the internet. Of course, you couldn’t then control with Alexa, which is itself cloud dependent, but a solution like home assistant would allow complete offline control.
JD Roberts says
Alexa does offer limited local voice control even without Matter, although currently it’s only for Zigbee devices directly connected to one of the echo devices that has a zigbee hub inside. I use this in my own home. It’s limited, but it works.
They have said they are working on making more voice control local, but it’s a big project with a lot of technical challenges.
JD Roberts says
I May be mistaken, but I thought they were using the HomeKit model for this situation. If a third party device manufacturer goes out of business, or just drops support for a particular model, like Ihome did in April 2022 with their smart plugs, they continue to work locally with HomeKit. You can even get a new one and add it through the Apple home app. You are never required to use the manufacturer’s cloud or app except to get firmware updates. So that manufacturer’s cloud going away doesn’t change the performance of the device in your home, at least, as far as HomeKit is concerned.