On a recent Internet of Things podcast episode, we took a voicemail question on our hotline. He correctly notes that Samsung has shut down its SmartThings Cloud service, requiring device makers to use alternative services, such as AWS or Azure. That leads into bigger question about how Matter works, or doesn’t work, with cloud services. And more importantly, how that could impact future smart home device services.
Obviously, there are ongoing costs to provide cloud services to smart home devices. And some companies, charge developers for an API key to build apps for such devices. With Matter, however, there are many features and functions that can be performed locally by Matter-certified devices.
In fact, most of the basic essential services for each type of device are done locally in a Matter environment. All Matter-certified smart bulbs, for example, can locally advertise their status such as on, off, and brightness levels. This means other Matter-certified devices can also send requests or commands to modify the state of that light bulb. And it happens locally.
Here’s an example with a motion sensor and bulb, both of which we’ll assume are Matter certified. You can set up a local automation that turns the bulb on if the motion detector senses movement in the middle of the night. I actually have this exact setup in my home today although the bulbs are not support by Matter yet. In this case, there’s no cloud service required because the Matter specification provides a standard way for on-network devices to communicate to each other.
To a certain extent then, developers and device makers could reduce their cloud service costs because in a Matter environment, there’s less need for these services. But there is a big caveat here.
Matter provides a baseline of device states for each device type. That means some more advanced or custom features may still require cloud services.
If you have Philips Hue bulbs and a bridge that is expected to get a Matter upgrade, the basics are still just turning lights on, off, and dimming them. Matter might not be able to handle changing bulb colors or setting up a specific set of colors for a scene. In that case, the bulbs need to communicate through a Wi-Fi or Thread Border Router with the cloud and then receive instructions to make those changes.
That’s just one specific example of many. And the situation may change as the Matter specification continues to evolve with new releases. Eventually, I’d hope that all of the different APIs needed for advanced features get subsumed into a more universal approach within Matter. But for now, Matter addresses the low-hanging fruit to bring some commonality in a subset of smart home devices. And that commonality provides basic smart functionality without requiring the cloud.
To hear this week’s question in full, as well as our discussion on the topic, tune in to the Internet of Things podcast below.
Jon Smirl says
This is not correct. Matter supports custom clusters. Your Eve Energy has one. Energy monitoring is not part of Matter currently so Eve added a custom Matter cluster for it. Google/Apple/Amazon don’t know about this cluster but your Eve app does. When you are in your home the Eve app can access this info over the local LAN.
Custom clusters have the effect of making cloud support OPTIONAL whereas with previous protocols it was mandatory. If you optionally want to record the historical energy usage of your device you might use a cloud component for that. But you don’t have to, Eve could also build a device which records it locally.
There are other reasons you see cloud access from Matter devices. The TpLink TAPO devices are dual protocol. They support both Matter and a previous, proprietary TpLink protocol. I am not sure what that other protocol is doing, but I think it is hitting a cloud server. Personally I think dual protocol devices ruin the Matter security model and should not be allowed.
Lois Larsen says
Cloud services can be used to connect and control smart home devices. Smart home devices, such as thermostats, cameras, and lights, can be connected to the internet and controlled remotely through cloud-based applications. This allows users to monitor and control their devices from anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection. Cloud services can also enable automation and scheduling of smart home devices, allowing users to create routines and schedules for their devices. Additionally, cloud services can provide data analytics and insights on device usage and energy consumption, helping users to optimize their smart home setup for maximum efficiency and cost savings.
I agree that remote management as well as data analytics and insights are good applications where to use of a cloud service.
However, regarding “Cloud services can also enable automation and scheduling of smart home devices, allowing users to create routines and schedules for their devices”. I believe this should be set up locally and preferably run in the respective Matter devices.
Management of automation and scheduling could maybe be done using a cloud service but not for running the time- and event-based services. It’s all about reliability and security.
JD Roberts says
As far as this:
“ And that commonality provides basic smart functionality without requiring the cloud.”
It depends whether you define “basic Smart functionality” as being able to check on your home when you are at another location. Which, as far as I know, all the matter controller apps announced so far will provide. (It’s even a new feature for IKEA. )
Device control and state check when you are on a different Network from the device will always require the cloud. And I think that becomes something that most mass market consumers expect from a home automation system these days. And, of course, as of this post, the same is true for most voice control.
Matter so far is using the same architecture as HomeKit in this regard. If you want to be able to connect to your system from another Network, you need a cloud. If you want to use voice control, you need a cloud.
Of course one of the interesting things about matter is, it doesn’t have to be a cloud provided by the device manufacturer. Once matter is fully deployed, you could use the IKEA app or the Alexa app or the Google Home app or Apple Home or the SmartThings app or any other matter certified app with its own cloud, to control and check on your matter devices as long as you had them set up with multi admin for that app. You wouldn’t need the individual device manufacturer to have a public cloud available.
So, in the future, the heavy home automation traffic may be running through the giant corporations’ clouds for out of home Matter access, in many cases the same clouds that provide voice control.
So some manufacturers will see a cost savings. Not necessarily all, though.
I’ve since moved almost all my Zigbee lights and plugs to my Hue Bridge, since upgrading it to Matter back in November. I’ve had a few internet outages since then every time, Apple Home and Home assistant were able to fully control all the lights normally without issue. The added benefit was all the diverse brands connected to hue were available in Apple Home where previously Home Kit was discriminatory and prohibited third party devices for “security” and “privacy” concerns. All commands, On Off dim Bright and color were able to be controlled locally like its 1999.
The interoperability of Matter will make it easier for consumers to switch between different cloud services and providers, giving them greater choice and control over their smart home devices and services.
Overall, Matter is expected to have a positive impact on smart home cloud services, making them more secure, interoperable, and user-friendly, and helping to accelerate the adoption of smart home technology.