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.