The news that the Matter smart home interoperability standard is going to be delayed by a few more months has a lot of folks wondering why. There are plenty of people who never believed that Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung and other industry players would really work together to create a viable standard, and think the latest delay is just an indication of infighting.
Others are hopeful that Matter will still happen, but are feeling a familiar sense of doubt. Even I am wondering if Matter will still be relevant and what consumers really want a smart home interoperability protocol to do. And as my friends in the non-tech world like to remind me, some of them have no idea what the heck Matter is and why I keep talking about it a year or two after I told people it would change their lives.
But it does appear that the delay is not a serious indication of infighting or a loss of interest or faith in the Matter protocol. Instead, Matter is just really complicated. Because the smart home is really complicated. The Connectivity Standards Alliance says it is going to release an early 0.9 version of the Matter certification mid-year, when the full specification was anticipated to be out.
The planned release of the 0.9 version feels like an effort to convince us that things are still fine. And based on the continued growth in the number of device makers joining the CSA to participate in Matter, things are still fine. But adding all of these new players means even more effort will be required to get things to work together. Ted Miller, a CSA spokesperson said, “It really is a matter of testing at this point. One more test event to test the updated version of the spec. All 130 devices are participating. That will lead to the 0.9 version, which is basically the final version.”
And yes, the CSA is supposed to say that, so I asked Frederik Delacort, who is the senior director of technology and services at Wyze, for his thoughts. Wyze didn’t join the CSA to work on Matter until April 2021, and he’s been open about his concerns with the plans to make an interoperable standard and the role that the large smart home vendors play in this effort.
First up, he’s glad for the delay because it gives Wyze, as a smaller vendor, more time to get things right. He added, “The difference between this time and the previous time is that many companies have publicly announced that some current and many future products will be Matter-compatible. This makes it more real and emphasizes the need to be compliant or be left behind.”
As he noted, “It has also become vividly clear that creating new devices that are Matter-compliant is fairly straightforward, but making an ecosystem Matter-compliant requires a significant level of effort.” For example, Wyze was able to make an existing device Matter-compliant in two weeks, but it took an additional three weeks to “get all the features wired properly.” But he also said that adjusting the Wyze ecosystem to support Matter will take many months of engineering work.
This jibes with comments from a source who works on Matter for one of the large smart home device vendors, who told me that testing one-to-one device features is pretty simple, but testing the potential web of interactions of many different device types across different platforms is a completely different level of complexity.
Other smaller participants are heartened by the work done so far, and are happy that the CSA will publish the 0.9 specification ahead of the release of the software development kit in the fall. Jerome Gackel, the CEO of smart sensor maker Eve Systems, said getting a pre-release version of the spec this summer will help make the testing procedures more productive and ensure stability of the formal SDK once it’s released.
Gackel is in an interesting position, because until Matter gets standardized, Eve devices are only compatible with the HomeKit ecosystem. This means the launch of Matter will open up a much larger market for the company. In prior conversations, Gackel expressed hopes that Matter would cover some of the special features that Eve offers with its devices. He also said that the current delay isn’t about an expanded feature set, but simply work “improving and ensuring SDK stability through more extensive testing (i.e., additional events and procedures).”
So despite the doubts and delays, it appears that the companies working toward Matter certifications are still eagerly pushing ahead. And for them, the delay makes sense. Because after so long, releasing a poorly implemented standard would certainly prove the naysayers right.