In late 2019, Apple joined forces with Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance to form a new working group known as Project Connected Home Over IP, or “Project CHIP”, that aimed to solve all the confusing interoperability problems with home automation accessories. The vision was that someday you’d be able to use accessories built for Amazon Alexa with HomeKit, or Google Home accessories with Alexa, or really mix and match any group of accessories in any combination.
Consider utilising Amazon Alexa accessories with HomeKit, or Google Home accessories with Alexa. If you’ve been anticipating the release of the Matter standard to unite your smart home gadgets, it appears you’ll have to wait a little longer. The Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), which is in charge of Matter, has revealed that the debut of the new interoperable smart home standard will be delayed until 2022.
This actually promised the biggest boon for HomeKit users, since Apple’s ecosystem has traditionally been considerably more limited — HomeKit compatible devices number in the hundreds, while Amazon boasts well over 10,000 Alexa-compatible devices. Alexa also supports many more categories of devices. Amazon Echo Dot with Alexa and Google Nest with Assistant. Needless to say, however, coming up with a standard that allows all of this to work together isn’t a simple task, although Apple made an important first step last year by open-sourcing HomeKit.
Taking an open-source SDK approach means everyone that develops a Matter device can use the same code base. That’s an absolutely critical element to ensuring rapid adoption and market success — but we need to get it right. The ultimate goal remains to deliver a specification and SDK that delivers on our promise to create a common language for the smart home and improve consumer smart home experiences and spur greater innovation.
Then, last September, the Zigbee Alliance weighed in with the news that the new open and universal CHIP standard would be ratified sometime in 2021. Unfortunately, it now looks like they’re going to miss that deadline. A few months ago the Zigbee Alliance adopted a new name, the Connectivity Standards Alliance and rebranded CHIP as “Matter”, but things have otherwise moved more slowly than expected, undoubtedly hampered by the challenges of the ongoing global health pandemic. The CSA’s announcement doesn’t provide any specific reasons for the delay, apart from saying that it wants to make sure that it gets things right out of the gate.
It’s a fair assessment when developing a standard like this, since chances are that dozens of hardware manufacturers are going to be building devices to the new specifications. At least, we certainly hope so, and as smart home fans ourselves, the last thing we want to see is compatibility problems that require an endless stream of firmware updates — or even product replacements — to get everything working properly However, it looks like all this testing has shown the Matter Working Group that it’s truly breaking some significant new ground here, so it really needs to take time to ensure that it’s got all the details right.
The focus now is on building out support for more types of devices, and continuing to test the standard across a much wider array of manufacturers and device types. The group is also expected to hold its first “gated” test event next month, which it describes as a key milestone that will define which Matter devices will be the first ones to come to market. In addition to the big four smart home ecosystems — Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Zigbee — the group has announced numerous other big players that will be on board at or very near launch. This includes: