The Tuesday CEDIA Expo panel “Platform Playground: Shaping the Future of the Smart Home & Where Protocols Face Opportunities and Challenges” brought together six people representing seemingly competitive protocols and alliances to discuss the idea of creating a universal standard for interoperability among all smart home devices and ecosystems, the big kahuna for the Internet of Things (IoT) in the home.
The panelists were Michelle Mindala-Freeman, head of marketing for the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), Kevin Kraus, director of technology and integration support at Yale Residential, Mitch Klein, executive director of the Z-Wave Alliance, Mariusz Malkowski, director of customer success and integration at Building 36 Technologies, Kevin Po, senior product manager at Google, and John Osborne, president of LEEDARSON NA, past chairman of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, and vice chairman of the Z-Wave Alliance. AVNation founder Tim Albright moderated.
The smart home industry representatives on this panel weren’t espousing a particular product or solution but discussing the context of a universal standard for interoperability—in this case, Matter.
As stated on the Matter website, “This industry–unifying standard is a promise of reliable, secure connectivity—a seal of approval that devices will work seamlessly together, today and tomorrow. This collaborative breakthrough is built on proven technologies and guided by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (formerly Zigbee Alliance), whose members come together from across industries to transform the future of connectivity.”
Matter is supported by more organizations than those represented on the panel. “We have over 200 companies participating in the standard specification development and in the development of the SDK. We will also have interoperability among those devices and with most of the major ecosystem providers globally,” said Mindala-Freeman. “We have HomeKit onboard, as well as Amazon, Google and Samsung SmartThings. When we talk about implementing Matter, we’re really talking about devices being able to communicate with ecosystems, irrespective of the underlying brands.”
Addressing the custom installers in the room who install control systems from any number of manufacturers, Z-Wave Alliance’s Mitch Klein characterized the market today as being made up of a number of “walled garden systems that right now are requiring you to buy the products that they specify.” He said, “Each time you want to add as a device, if it’s not already in that database, you then have to build an API that can create and build a new interface, or you can pay a third party to make those interfaces for you.”
Positing a future with a universal standard, he continued, “Imagine what happens when you don’t have to do that anymore? You can now be more focused on your customer than on what you can do with the products that you have.”
Zigbee and Z-Wave devices that are currently in the market will always work. “These are devices that are going to be there for years to decades,” said Z-Wave Alliance’s John Osborne. “It’s really exciting that that as an industry we’re coming together.”
Why This Is Important for Custom Installers
According to a recent Consumer Technology Association (CTA) study, 83 million households and approximately 22 million homes own more than one smart home product. Some homes might have a combination of products they purchased and installed themselves, such as a Google Nest webcam, a Ring doorbell, several Philips Hue lightbulbs, a Honeywell thermostat, a Sonos multiroom audio system, and the list goes on. There’s a tipping point at which DIYers want and need these disparate smart home devices to be fully integrated via a single user interface. Several years ago Klein called the DIY tipping point “Do It with Me,” referencing the point at which consumers needed an integrator. He echoed this idea again in the panel discussion.