The promise of a “smart home” — where you effortlessly tell your appliances what to do for you and can easily add new devices to your home mix — is getting closer to being done.
Why it matters: When we can finally take full advantage of smart home technology, everything from our lights and garage doors to our entertainment and security systems could seamlessly work together and obey our voice commands, making our lives more convenient, pleasant and energetically efficient.
- That is the dream. For now, it takes a bit of experience to set things up and get competing brands’ devices to work well together, if at all.
- “Our future set of products, the entire suite is meant to be DIY-friendly,” says Frances Raya Sevilla, chief technology officer at ADT, which is best known for its security systems but also sells smart home automation equipment. .
- For now, the easiest option for most consumers is DIFM, or “do it for me.” This usually means pros making a house call to set things up and looking to minimize the number of apps, switches, and hardware needed to control everything.
Driving the news: Makers of Internet of Things (IoT) devices for the home are pinning their hopes on an upcoming technology standard called Matterwhose objective is to guarantee the interoperability of smart home devices.
- Matter, which has been a long time in development, is still being put together by a coalition called the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA).
- Device manufacturers have committed to using Matter in their future products, so consumers will know when they see the Matter logo that they can easily add the product to their home setup.
- Companies in the CSA: one ready that includes heavyweights like Amazon, Apple, and Google; I expect the first Matter-branded devices to hit stores in 2023.
- The goal of easy plug-and-play interoperability probably won’t be reached until 2024 or 2025.
- “We really want the home to be smart, not just connected to the Internet,” Sevilla tells Axios. “It’s really about being safe, smart and sustainable.”
How it will work ideally: Members of the coalition developing Matter see the day when you’ll be able to use voice commands, biometrics, or an app (if you prefer) to automate tasks we now tend to do manually.
- Wake up your house: Your system will automatically turn on the lights, make coffee, turn on your favorite morning show, and open the pet door to let Sparky out into the garden.
- Put your house to bed: Turn off the lights, close the garage door, lock all the perimeter doors and activate the night security cameras.
- Monitor everything: The sensors will be able to detect if there is a leak in the pipe or if you left the stove on by accident. They could even alert you if your elderly father in another state gets up in the morning (via a motion sensor near his bed), opens the medicine cabinet, and takes a shower.
- Smart home appliances: Everything from washing machines, refrigerators, and dishwashers to air purifiers, mouse traps, and microwaves will be able to tell you when they’ve done what they’re supposed to.
Reality check: Parts of these scenarios are already conventional, but other parts are distant or potentially unrealistic.
- Today’s tech-savvy consumers can already control many functions in their homes, notably lighting, thermostats, security, and home entertainment systems, though typically through multiple apps rather than a single module. of command.
- These days, all sorts of devices advertise themselves as “connected,” “smart,” and “simple.” (Watch this guide by PC Magazine to the best smart home devices of 2022 and how to fill your home with them).
But problems abound:
- technological failures It means things can go wrong in any number of ways, from devices only recognizing a family member’s voice to devices not syncing with each other.
- Privacy concerns they are the third rail of Internet-connected, voice-activated home technology, and regulators are scrutinizing the security of these systems even as consumers weigh the trade-offs of convenience versus Big Brother.
- A lot of technology is not ready for prime time, which means it can’t be installed easily, doesn’t do exactly what it’s supposed to do, or isn’t as time-saving or convenient as we want it to be.
“We’re not in a good space, I would say right now, for the traditional definition of IoT devices,” says Adam Hotchkiss, vice president of product at Plume Design, which offers a smart home management system called HomePass.
- After you buy IoT devices, like a sensor or a light bulb, “you’re very fragmented about how you incorporate it,” he says. “You have to download an app. There are a lot of different ecosystems that have come and gone.”
- Also, many people have “some IoT devices in their homes that they probably forget about and can’t use very well effectively,” Hotchkiss tells Axios.
For those reasons, he said, “I think the industry itself wanted to do a kind of reboot: how do we go and clean everything up and start over? Which is really the beginning of Matter.”
The bottom line: The hype has overshadowed reality for some time, as consumers seeking smart home convenience are met with frustrations and limitations. But the industry is aware of the problems and is working on them.
Go deeper: Coming in 2022: A giant leap in smart home technology