Something to look forward to: The global smart home market will grow 21 percent in the next five years according to data from Counterpoint Research. That growth could accelerate if the Connectivity Standards Alliance (the old 'Zigbee Alliance') is successful in its effort to make smart home devices easy to purchase and use, secure, reliable, and remove the many barriers that currently exist between devices from different vendors.
Back in 2019, we learned about a joint effort by Amazon, Apple, Google, and the hundreds of companies in the Zigbee Alliance whose aim is to deliver a set of open global standards for digital products in the Internet of Things category. It's an ambitious project, and it's predicated on the idea that the smart home market's biggest barrier for mainstream adoption is the fragmented ecosystem that makes it difficult for devices from various vendors to work together in a reliable and secure way, if at all.
The partnership was initially called the "Project Connected Home over IP" or CHIP, but it has now been renamed to "Matter." The rebranding was announced this week by the Connectivity Standards Alliance, formerly known as the Zigbee Alliance.
One of the things that Matter stands for is your ability as a consumer to easily move from one platform to the next, or mix and match products from different vendors to create your ideal smart home without the need for additional hardware such as hubs or bridges.
Products that feature the Matter logo are coming later this year and are guaranteed to work with your digital assistant of choice: Alexa, Siri, or the Google Assistant. As for connectivity options, the first release of Matter works over Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, and Thread.
However, the success of CSA's Matter project ultimately depends on manufacturers updating their current smart home devices, and not abandoning them after only a few years.
Fortunately, Philips says it will update all of its existing Hue smart light bulbs to bring Matter connectivity to them, and Google says it will share more about how Matter fits into its new strategy at the upcoming Google I/O event on May 18.
The renaming of the Zigbee Alliance was a necessary move, if only to avoid giving the wrong impression about its aim, such as pouring more resources into Zigbee protocols. To be clear, the Connectivity Standards Alliance says it will continue working on Zigbee, but the main focus remains the development of an interoperable and secure connectivity standard.
The promise around security is possibly even more important than interoperability, as many manufacturers have been found to put little effort in that regard. As a result, malicious actors will eventually take advantage of those weaknesses that can cause a great deal of harm with ease. Notable examples are the Mirai botnet and its derivatives, which can take down even big services like Netflix, Twitter, and Reddit offline.