If you're not familiar, Matter is the great new smart home spec coming in 2022 that promises to bring compatibility between many smart home devices to make it easier for consumers to find smart home technology without deciphering a complex matrix of what hardware works with what software. Matter is a specification that companies can make hardware and software for, and it has different standards for different categories of devices.
Matter and your television
Jennifer Pattison Tuohy at The Verge published an interesting article this week about the Matter TV specifications. In theory, this will give Matter accessories the ability to control the HDMI input, volume, power, and other attributes of a Matter compatible television. You will also be able to cast a video to the TV using standard streaming protocols.
I am very excited about the promises of Matter for the smart home, and one of its core technologies, Thread. It seems that Amazon is very excited about adding this to their TVs. Here's an excerpt from the article where Jennifer quotes Chris DeCenzo, Principal Software Development Engineer at Amazon Lab126 and Chris LaPré from the Connectivity Standards Alliance, the organization behind Matter:
"You can have communication directly from the Prime Video app on my phone to the Prime Video app that’s on the TV,” explains DeCenzo. Going forward, according to LaPré, the streaming video players and TVs will have Matter built into the devices themselves, and at this point the apps in the receiving device won’t need to be Matter-enabled. It seems likely Amazon will enable Matter on its Fire TV devices, and the company has already committed to upgrading all its smart speakers to support Matter.
Amazon doesn't really have a popular streaming protocol like Apple and Google. Yes, Alexa Cast is a thing but who really uses it? You can see how Amazon would want to jump on a new standard streaming protocol that would hopefully give them lots of compatible hardware without having to make lots of deals with manufacturers.
Later in the article, Jennifer reached out to Google and Apple for comment. Here's what she found:
Kevin Po of Google said in an email that “Google Assistant will support Matter (eg. on/off, play/pause, app launch etc.) at parity with our current Works With Assistant offering.” Apple did not comment.
Po went on to reiterate that Google Cast remains Google’s preferred method for sending media via apps and voice to Chromecasts, speakers, and displays.
You don't have to look hard at the varied streaming options on modern TVs to realize that there are some backroom deals being made between streaming and tech companies with the TV manufacturers. Apple and Google have been working within the current environment to get Apple AirPlay and Chromecast standards on TVs. These both have great integrations into Apple and Google products respectively. If you've never used the YouTube app with a Chromecast device, I highly recommend trying it. It's a great experience to create a temporary queue of videos to watch. I imagine that both Apple and Google would be reluctant to give up years of progress getting AirPlay and Chromecast on TVs in lieu of a new standard protocol.
Amazon has a lot of great streaming content with Prime Video. Here in the U.S. they have lots of children's content my son watches on a weekly basis. Let's get back to the idea of "You can have communication directly from the Prime Video app on my phone to the Prime Video app that’s on the TV" that Chris DeCenzo from Amazon told The Verge. I could see this being a great, Chromecast-like experience. And IF you could also control your Matter compatible TV from the Amazon app, that would take them a step further than Apple and Google.
The remaining problem with Matter and TVs
Jennifer also talked to Chris LaPré from the Connectivity Standards Alliance (the group behind Matter) about the Matter television spec.
"Intriguingly, LaPré posited that the specification could allow for the use of context when delivering these messages, such as notifying you from the smart speaker in the room you are in that your laundry is done. “It can be about casting anything, smart home notifications, local video — all it needs is a URL to pull content from,” says LaPré."
This sounds amazing. But I think it's important to consider that the real promise of Matter is a base level of compatibility. For a smart plug, that base level of turning on and off is plenty to use with any smart home ecosystem. Maybe simply turning your TV on and off and changing the input is enough for you. But we can't forget that most members in the Matter alliance are businesses with existing smart home ecosystems and a desire to create consumer lock-in across their product line. Apple still wants you to be more likely to buy Apple or Apple-compatible products for future purchases. As a result, HomeKit, Google Nest, and Alexa aren't leaving the TV integration space. If you want the best compatibility with your Apple home, it will still be wise to find something specifically integrated with Apple's technology.
Linksys recently released a new addition to their Velop line with the Atlas Pro 6. This packs some powerful Wi-Fi features, but is it enough to get me to switch from Eero?
Live Stream with LinkedIn Learning
I'm excited to share that I'm doing a live stream with LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) on home automation Thursday at 4pm Eastern US Time. This will be an interview format covering how I got into home automation, and my tips and ideas to go from beginner to advanced. I hope to see you there!
Around the web
Hyatt hotel keys in Apple Wallet
Apple is really trying to use the Wallet app on your phone as their modern identity platform. HomeKey is an example in the home space, and these hotel key integrations bring that same capability to your hotel room. This is different than using a hotel app to open your door because you won't have to launch the hotel app. Apple can passively listen for your hotel door to be nearby, and trigger Wallet to use the key to unlock the door. It's great to see a major hotel chain adopt this feature.
The most interesting part of this article to me is that Assa Abloy is making the locks for Hyatt. Perhaps that means Yale or August will get the home equivalent with Apple's HomeKey in 2022?
Eve Room now supports Thread
Eve released a new version of their Eve Room air quality and temperature sensor that supports Thread now. This is the latest, indoor equivalent to the Eve Weather I reviewed earlier this year. It charges with micro USB instead of my preferred USB-C charging. But with 6 weeks or more of battery life that won't be a problem too often. My Eve Room review unit is stuck in Germany with FedEx due to an "operational delay". I'll let you know what I think of the Eve Room when I get it.
Inside Apple's design studio
This tweet caught my eye. I haven't read the article yet but the pictures look stunning.
Wallpaper* @wallpapermag“We care about making great products, but we’ve worked equally hard at making a great team and culture. A lot of that came from the beginning. Steve defined Apple by its design,” says Alan Dye, VP of human interface design. Read more: https://t.co/Y4Rbt0Tekz https://t.co/qSD2CAZ0fD
Here's the linked article from Wallpaper: https://www.wallpaper.com/design/apple-park-behind-the-scenes-design-team-interview