NXP + Matter: Upgrade the smart home to an autonomous home | Heisener Electronics
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NXP + Matter: Upgrade the smart home to an autonomous home

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Post Date: 2024-03-07, NXP

Matter, a smart-home tech standard maintained by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA),  was first approved in October 2022. Throughout 2023, new devices were introduced that supported the Matter standard,  but few demonstrated the full value and versatility of the technology. A little over a year later,  at CES 2024 in Las Vegas, one of CSA’s member companies, NXP Semiconductors,  brought everything together in a showcase of how Matter-based devices can elevate a home from simply being a variety of  smart/connected devices to a truly autonomous home that everyone can use.

What is Matter?

Matter is a smart-home standard that is manufacturer-agnostic and aims to eradicate one of the major issues limiting  smart-home device adoption:  namely,  the confusion and doubt regarding device compatibility and interoperability due to the number of competing smart-home  connectivity technologies currently on the market.

One of four underlying communications technologies may be used by Matter-compliant devices:  Ethernet (IEEE 802.3), Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11), Thread (IEEE 802.15.4) or Bluetooth Low Energy. One of the tenets of Matter is that basic control is required to take place locally without going out to the cloud. While the first three communications technologies are, in fact,  internet protocols,  they are used primarily for device-to-device communications. Network topologies can be controller-to-device or,  using Thread,  can be set up as a mesh network to increase network footprint. Cloud services are allowed for advanced features,  such as remote control of the devices while away from home through a smartphone app and training/retraining of neural  network models.

Given the nature of these devices and the control and access they have to a person’s home and private information,  another tenet of the standard is to eliminate or at least minimize the risk of hacking. Consequently,  identification and installation of a device is accomplished via a unique,  11-digit setup code. For simplicity of onboarding the device to the home automation network,  these setup codes are typically included with the device as a QR code,  which can easily be scanned with a smartphone or tablet. This setup code is also utilized by the device to establish a  secure, encrypted connection to the home network during and after installation.

What types of devices support Matter?

To achieve its goal of fully automating a home,  Matter must have a critical mass of devices that support the standard. At the release of its Version 1.0 in 2022, supported device categories included lights, electricity, heating/HVAC, blinds, sensors, door locks,  media players and bridges. The last category, bridges,  is critical for backward-compatibility with legacy smart-home devices using legacy standards like Zigbee and Z-Wave. A  year later, with Version 1.2, more device categories were added, including refrigerators, dishwashers, laundry washers, air purifiers, room air conditioners, robot vacuum cleaners, fans, air quality sensors,  and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. According to the CSA, more device categories are planned,  but no release date has been announced.

Providing command and control for all of these devices is a controller functionality that can be integrated into  wireless hubs, such as the SmartThings Hub, or other smart-home hubs in the market, such as Amazon Echo,  Apple HomePod or the second generation of Google Nest Hub.

According to matter-smarthome.de, at last count, there are approximately 180 devices announced,  in beta testing or released from over 70 OEMs and that span 15 device categories.

Making smart-home devices matter

At CES 2024,  NXP showcased how Matter-based devices can elevate a home from just having a collection of smart devices to being a  fully autonomous home. According to NXP global marketing communications manager Michael Klein,  current smart devices for the home are typically “in the dark” when it comes to being able to see, communicate with or,  more importantly,  control other devices. The vision for a fully autonomous home allows the devices to communicate with each other and  utilize each other’s capabilities to deliver a coordinated experience. NXP demonstrated in its showcase how Matter  enables these devices, whether they were originally enabled with Matter or not,  to work together and bring this vision to reality in various typical in-home scenarios.

To summarize some of the scenarios that were showcased,  imagine one of the home’s inhabitants arriving home from work. Using the homeowner’s smartphone,  as well as sensors from the outside of the home, not only does the home become aware of someone approaching the home,  but it also understands the identity of that individual. With this understanding, access to the home is granted,  the alarm is disabled,  the garage door is opened and the interior entry door is unlocked. As the homeowner enters the home,  along with their identity,  the homeowner’s location within the home is also tracked. Identity and location are determined through the inherent  capabilities of ultra-wideband (UWB), which is based on Thread,  sensors in various devices and/or using Wi-Fi positioning. The environment in whichever hallway or room the individual  enters is automatically adjusted to that person’s preferences, and as they exit the space,  things like lights and air conditioning can be automatically turned off or put into standby mode—a feature that will  surely be valued by parents of teenagers!

In another scenario, as the homeowner begins to prepare dinner,  the home can monitor the stove for any overtemperature conditions,  whether or not it is attended to and take action as appropriate to ensure the safety of the home and its occupants.

After dinner, should the homeowner wish to watch a movie,  the home has the intelligence to determine that the homeowner has not only entered the living room but has sat in a  particular position on the couch. That action,  along with the time of day and the fact that the homeowner has picked up the remote control,  indicates to the home that it is entertainment time and the home automatically turns down the lights,  closes the blinds, turns on the TV and surround-sound systems to the homeowner’s position and preferences,  and brings up the media-streaming application on the smart TV.

As the movie or TV show ends, and it is time for the homeowner to retire for the night,  the home can sense the homeowner’s movement to the bedroom—again,  through UWB and various sensors—and automatically change the lighting and cooling environment per the homeowner’s  preferences,  as well as locks the doors and turns on the alarm. This is all enabled through settings established by the homeowner and  other occupants and by learning over time to develop personalized AI-controlled models.

What are the consequences?

Some devices have very limited sensing, inference and control capabilities, if they have them at all. With Matter,  the home can take advantage of each device’s capabilities to provide a complete picture of intent,  infer appropriate actions and act upon that inference. Some might argue that this can be done today with Zigbee or  Z-Wave devices. To a limited degree, that is correct,  but they are limited to only devices that specifically support those standards. Matter enables the use of both Matter  devices and those of other standards.

This removes confusion and doubt as to whether the devices will work together,  which in turn drives adoption. According to NXP,  it is this higher level of integration and interoperability of devices as well as the local processing of the data that  Matter brings to the table and elevates the in-home experience above what has previously been delivered. After  experiencing the demonstration,  we at Tirias Research would agree. It also overcomes one of the greatest issues we have flagged in the past:  the requirement for internet connectivity, which may not be available or desired for security and privacy reasons.

It is early days in the commercialization of the Matter standard. However,  with showcases like NXP’s and the ever-increasing number of device categories and devices themselves,  the Matter ecosystem is rapidly achieving critical mass. Tirias Research expects that the Matter ecosystem will be  successful in addressing the fragmentation and interoperability issues that have plagued smart-home devices to date and  that mass-market adoption is on the horizon.

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