Unified smart home for 20 years, Apple and Huawei support

What is a smart home? One of the hottest tracks in the tech world right now. What is "Matter"? Maybe if you are not a practitioner, you may be very unfamiliar with it. But it's no exaggeration to say that Matter could be a key variable stirring up the smart home market in 2022 and the next five to ten years.

Whether you are optimistic about it or not, Matter has received unanimous support from smart home giants such as Apple, Google, and Amazon, and domestic manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Huawei have also joined it.

Simply put, Matter is a brewing industry standard in the smart home field, and Matter's ultimate goal is to achieve the "unification" of the global smart home industry standard. Of course, there are still many challenges to overcome to achieve this goal.

At Apple's WWDC conference in 2021, Apple's smart home product and service upgrades are quite "squeezing toothpaste", but Apple's sentence caught my attention: Apple will integrate Matter into Apple's smart home ecosystem in the future. , supports Matter ecological products.

The giants are optimistic about whether Matter can solve the problems of various ecosystems and chaotic standards in the smart home market, and what is the underlying game behind the melee in the smart home market? In the future, Matter is just a "face project", or is it the key to changing the smart home market structure?

Through in-depth exchanges with many industry insiders in smart home track players and Matter standard promoters, we will try to find the answer.

The giants are optimistic about Matter, what is it?

After nearly 20 years of development in the smart home market, today, from Apple, whose market value is approaching three trillion US dollars, to tens of thousands of startups, almost all of them can be found in this track.

From smart speakers, smart TVs to smart light bulbs, smart door locks, and smart curtains, it seems that the smart home is no longer a vision, but a reality. So, why do you always hear complaints about the chaotic smart home ecology and inconsistent standards?

When you want to control Amazon's smart doorbell with Google's smart speaker, see what the courier at the door is delivering, but you can't control each other. When you hold a Huawei mobile phone and want to control the Xiaomi smart door lock or Xiaomi smart camera, you find that you need to download apps of different ecosystems for interconnection.

Can smart devices be connected? Yes, can they collaborate well? Not yet.

The matter appeared to solve this problem. In the simplest terms, Matter is to enable efficient interconnection between devices. The Matter standard itself is based on the most common IP protocol in the Internet world and is a new industry standard in the smart home field.

In fact, Matter needs to solve the problem of whether devices can "understand" each other. To understand each other, language interoperability is required. Matter, maybe more like a new communication language specification between smart devices in the future.

Now, most of the smart devices in our home can be connected to WiFi at home and can be controlled through various apps on the mobile phone. However, due to the lack of a "common language" between these smart devices, there are barriers to communication, so it is difficult to realize the communication between the devices. collaborative interaction.

As a "universal language", Matter must be "understandable" by all kinds of devices, which refers to compatibility issues.

According to the standard preview officially announced by Matter, it can be seen that after connecting to the Matter system in the future, whether it is Amazon Alexa, Google's Google Home or Apple's Home Kit devices under the ecosystem can achieve interoperability.

And Matter also has a feature that other industry standards do not have at present, that is, multiple operations across systems. When you purchase a set of smart home products under the Matter system, whether you are an iOS user or an Android user, you can operate seamlessly, and there will be no ecological barriers.

This is subversive for the improvement of the current smart home ecological experience.

The standard has not yet come to fruition, can Matter, who has been brewing for many years, get out of his infancy?

In the process of getting to know Matter, there is one organization that cannot be avoided all the time, that is, the CSA Alliance. The full name of the CSA Alliance is Connectivity Standards Alliance, CSA Connectivity Standards Alliance. The CSA Alliance is also one of Matter's main sponsors.

The CSA Alliance is the original Zigbee Alliance, and the Zigbee standard is the "originator-level" existence in the smart home industry. It can be said that Matter and Zigbee are actually "brothers".

The Zigbee Alliance, established in 2002, has always focused on the IoT field. According to Shang Ruiyun, the representative of the CSA Alliance in China, in fact, as early as 2017 and 2018, the industry enterprise summit organized by the alliance often mentioned the unification of smart home standards in discussions. The problem is that the demand becomes more and more prominent year by year.

Two years ago in December 2019, in order to solve the problem of confusing standards in the smart home market, the Zigbee Alliance and overseas smart home giants such as Amazon, Google, and Apple established a working group called "Connected Home Over IP".

Its purpose is just like its name, to establish a home interconnection standard based on the IP protocol, this group is also referred to as "Project CHIP".

After two years of deliberation, in May 2021, the CSA Alliance officially released the standard brand Matter, which was the first time Matter appeared in the public eye.

On the same day, the Zigbee Alliance officially changed its name to Connectivity Standards Alliance, which is the CSA Connectivity Standards Alliance mentioned above, and began to focus on the implementation of Matter.

In August of last year, the CSA Alliance delayed the release of the Matter standard to this year, but the exact time has not been finalized.

Laura told Wisdom, in fact, behind this, Matter standard development covers a lot of content other than technical specifications, adding an open-source SDK for developers, making it easier for developers to develop products and services that support Matter, and at the same time polishing A set of Matter testing tools and certification systems. What they want the industry to see in the end is a complete set of concrete and actionable standards.

At the end of last year, new news finally came out, the Matter standard will be finalized in the middle of this year, and the first Matter-certified products are expected to enter the market in the second half of this year.

For the arrival of Matter, overseas giants are looking forward to it. Google announced last year that Google Assistant, Google's smart voice assistant, can control any Matter-certified device in the future. Apple also announced at last year's WWDC: iOS 15 will support Matter standards, users Matter devices can be managed through the Home App.

Just this year at CES, Amazon also announced new development tools that it says will make it easier for Alexa smart home partners to develop Matter-compliant products. Samsung has also established a SmartThings platform for smart homes, which will also support Matter-certified devices in the future.

For manufacturers, the significance of Matter is obvious, simplifying the development process of manufacturers, both in terms of hardware and software. From the perspective of consumers, many smart home devices can achieve better compatibility, and the convenience of use can also be effectively improved.

It seems that Matter is really a "win-win" in the industry.

Since the unified standard is so fragrant, why is the standard still "difficult to unify"?

The introduction of a unified industry standard is obviously beneficial to manufacturers and consumers, but the smart home industry has been developing for nearly 20 years. Why is there no standard that can "dominate the world"? This problem may be far more complicated than it appears on the surface.

1. The boundaries of industry role positioning are blurred, and manufacturers frequently cross boundaries

Although Amazon, Google, and Apple are undoubted smart home giants in the world, from the perspective of the domestic market, there are not many opportunities for everyone to contact these companies' smart home products, while Xiaomi, Huawei, Haier, Midea, The names of Orebo are obviously more familiar.

The domestic smart home market is indeed still in the early stage of development. There is no very clear boundary between the upper, middle, and lower reaches of the industry, and even many companies have "multiple jobs", from hardware products to operating systems, to smart home platforms and various industries. It is a software-like algorithm, which is almost a "package" all-inclusive.

On the one hand, the division of labor in the industry is not very mature. On the other hand, the intertwining of various new and old players also complicates the types of market participants.

At present, the core device of a smart home is still a smartphone. Although all kinds of "screened" devices seem to have the potential to become home control centers, it is undeniable that the closest companion to people is still the mobile phone. Therefore, smartphone manufacturers have also become the most important group of participants in the current smart home market.

Xiaomi, which has made an early effort, has a relatively mature Mijia ecosystem, and has established a deep impression in consumers' cognition. Many people think of smart home first, and they will first think of Xiaomi.

As early as the beginning of 2019, Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun set "mobile phone x AIoT" as Xiaomi's core strategy, and Xiaomi's technical layout, product planning, and even corporate structure are all around this core strategy.

In the field of smart homes, Huawei is one of Xiaomi's main competitors. After the supply of chips is limited and the mobile phone business is cold, IoT has become one of Huawei's main tracks. Its Hongmeng system ( HarmonyOS ) has gone through several major version iterations and has already landed in the products of some home appliance manufacturers.

Huawei Wang Chenglu once expressed a similar view, saying that the IoT market may be more than ten times the size of the mobile phone market in the future, and its potential is huge, and Hongmeng can become the "base" technology of this market in the future.

In addition to Xiaomi and Huawei, I also found that mobile phone manufacturers such as OPPO, Vivo, and Honor are actively deploying in the IoT market. There is no doubt that smartphone manufacturers will be an important player group in the smart home market.

In addition to mobile phone manufacturers, traditional home appliance manufacturers such as Midea, Haier, and TCL have been actively transforming in recent years, from traditional home appliances to various small and medium-sized smart hardware products, and have also begun to focus on software technology. Make up for the shortcomings of the software algorithm level.

In addition to these hardware-based mobile phone manufacturers and home appliance manufacturers, there are also self-owned brands smart home hardware manufacturers such as Ou Ruibo and Nanjing IOT. They are also involved in the development of the whole house smart home software system. There is still a certain gap between mobile phone and home appliance manufacturers in terms of volume.

It can be seen that in the smart home market, especially in the domestic smart home track, various players are intertwined, and although there are certain distinctions in the scope of business, the hardware manufacturers focus on software and platforms, and platform manufacturers end up doing hardware. Not uncommon, these have increased the difficulty of the unification of industry standards.

It is still difficult for multiple smart hardware products from different suppliers and different ecosystems to work together.

It should be noted that although we see that many players in the smartphone and traditional home appliance industries are trying to "catch it with one hand" from hardware to software to platform, this model is more of an "ecological closed-loop" within the brand. "Intensification, consumers, and manufacturers may still be "bound" by a certain ecology.

It remains to be seen how the two types of players represented by Xiaomi and Tuya will participate in and influence the formulation and implementation of Matter standards in the future.

2. Technical challenges or "make way" for the game of interests

Some IoT track players told Smart Things that in the past, to develop smart home applications, only one set of API data interfaces, interfaces, and security protocols needed to be developed, but today they have to do 3 sets, 4 sets, or even 5 sets at the same time, so different users may Choose hardware products from different brand systems.

Some practitioners also told Zhixing that the industry's unified standards are actually not as difficult at the technical level as imagined. As long as different platform manufacturers can authorize each other, the technical level is easy to achieve. He said, based on the public external network, layered processing, through the intermediate gateway compatible with products under different protocols, can achieve interoperability.

However, such an idea is a good idea, but to implement it, it is necessary to solve the problem of the game of interest among various platforms and manufacturers. The issue of interests is always one of the core challenges faced by business logic.

As mentioned above, when hardware manufacturers integrate hardware and software, they are constantly strengthening their own ecological closed loops, so that users can be locked in more firmly by themselves. In this way, under the premise of small market size, for manufacturers themselves, it is natural It's a way to maximize profit.

In addition, mutual authorization means openness, and openness means that opponents can also understand themselves better. The advantages they have accumulated in the early stage may be overtaken by opponents or even new dark horses on the track. All these make existing players in the market. Players are somewhat "conservative" when it comes to standard-setting.

3. Whether a standard is needed, industry maturity, and scale are also critical

Smart Things had in-depth communication with Tuya Smart co-founder and COO Yang Yi. In his opinion, the domestic smart home market is still in the early stage of development. Only when the industry develops to a certain scale can the formulation of standards generate sufficient benefits.

When enough players participate, the positive benefits brought by the unified standard will be greater than the cost paid by the manufacturers, which can truly motivate more players to participate, so that the formulation of industry standards can be implemented.

However, Yang Yi added that the current domestic smart home market is developing very rapidly, and the number of companies participating in the market is growing rapidly. Tuya Smart is very optimistic about this track. This is what Tuya announced at the just-concluded CES. In addition to the communication protocol, they will further provide Matter protocol development options.

IDC predicts that China's smart home equipment market will ship about 230 million units in 2021, and this number will reach 540 million units in 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 21.4%. Its market potential should not be underestimated.

Of course, as far as the domestic smart home market is concerned, there is still no unified industry standard.

In 2018, the China Household Electrical Appliances Association promoted the cross-brand interconnection of smart home appliances and proposed a lightweight technical solution for cloud interconnection.

A year later, Midea Group, China Real Estate Association, China Household Electrical Appliances Research Institute, Tsinghua Happiness Technology Laboratory, China Development Bank's China Development Bank, and other enterprises and institutions jointly established the "Smart Home Joint Laboratory".

The core goal of the laboratory is to create a unified protocol in the domestic smart home market, formulate industry standards, and carry out service innovation and product development. But two years later, the laboratory still has not announced any substantial progress.

It is not impossible for China to launch an industry-standard similar to Matter, nor is it a technically insurmountable challenge. The domestic smart home market is on the road of rapid maturity, and the unification of standards will inevitably be one of the major trends in the follow-up development.

Can Matter really "dominate the world" after taking all the giants at home and abroad?

Although the formulation of smart home industry standards has to face too many difficulties to overcome, Matter still gives us great hope.

At present, the manufacturers involved under the Matter standard cover almost all mainstream players in the smart home track at home and abroad. According to the membership level of the CSA Alliance, they can be divided into Promoters, Participations and There are three categories of Adopters.

According to the information disclosed on Matter's official website, there are currently 24 promoters, ranging from overseas technology giants with balanced software and hardware capabilities such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Samsung, to overseas home appliance and furniture giants such as IKEA and Schneider, and then to Infineon. , NXP, Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics and other upstream chip manufacturers.

On the domestic side, Huawei, OPPO, Nanjing IoT, and other related track companies also appeared among the promoters. It is understood that Shenzhen Core Technology is also a chip technology manufacturer with a high degree of participation.

It can be seen that from terminal hardware giants to home appliance manufacturers, to suppliers of core components such as chips, they are all on the list of promoters of the Matter standard.

The number of participants in the Matter standard has reached 220, an increase of more than 50 from 170 at the beginning of the formal specification in May 2021.

Among the participants are the familiar mobile phone manufacturers Xiaomi, vivo, and Honor, traditional home appliance manufacturers Haier, Midea, TCL, Panasonic, Toshiba, LG, Siemens, as well as chip design manufacturers Qualcomm, MediaTek, and chip IP manufacturer Arm.

It can be said that the Matter protocol involves almost all the leading players in the technology field, and the tech giants we are familiar with are all reflected in the list. This is one of the reasons why Matter's standard has a higher potential than other standards.

Of course, how to say it is one thing, what manufacturers will do specifically, and whether they will support the implementation of Matter standards with practical actions, remains to be tested.

In terms of technology, the Matter standard needs to cross different ecosystems, cross different wireless standards, and cross different applications to realize the interconnection and interoperability of smart home products. The research and development difficulty behind this is also huge.

The reality that Matter has to face is that all major smart home giants already have their own set of play methods. Matter does not "start from 0" to build a set of play methods, but everyone sits together, seeks common ground while reserving differences, and discusses one that applies to all People, can take into account the vital interests of most people, and can truly implement industry standards.

Yang Li, a solution architect in the Asia region of the CSA Alliance, told Wisdom that at the technical level, they need to do a lot of architectural work to achieve better compatibility, which requires the participation of professional institutions and enterprises.

In addition, in the era of the Internet of Everything, security is also a top priority. Technology companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Huawei, and Xiaomi often focus on the security protection mechanism behind them when releasing products, from hardware to software. . The ecology involved in Matter is complex, and its security challenges will be even greater.

On the other hand, since the smart home market is still in the growth stage, its technology and product iteration speed is also very fast. Whether an industry-standard can adapt to the iteration of technology and maintain its own advanced nature is also the need for all parties involved in the formulation of Matter. questions to be considered in detail.

Finally, there is a very real question of how to implement support for existing devices. Just imagine, if 90% of the smart hardware products in your home are not compatible with a standard, and if you want to be compatible with other ecological devices, you need to replace all these 90% of products, and the labor cost, time cost, and capital cost are extremely unreasonable, the threshold for standard implementation will also become very high, and it is inevitable to "dissuade" many users who want to try.

At present, according to the plan of the CSA Alliance, the Matter standard can realize the support of the old hardware products to the new standard through a software upgrade, or realize the compatibility of the deployed intelligent products based on other standards through the bridge-type equipment.

Admittedly, this is an easy way to think of it, but whether the manufacturers are willing to really promote the implementation of the plan and update the system for the old equipment, will it affect the use of the old equipment, and will they encounter the bottleneck of the hardware computing power of the old equipment? , This series of problems make the final implementation of the Matter standard still full of challenges.

The smart home market, which has been brewing for more than 20 years, may usher in a major reshuffle

The step-by-step progress of Matter's new smart home standard shows us a process of continuous maturity of the industry. The smart home industry is shackled by chaotic ecology and difficult to unify standards. With the joint efforts of many participants in the technology industry, signs of being cracked are gradually emerging.

The implementation of the Matter standard involves many technology giants, and the framework and specifications of the standard have been basically formed. The official implementation time of the standard has been determined, and the answer to how Matter really performs will be revealed soon.

Of course, Matter's landing still faces many uncertainties, and the one-year delay in the release is enough to show the great resistance behind it. Moreover, the formation of standards for the entire industry involves cross-company, cross-country, and regional collaboration, and the distribution of benefits behind it and the final implementation is full of uncertainty.

Whether Matter can unify the smart home market is still a question mark, but we can be sure that the development of the smart home market is still advancing rapidly, and once Matter is launched, it is likely to cause a new round in the global smart home market shuffle.

Post a Comment