brian cooley is cnet’s editor at large, following the big trends in car tech, smart home , healthcare, the future of food, digital entertainment and more. “smart home” tech isn’t all that smart — and it’s still too hard to install and have it interoperate across brands. those pain points are major contributors to the fact that barely one-third of us households with broadband internet have one smart home device 11 years after the category was popularized. more recently, the alliance has become the leader of a new technology collaboration called matter whose members seek to unify smart home tech for better setup and interoperation, major steps toward popularization. and among those with smart home technology, most have only a few devices, not the utopian array that was foreshadowed by microsoft and bill gates nearly two decades ago.
“you need a standard that works from device to device, talks to the cloud appropriately and does so in a secure way,” says richardson. the members of the matter effort range from the leaders in smart home tech to top grocers, furniture brands, and entertainment companies. matter is focused on interoperability across wireless interfaces — so consumers don’t have to know zigbee from wi-fi — and on data exchange so devices can talk to each other. less clear is what role matter might play as a data-driven anticipation platform, something matter members may want to reserve as their secret sauces. matter partners are currently in fast-tracked trials of interoperable devices and plan to make a big splash with product availability announcements at ces 2022.
and just as those networks are invisible in the real world, solutions like logitech’s harmony home hub, which can talk to a database of more than 270,000 connected devices, are trying to make them invisible to smart home owners by controlling all these separately-networked smart home products — everything from connected coffee makers to smart window shades — through one interface. many smart home products eschew wi-fi-connectivity because it would require their devices to have a dedicated power source or a long-lasting battery. but in the smart home, bluetooth appears on products that require a person to have a close physical proximity to the device, like the kwikset kevo smart door lock.
mesh networking is where a device has the ability to receive a networked signal and also send out the same signal, extending the range of that network. so, the bulbs and motion sensors need to communicate with a hub that is either connected to your home network via wi-fi or through an ethernet cable plugged into to your internet router. the answer to that is unclear, and it’s quite possible that none ever will.
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