Google says Matter will continue to address the most common problems with smart homes

Google says Matter will continue to address the most common problems with smart homes

Michele Turner sat down to dine with Grant Erickson, a colleague. Two Amazon employees and two Apple employees joined them at the eatery in Silicon Valley’s Woodside. Turner and Erickson were both Google employees. The Zigbee Alliance’s Tobin Richardson and John Osborne hosted this dinner gathering. The evening’s goal was simple: fix the smart home.

Google says Matter will continue to address the most common problems with smart homes

“Grant, who was also president of the Thread Group at the time, had been leading conversations with us internally at Google about how to solve some of the bigger problems in smart home,” recalls Turner. “We knew we had the foundational technologies to start to address this but that there was a lot to fix. Grant made a proposal. The Apple folks and the Amazon folks obviously had viewpoints as well. But we all could see the bigger picture of what needed to happen.”

Turner, then the senior director of Google Smart Home Ecosystem, and Erickson, then a Google software engineer, had promised to meet with their rivals to find a solution to the smart home’s primary pain points: stability, connectivity, setup, and “the multi-platform dilemma.” While this was not the first conversation between the companies, it was a significant step forward in an ongoing effort by the Zigbee Alliance to bring the industry together and address the challenge of interoperability in the smart home.

Turner recalls they left the meeting with a draft proposal agreed on by all parties and with a commitment to take it further. Initially known internally as Project Unity, it went public just prior to CES 2020 as Project Chip (Connected Home over IP). Shortly after that — along with a rebrand of the Zigbee Alliance to the Connectivity Standards Alliance — the fruits of that Woodside dinner became Matter: the new interoperability smart home standard, and an unprecedented industry coalition.

Google has confirmed that all of its existing Nest branded smart speakers and displays will be upgraded with an over-the-air firmware update to support Matter, allowing you to use Google’s voice assistant to control any Matter-enabled device in your home, no matter who made it. It will also update its Google Home speaker and has said that the Nest Wi-Fi, Nest Hub Max, and Nest Hub (2nd Gen) will serve as Thread border routers. Thread is a low-power mesh networking protocol that allows devices to talk to each other locally without a hub, using border routers to route the packets of information around your house. Along with Wi-Fi, Thread is a key component of Matter.

The Verge sat down with Turner ahead of Google I/O this week to hear how the company plans to implement Matter when it finally arrives later this year and what it will mean for users of Google’s Nest products and the Google Home app.

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