WWDC 2022: Why Apple’s influence on Matter is a win for all smart homes – Stacey on IoT

This might surprise you but I think the new Matter smart home standard is the best thing that’s happened with Apple HomeKit yet. And just because I like sharing multiple surprises, you might not know how much HomeKit has influenced that standard. That may be the best thing for smart home consumers. Both of these insights come after I watched Apple’s WWDC 2022 keynote event on Monday. The company illustrated its influence while also showing a look at upcoming improvements in the Apple Home app.

I’ll tackle these in order starting with my opinion that Matter is a great thing for HomeKit. Yes, the standard that will let connected devices work together across any supported smart home ecosystem is a plus for everyone. But I think it helps Apple the most.

why? Well, I think back to the first few years of HomeKit when there simply weren’t enough devices to choose from. Part of that situation was the direct result of how Apple implemented HomeKit security.

The first attempt required specific hardware, which required device makers to include another chip in their products and added to the cost. Thankfully, Apple relented and modified the HomeKit security requirements to allow for a software implementation. That’s when we started to see more companies bring HomeKit compatibility to their products and, of course, more actual products for consumers to choose from.

Thermostat and sensors shown in Apple Home Image courtesy of K. Tofel

It wasn’t until sometime after that when I felt I could build a cohesive smart home using HomeKit devices. And last year I made that switch to HomeKit. I haven’t looked back with any regrets and I’ve tried most of the available platform options. The range includes Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings as well as others such as Hubitat, HomeBridge, and Insteon to name a few.

With Matter support opening up non-HomeKit devices on Apple’s platform, the sheer scope and number of supported devices will greatly expand. Apple may end up seeing some people switch to HomeKit for the full Apple experience. And even if not, current HomeKit users will benefit from a growing number of device options.

Am I suggesting everyone should just use Apple HomeKit because it’s the best? No, not at all. It’s currently the best for me and my family. If another platform works well for you, your family, and the devices that you want, you should choose that one. I will say that my overall user experience and satisfaction with HomeKit exceeds the others I’ve tried.

It’s not perfect but it’s closer to perfect for us than anything else. Integrations are seamless, device stability is superb, and the system is easy to use while still being powerful. It’s also the only smart home ecosystem that my family has actually used throughout my years of testing various devices. They say it’s simple, intuitive, and helpful.

The iOS 16 lock screen with Home widgets Image courtesy of Apple

And that leads me to my second point: All smart home users will benefit from Apple’s influence on Matter, gaining a bit of that positive experience. Yes, Matter is a group project with many of the smart home brands participating. And I know that many of them contributed to Matter. But this statement about Matter, made by Corey Wang, Producer, Human Interface at Apple, really got my attention:

“And to ensure we stayed true to our values, we contributed HomeKit, our smart home framework, as the foundation of this new standard. So it’s built on the same core principles and maintains the highest level of security.”

Image courtesy of Apple

There are two parts that stand out to me. first, the “[W]e contributed HomeKit, our smart home framework, as the foundation of this new standard…” suggested that much of Matter is built upon HomeKit. I questioned this at first, thinking this was just an Apple statement of self-importance.

But Stacey reminded me that like Matter, HomeKit has always run locally; something you can’t say about the other big smart home platforms. And device provisioning has always been via QR codes, removing some of the clunkiness other ecosystems have used. This all goes back to when Apple open-sourced HomeKit back in 2019.

Image courtesy of K. Tofel

The security aspect of the statement also jives with how Matter security works. And it’s always been a core part of the HomeKit platform. So much so that device makers didn’t want to deal with it in the early HomeKit days for reasons previously mentioned.

So while I have no doubt that Amazon, Google, Samsung, and others have greatly contributed to Matter, the standard looks more like an Apple implementation. That means some of the pain points non-HomeKit users face in their smart home will go away. Or at least they’ll be minimized to a large degree. That’s good for consumers and the smart home industry in general.

Keep in mind, however, that Matter is more of a baseline for device makers and developers to work from in the smart home future. Everyone can still build features and services on top of what Matter supports. So you might, for example, add a HomeKit video doorbell to your non-HomeKit home and it will work just fine. If you want Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video feature for added data privacy, though, you’ll need to run that camera on the HomeKit platform. Services such as that are what I think might get Apple more HomeKit users in the future.

I haven’t overlooked those people, by the way. Apple did show offer upcoming changes to the Home app to better support Matter and devices from other ecosystems.

Image courtesy of Apple

Icons are being redesigned to better represent device types, for example. Devices will be shown in groups based on that type as well. New control sizes will allow you to see more devices on the screen of your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV as well. And new customization options for the iOS lock screen will let you place HomeKit widgets front and center: You won’t have to unlock your phone to see or change the status of your devices.

Essentially, Matter is a win all around for Apple, HomeKit users, and even to a lesser degree, non-HomeKit users. Greater device compatibility will bring more choices for how to equip your smart home and you’ll get some of that HomeKit experience even if you don’t have an Apple device.

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