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ADT Upbeat on Matter; Eyes 2nd Cert Round in 2022

Following the push of the Connectivity Standards Alliance’s certification program to 2022, ADT won’t likely participate in the first certification round, ADT Vice President-Product Engineering Mark Reimer, told us Monday. “I want to watch and make sure that everything goes really well, and then we’ll be most likely in the second certification round.”

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The Zigbee Alliance rebranded as CSA in May, when it announced broad smart home industry support for Matter (see 2105110064), billed as a “secure, industry-unifying standard to serve as the building block of connected devices." CSA CEO Tobin Richardson called Matter “the future of reliable connectivity” with a vision of initial certification late this year. This month, Richardson said that member companies revised the schedule to ensure that the software developer kit (SDK) and related tools “are ready to meet the expectations of the market,” which includes enabling a large ecosystem of interoperable Matter products. CSA now expects the SDK to be released next year, followed by the first devices through certification and opening of a formal certification program.

That timing lines up with ADT’s next-generation product release, said Reimer, reaffirming ADT’s commitment to the Matter promise of interoperability among smart home products. The company is “well underway” with discussions with partners, including Google, which announced a $450 million investment in ADT a year ago (see 2008040064). The biggest sell for ADT is that customers will be able to choose a favorite door lock or garage door opener from a preferred brand and mix and match with other Matter-compatible products. People will be able to “pick and choose their favorite rather than being forced into a walled garden,” he said.

Reimer is most excited about the context connected devices could deliver in emergency situations. Today, when a smoke detector senses unhealthy levels of smoke, it sounds an alarm and notifies a monitoring center but without additional context. “We know the smoke detector went off,” or that a door opened or motion was detected in the home, Reimer said, but the extent of the situation isn’t clear: “It could be simple or the house is about to burn up.” Because of the limited data, “we have to err on the side of caution; we have to communicate with the customers and immediately dispatch first responders and a fire truck so they get there.”

In a connected smart home, context from additional sensors can show it was the kitchen smoke detector that after 20 seconds no longer showed an unhealthy smoke level. A kitchen smart speaker could give added information that a French toast recipe had been requested; a smart display could show the family sitting in the kitchen. “With all of this additional context, you can paint a much more clear picture,” and the security company could contact the customer to see if an emergency response is needed, said Reimer.

First responders want this type of detail to avoid false events, said Reimer: “They want to know if it’s an ongoing fire, or a burglary or carbon monoxide poisoning; or is it something that doesn’t require their attention?” The information could come from an ADT device, partner product or third-party device, he noted. “If all the devices in the home are speaking the same language, it adds a little more information ... so we know how to respond appropriately.”

As for smart products already in homes, ADT is promising backward compatibility with any Z-Wave products that customers bought before the Matter era. A translator bridge between the ADT gateway and Z-Wave devices “will be able to speak Matter and be interoperable with the rest of the Matter products, even though some of those products haven’t been certified from Matter,” Reimer said.

Another goal is to have voice commands with smart speakers happen “in-home, local and private.” Today, most integrations via digital assistants are cloud to cloud, adding unwanted latency, said Reimer. “Even 200-300 milliseconds [of latency] makes it noticeable to the consumer." If all devices are communicating via Matter -- whether over Thread, Wi-Fi or Ethernet -- “a light is a light, and the characteristics are all the same. It doesn’t need a cloud to be able to translate or communicate with another device from another manufacturer.”

Price has been a barrier to smart home adoption for many consumers. The Matter SDK that CSA members are developing is supposed to make it easy for manufacturers to incorporate Matter into a device’s firmware, and available tools will make testing “straightforward" to minimize costs, Reimer said. Most devices today already have Wi-Fi radios built in, he said. “If it doesn’t have to add a proprietary radio, there really is no additional cost,” he said.

Momentum is building for Matter, said Reimer. Membership grew from about 180 in May to more than 200 in August, largely from global brands. It's encouraging to see "these companies that in the past would never join a single association all working together for one common goal: to make it “easier, more secure, more private and simpler” for consumers, he said. Members include Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Google, Lutron, Silicon Labs and SmartThings.

In his August update, CSA's Richardson cited “active participation” from member companies “driving the core specification, the budding certification program, and marketing and industry outreach.” CSA members have held four Matter test events, with the most recent including more than 60 devices and nearly 90 participants from over 40 companies. Test events have produced “thoughtful contributions, developed innovative new solutions and approaches, and offered suggestions for enhancing the details of the specification and SDK overall,” he said.