Matter today, energy monitoring tomorrow; that’s a very simple way to put what Samsung is envisioning for smart homes in the coming months — and years.
In mid-October Samsung was one of the first companies to become Matter-certified, and has already rolled out software updates for its existing Aeotec and SmartThings hubs as well as for the Android app to support Matter.
Yet, says Mark Tekippe, vice president of Product at SmartThings and board member at Connectivity Standards Alliance, this is only the beginning.
ZDNET sat down with Tekippe to discuss Matter, energy consumption, and the future of SmartThings.
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All about Matter
The Matter smart home connectivity standard, which published its Version 1.0 in October and has an official launch planned for this month, is very much in its infancy. The standard aims to break down the interoperability walls that now exist between different brands, hoping to effectively become the new language that most smart devices will speak.
Matter-certified devices are yet to hit the market, as different automation systems are still in the process of certifying their own platforms. Samsung, however, was one of the first to adopt Matter support, and got certified just a few days after launch.
Though Aeotec V2 and V3 hubs have already seen a Matter update, other SmartThings hubs will have to wait. Matter support is yet to arrive for compatible Samsung TVs, smart monitors, and Family Hub refrigerators. When that will happen is the big question; “We haven’t shared timing for it yet but it’s definitely on its way,” Tekippe said.
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Part of getting all hubs in shape to support Matter is moving away from a cloud-based Groovy IDE and migrating to Edge drivers in favor of local communication. “It’s a big change,” explained Tekippe. “We have to make this transformation to go to the next level in terms of scalability and deliver the performance and experiences that customers are really wanting.”
The change is being implemented right now, and consumers won’t be notified of when it actually happens with their devices. Edge should give customers local control over their smart homes, so they can connect and control their devices even if the internet connection is down.
The vision for SmartThings is far-reaching. SmartThings is already revolutionary in showing users their energy consumption data in the mobile app, but it’s trying to take it further. Tekippe explained, “We are planning to go outside of that — that’s part of our vision, is to give users whole-home energy consumption [data], and we’ll do that through partnerships.”
Whole-home energy monitoring would give people a snapshot of their home’s real-time energy consumption, letting them identify any appliances or circumstances contributing to high electricity use: “Not just to show them how much energy they’re using but show them what they can do to move the needle in terms of how much they’re consuming or using,” Tekippe said.
This feature would help people reduce how much they’re consuming to save money and energy. This will be achieved through partnerships with other companies, like Itron, that will come in the future.
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“Matter is going to increase the number of devices that we can pull into that service so in the future as Matter expands beyond the initial device set into other areas, you can imagine things like EV chargers” that would fit into the energy monitoring you can do with SmartThings, Tekippe shared.
The timeline for whole-home energy monitoring through SmartThings is unclear yet. Tekippe says Samsung is expanding SmartThings Energy to different countries outside the US by the end of this year, “and it’s a continuous area of development for us. You’re going to see continuous updates [and] more partnerships.”
The end of the hub?
SmartThings wants you to know it’s not looking to take over your home; it’s trying to give you more convenience, more information about, and, most of all, more control over your home.
A couple of years ago, Samsung shocked loyal SmartThings consumers by discontinuing production of its SmartThings hub, which is essential to use the home automation system. In a nutshell, a hub connects all the different smart devices around your home in one place and puts them online, so you can access them from your mobile device.
Instead, Aeotec, a smart home manufacturer, took over production of the SmartThings hub, offering a SmartThings-compatible hub identical to the one Samsung had sold, with branding being the only apparent difference.
This change made SmartThings users wonder about the longevity of the system and, more specifically, whether Samsung was planning on discontinuing it. But Tekippe says this is not the case, and SmartThings is central in Samsung’s overall messaging, bringing it to more appliances and devices for a connected experience.
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This is evident with Samsung’s recent Hub Everywhere approach. “That’s where we’re taking the SmartThings Hub software and bringing that into mainstream Samsung product categories like the TVs, smart monitors, and Family Hub fridge,” Tekippe said. These appliances double as SmartThings hubs, so you can enjoy the smart home automation system without buying a separate Aeotec hub.
But, what does this mean for Aeotec? A cynic like me may speculate, is this why Samsung discontinued manufacturing the hub — to integrate it into its appliances and completely do away with a separate hub? And if that’s the case, you’d have to wonder whether the Aeotec hub will be eventually discontinued as well.
Tekippe, however, says that’s not the case and the partnership with Aeotec is still going strong: “We’re fully committed continuing to support Aotec with their products and the software that runs on them for our users,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of existing users that have those hubs and there’s not really a reason to change those out.”
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The focus of the Hub Everywhere strategy, instead, is on new users and having a bigger reach, according to Tekippe. Hub Everywhere, “combined with Matter, is going to make that smart home experience a lot more accessible to everyday consumers without having to go purchase additional hardware.”
SmartThings is promising a lot for the future of smart homes, and we’ll have to see if it delivers. So far, this is one of the most popular and easiest smart home automation systems to navigate, with an intuitive, user-friendly interface. And since the Aeotec hub supports Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, and Wi-FI, this gives it some of the widest compatibility across smart home brands.
The truth is, SmartThings is only getting started, even at 10 years old. Matter has opened up more possibilities for its future, and its Hub Everywhere approach should bring a wider variety of users into the system, by reaching those who don’t seek out a smart home hub but may take advantage of one that’s built into an appliance they’ve bought.
Samsung is planning “to have a much more global reach than we’ve had historically, and SmartThings is definitely central to these different product areas,” Tekippe said. “We’re really excited about the next chapter as we reach more users and bring those experiences to that global customer base.”
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