As the VP and GM for wireless connectivity solutions at NXP, I spend a lot of time with OEMs, talking about the latest trends,
the challenges they face and how a semiconductor partner can help them gain a competitive advantage. The conversations are
always enlightening and often guide our own work as developers.
That’s one of the reasons why I think our
NXP Connects event, which brings
together a prestigious lineup of embedded systems experts to share knowledge and unveil technology, is so important. The event
lets attendees participate in the kinds of candid, open-ended conversations we have with OEMs, so everyone in the broader
community can help define the way forward.
The panel discussion I participated in at this year’s NXP Connects is a case in point. Titled,
“The Benefits of Interoperability and Security and the Challenges of Delivering It”, the discussion addressed one of the hottest topics in connectivity today –
the new Matter standard for smart home
– and yielded insights into the consumer demand for automation, the ways that ecosystem providers are working to transform
consumer experiences and the ingredients that OEMs need to deliver innovative smart home products.
Our discussion, led by Bill Curtis, an IoT analyst for
Moor Insights and Strategy, included Kevin Po, a group product manager and specialist in smart home platforms for Google, Carlo Treves, the executive director of product
management and strategy for Comcast, and me.
NXP Connects 2023: A panel on Matter features NXP’s Larry Olivas, Comcast’s Carlo Treves, Google’s Kevin Po and Bill Curtis from Moor Insights and Strategy
I want to thank Bill for guiding our conversation and express my appreciation to Kevin and Carlo for taking the time to
participate, and for being so enthusiastic with their contributions. It was a great conversation.
A Common Vision
One of the things that makes Matter stand out is how quickly it came together and how rapidly it’s expanding. In just three
years, some of the biggest names in consumer technology – Apple, Comcast, Google, and Samsung among them – came together,
defined a common goal and created a 900-page spec for smart home interoperability. And now, in less than a year since Matter
1.0 was announced, there are more than 1,200 certified Matter devices.
That’s a rate of adoption that’s almost unheard of in our industry, and it’s one of the first things we talked about in our
panel discussion. When Bill Curtis posed the first question, about why things came together so quickly, Kevin Po, who was part
of the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) effort to define Matter, recalled that “everyone involved had a shared
understanding of the problem. We all knew that user frustration around setting up your device and having to choose from so many
kinds of systems.”
I agree with Kevin, and remember people from different parts of the ecosystem saying, “We’re ready to collaborate. We’re ready
to make the investments needed.” Matter is a standard that reflects a real industry need – the need to remove silos and simplify
the consumer experience. It’s one of the reasons why I think it’s grown so quickly and shows such promise for widespread
Interoperability Unleashes Innovation
When the conversation turned to interoperability, and the idea that insisting on a single way of doing things can stifle
creativity and hinder competition, Kevin challenged that idea by saying, “Interoperability lets us tackle more interesting use
cases. Today we have sensors, we have AI automation, we have so many capabilities we can build on. All of this relies on a
foundation where all the devices can just talk to each other and have a common language in the home.”
Bill added that we now have the tools for true autonomy and can create smarter and smarter homes. But the smart ome experts
he’s spoken to have told him, “We’re never going to get there if our developers are still trying to figure out how to send bits
over a wire.”
What Matter lets us do is abstract on top of connectivity, so we can focus on solving more interesting problems and create
something more intelligent. As Carlo Treves put it, the interoperability that Matter delivers means “you don’t need to be
vertically integrated to bring innovation. You just need to be the best at one component of the industry. It lets innovation
happen at a different level.”
A Focus on OEMs
Now that Matter is ramping up, those of us who have been involved in defining the spec are turning our attention to day-to-day
issues of enabling fast time-to-market and helping developers navigate the complexity of the specification.
Although Comcast, Google and NXP are working on a variety of Matter topics, simplifying development is an overall theme. I
think Bill put it best when he said that, by emphasizing OEMs and what they need to succeed with Matter, “it’s all about what
you don’t have to do. The cloud, the software, [network] stack, the board support package. It all works out of the box.”
Speaking from NXP’s perspective, I couldn’t agree more. The OEM is central to our current priorities for Matter, which include
three focus areas:
Silicon Integration – we’re adding more functionality to each solution, including tri-radio options that include the entire RF
frontend on a monolithic device, so OEMs can simplify co-existence in the 2.4 GHz range for all radio protocols supported by
Matter today—Wi-Fi, Thread, and Bluetooth® Low Energy.
End-to-End Security – we supply everything, from the secure element in silicon to security certificates deployable from the
cloud, so OEMs can comply with and even exceed, where appropriate, the CSA requirements for protection and privacy.
Development Kits – we include all kinds of extras, from software stacks and even sample application code, so it’s easier to
deliver certified Matter devices, and so OEMs can make the development cycle more repeatable, by building on what’s already
there to save time and reduce SKUs.
The discussion spanned the recent trends around Matter, its potential for the future, and its ecosystem challenges.
Watch the panel
Flexible User Experiences
Sharing Google’s perspective, Kevin said the user experience is a primary focus. “At the end of the day, Matter is an
application layer. It’s a communication protocol. It doesn’t define the user experience. The UX is an area where companies can
differentiate.” He followed up by saying, “Ultimately, users want choice. And there are so many different users out there, even
in the same household. Some may want one app to control everything, some may want specialized functionality best showcased in a
dedicated app.” Matter gives developers the flexibility they need to meet all those different user requirements.
Speaking from Comcast’s perspective, Carlo talked about the idea of taking the “rough edges” off Matter, especially when it
comes to the multi-admin features that let a controller from one ecosystem (such as Apple) control a device from another
ecosystem (such as Google). The goal is to put the customer at the center, making ease-of-use the priority, while also
considering other important aspects of Smart Home operation, including security and privacy. Carlo emphasized that this is what
the CSA is working on, too, with their ecosystem-to-ecosystem work.
There’s More in the Video
As I mentioned above, these are just some of the points we covered in our discussion. We also talked about adoption and the
three paths that OEMs are likely to use when making Matter a part of their roadmap. We took a quick look at the future of
Matter and the fact that it’s likely to have an impact beyond the consumer space, with use cases in automotive, industrial,
healthcare and other applications.
In particular, at the end of the discussion, when we opened the floor to questions, the conversation took some surprising turns,
addressing such issues as why the initial focus of Matter was on battery-powered devices, why Matter includes mandatory
over-the-air (OTA) updates, why Matter supports Wi-Fi, Ethernet and Thread network transports, the intricacies of security
certificates, whether 5G will ever be a part of the standard, and how, because Matter is a device network, and not a cloud
network, it’s less reliant on cloud availability and network uptime.
So I hope you’ll catch the virtual version of our discussion by viewing the YouTube video and learn more about how we're helping to accelerate