What's the Matter? Signify smart bulbs don't interoperate well enough. That's about to change.

May 12, 2021
Hue and WiZ products will conform to the new standard coming at the end of the year from a group that used to call itself the Zigbee Alliance.

It seems that something's missing from Signify's Hue and WiZ smart lightbulbs for the home. Something is lacking in interoperability with other smart things such as talking virtual assistants, speakers, TVs, thermostats, doorbells, locks, and any other item connected to the Internet these days. Exactly why this is a concern is a bit unclear to us at the moment, but nevertheless, we can report that Signify is rectifying the situation.

The company today announced that both its Zigbee-centric Hue line and its Wi-Fi-centric WiZ line will by the end of this year support Matter, a new standard intended to support interoperability between all things smart in the home.

Any existing user who wants such expanded freedom will have to add Matter software to either their Philips Hue home hub or their WiZ gear. The software will be available in the fourth quarter. By early next year, both Signify brands will support Matter out of the box.

Interconnectivity could be growing in importance with people staying at home among pandemic restrictions and concerns. For Signify, Hue and WiZ were bright spots in their recent first quarter results, so the company seems particularly motivated to keep that customer base happy.

Signify also hopes that improved interoperability could catapult smart lighting out of a niche environment and into wide uptake.

“I believe this single, unified connectivity standard will transform smart home technology from an emerging technology to mass household adoption,” said George Yianni, Signify's head of technology Philips Hue.

Now, for those of you who for years have been trying to get your head around the permutations of “interoperability” and the myriad other technologies and protocols out there such as Zigbee, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Thread, DALI (just to name a few), take note: Matter is not a new initiative. Nor is the organization that has corralled its development.

As of yesterday, Matter became the new name for Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP), an effort spearheaded by the Zigbee Alliance to foster interoperability in home environments among not only Zigbee technologies but others as well.

Perhaps out of concern that the alliance's Zigbee name gave the appearance of favoritism to Zigbee technology, the group changed its name, starting yesterday. Out with Zigbee Alliance, and in with the new Connectivity Standards Alliance.

But don't be misled: The Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) said it will continue to develop Zigbee wireless technology, while also working on interoperability between all the other flavors.

And that interoperability will take a step forward by the end of the year, when CSA releases Matter, a top-of-the-stack IP-based protocol that it says will assure connectivity by those who adhere to it.

CSA rattled off a list of companies that it said are either helping develop Matter or are serving on CSA's board. They include Apple, Amazon, Google, Comcast, Huawei, IKEA, Legrand, and Schneider Electric, among many others.

Lighting companies include Signify, China's Leedarson, and Lutron Electronics.

“By actively participating in demos and testing the interoperability of Philips Hue with other smart home devices via Matter, we were able to raise the smart home experience with Philips Hue to the next level,” said Yianni.

“This industry-unifying technology will catapult smart home technology and enable consumers to connect all their smart home devices seamlessly,” said Maikel Klomp, business leader of WiZ Connected. “By adopting Matter into our full product portfolio, WiZ continues to provide thoughtful products and easy-to-use technology that improves daily life and complements the homes of our users, making all-connected smart lighting super accessible."

A total of 180 companies are working on the specification, CSA said. Device makers who adhere to the standard will receive a CSA seal to display on product packaging.

“We create marks of trust, and Matter is an important milestone for users in our long history of delivering unifying, secure, reliable and trustworthy standards for the IoT,” said CSA president and CEO Tobin Richardson.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]om).

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