Why it matters that I just saw a Google Nest Hub controlling an Apple HomeKit smart plug

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Matter, the upcoming standard that attempts to give the smart home a single unifying language, is almost here – and I’ve just been treated to a first demonstration of the kinds of cross-platform compatibility it should enable in the future. The demonstration was given by Eve, which produces a range of smart plugs, radiator valves, lighting and security devices.

Historically, Eve has only ever worked with Apple’s HomeKit smart home platform. Indeed, he didn’t want to use cloud-to-cloud platforms, preferring to keep his devices on locally controlled platforms for privacy and security. Eve had an iOS app but no Android app, and it didn’t support Samsung’s SmartThings, Amazon’s Alexa, or Google Home. So it was remarkable to see all four platforms represented as I approached Eve’s stand at the IFA show in Berlin.

The reason for the change is the material. It’s perhaps the biggest thing to happen to the smart home since its inception, and in theory, we’re only months away from having it available to the public. Eve also announced that it’s launching an Android app as a counterpart to its existing iOS app, but the big problem with Matter is that you technically don’t need a device maker’s app at all. You can simply set up and control your Matter-enabled devices with existing apps, whether Apple HomeKit, Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Samsung SmartThings apps.

This is exactly what Eve demonstrated at the IFA. The Matter spec hasn’t been finalized yet, so none of the devices were running their final Matter compatible firmware, but it was enough to see the kinds of features we might expect when Eve’s devices are updated. to support it.

A fourth-generation Amazon Echo controlling an Eve Energy.

The Amazon table contained a fourth-generation Echo speaker, along with a typical non-smart light bulb plugged into an Eve Energy smart outlet. Currently, Echo speakers cannot control Eve products because the latter are not compatible with Alexa. But both products are compatible with Thread, one of the wireless protocols Matter runs on and can run locally. Eve showed how Matter will allow these two previously incompatible devices to talk to each other.

Eve’s booth reps insisted that no one but them uses voice commands to control each of their smart plugs, so I relied on them to issue the commands that would control Eve’s devices. . “Alexa, turn off my Eve Energy,” a rep asked a fourth-generation Amazon Echo. After a beat (admittedly quite a long one), a light bulb plugged into an Eve Energy smart plug went out.

Matter’s design allows users of different platforms to easily and seamlessly control the same smart home products. The result is a more cohesive experience, where the voice assistant you choose to use can control all of your Matter-enabled devices, and configuration changes made to one device through an ecosystem will automatically be reflected everywhere else. Each of the four demo stations used the same Eve Energy smart plug model, with no need for separate models for different ecosystems. Because the accessory already supports Thread, updating it to support Matter was a relatively seamless process, Lars Felber, Eve’s public relations manager, tells me.


A Nest Hub (2nd generation) turning off an Eve Energy by voice command.

On the Google table were both a Thread-enabled second-gen Nest Hub and a Google Pixel 6 Pro running the Google Home app. First, Felber told the Nest Hub, “Ok Google, turn on my lights.” As soon as Google’s smart display recognized the command, the Eve Energy smart plug behind clicked the attached bulb. The smart display had sent a signal to the smart plug via Thread to turn it on, thanks to Matter.

Using the Android phone running the Google Home app was less seamless in my demo. “Phones don’t Thread,” Felber explained to me. As a result, the handset had to communicate with the Nest Hub via a local Wi-Fi network for the smart display to send the command to the smart plug via Thread. Unfortunately, attempting to control the smart plug directly from the phone didn’t work. The phone icon responded to my taps, but the light remained unchanged.

It was a shame not to see Matter working perfectly, but trade shows are admittedly one of the worst possible places to demonstrate technology like this. Felber told me there were about 50 overlapping Wi-Fi networks in the living room we were in, and even the least congested Wi-Fi channel still had nine devices on it. The Thread protocol also uses the same 2.4 GHz frequency as Wi-Fi, which leads to more interference. The amount of noise also made it difficult to issue voice commands without shouting inches away from the various smart speakers in the booth. Also, the Matter standard is currently not final – so bugs are to be expected.

A SmartThings hub was hidden under the table.

A third chart showed Matter’s integration with SmartThings. Confusingly, there was only one Samsung phone (a Galaxy S22) on that table, with no Thread edge router in sight. But Felber confirmed to me that the company was using an Aeotec-made SmartThings hub—which for some reason was hidden inside the table—to transmit the signal to Eve Energy. Although totally misleading, the demo worked well. Using the SmartThings app to control the smart plug was instant.

Finally, there was the Apple table, the least surprising of the four as it demonstrated a hardware setup that the HomeKit-exclusive Eve line already supports very well – although now updated to use Matter rather than just Apple’s HomeKit . Next to the smart plug and bulb on that table was an iPhone 13 and a HomePod Mini smart speaker acting as a Thread edge router. Controlling the smart plug through either was very responsive.

The Eve Energy controlled by a HomePod Mini and an iPhone.
Photo by Jon Porter/The Verge

Although the launch of the Matter standard means that Eve’s devices are about to become much more functional, existing owners shouldn’t need to buy new hardware to reap the benefits. Felber says Eve plans to push an OTA update to all of its Thread-enabled products (which make up 14 of its 18-product lineup) to use Matter. The Eve Energy will be the first, hopefully by the end of the year, along with other devices like the Eve door and windowthe Eve’s weatherthe Eve-Motionand the Eve Thermo next thereafter.

Turning light bulbs on and off is a simple smart home party trick, and there are plenty of other examples of smart devices that work in different ecosystems. But seeing a currently Apple-exclusive accessory work (relatively) seamlessly across all of these different ecosystems, with both voice and app control, got me pretty excited about what Matter might be able to achieve when of its launch this fall.

Photography by Jon Porter/The Verge

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