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Amazon’s Alexa 2021 event follows Jeff Bezos’ graze with space, with the retailer giant announcing a tonne of new features for the weird device that sits in the corner of the room, accidentally activating when you least expect it.
The event seemed more focused on the developer side of things, but for those of us at home who don’t know our way around Github, the event did reveal that Amazon would be upgrading almost every Echo device – bar the first generation according to a rep who spoke with The Verge – to support the brand new open-source, universal connectivity standard for home internet-of-things (IOT) protocol being developed or supported by major companies.
Matter – formerly known as Project CHIP – is an allied effort by huge companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple to develop a standard for all home devices that fit within the home automation or smart home ecosystems we’re building for ourselves.
Matter’s entire modus operandi is to ensure that these devices work similarly to our computers or phones, in that whatever you use, should just work with each other. Platform agnostic and without the headache of having to contemplate what works with what.
At least, that’s what should be the case. See, while Matter will make IOT Compatability more open between devices, companies like Apple are still going to require you to own a HomePod or HomePod Mini to do the heavy lifting when it comes to command these devices to turn on your lights.
While on the outside it looks like they’re playing nice, the reality is that this is still going to be a “buy into this” method of consideration.
However, where this protocol should be helpful is by combining the iOS and Android devices that you want to manage your home with. You won’t be ditching the countless hubs and pucks and plugs you’ve had to acquire to just use some of these devices, but getting them to work or managing them shouldn’t be as hard as before once it does launch.
This is in part due to Matter effectively unifying the language spoken by these devices on the programming side, allowing developers in the future to simply and effectively stop jumping over a million different hurdles just to keep up with where the companies are with their home automation.
So with this all in mind, Amazon’s approach to Matter seems to be in a much broader scope. They’re working towards an ecosystem where you have an Echo that can communicate with your other branded device while selling you said branded devices.
It’s a smart move, as homes that have adopted smart things almost probably made the leap with an Amazon Echo, rather than Apple’s HomeKit or Google Home. In 2020, 70% of American smart speaker owners were in possession of an Amazon device.
If you own a first-generation Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Tap, you’re probably out of luck. These devices aren’t going to support Matter.
However, almost every other Echo plug-in device will do so. These include: