Connectivity Standards Alliance; illustration by Stephen Shankland/CNET
Samsung SmartThings devices will adopt the Matter standard starting in 2022 for easier installation and use of smart home products, the electronics giant said Tuesday at its developer conference. Matter support will come to Samsung TVs, refrigerators and other devices.
Matter is designed to make it easier to connect devices like networked light fixtures, thermostats and security cameras to different manufacturers’ phones and smart speakers. Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung and others announced the technology earlier this year but delayed its release a few months until 2022.
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One big part of Matter’s promise is that devices supporting it should easily fit into homes overseen by tech giants Amazon, Google and Apple — for example controlling a Nest thermostat with an Apple iPhone or an Amazon Echo smart speaker. Today’s connection problems are a problem for consumers and device makers alike, so Matter’s success could help speed adoption of smart home technology.
SmartThings refers to Samsung’s line of smart devices, the app it uses to control them and underlying technology for linking them. Matter support should make it easier for Samsung devices to bridge its system with others’ and “makes smart home connectivity nearly effortless,” the company said in a statement.
Dozens of the biggest names in smart home technology have pledged support for Matter. When Matter certified devices arrive on the market, they’ll be recognizable with a logo showing three round-tipped arrows pointing toward a central point.
Matter is core to Google Home device technology, and Amazon is adding it to its Echo smart speakers. For controlling devices, Google and Apple are building Matter support into Android and into iOS.
Matter support was only one piece of Samsung’s home-centric announcements on Tuesday. Samsung also showcased its Bixby Home Platform, which is meant to be a thread that connects SmartThings to Samsung’s voice assistant for easier smart home control.
During the presentation, Samsung showcased how a single Bixby command like “Play an action movie” could trigger multiple actions across devices, such as dimming the lights, pulling up a movie on the TV and turning on the sound bar. Amazon and Apple offer similar functionality though their own respective features known as Alexa Routines and Scenes.
SmartThings got its start on Kickstarter in 2012, and Samsung acquired it in 2014. The idea behind SmartThings seemed pretty solid: There are a lot of different smart home devices out there, all with different apps and set ups, making early adoption confusing for many. SmartThings would take all of your scattered products and connect them under one app and one hub. But while Amazon, Google and Apple continue to add features and new hardware into the mix, complicated user interfaces and glitches are still holding SmartThings back, making it a less compelling option among its competitors.
Samsung is clearly trying to address those shortcomings with updates like Matter support and simpler voice controls through Bixby. But Samsung’s voice assistant has also struggled to keep up with its rivals. A study from Voicebot.ai that measured smartphone virtual assistant usage between 2018 and 2020 found that Apple’s Siri was the most frequently used mobile digital assistant with 45.1% of the market in 2020. The Google Assistant placed in second with 29.9%, while Amazon Alexa claimed third with 18.3%, and Samsung’s Bixby only accounted for 6.7%.
Samsung held its developer conference virtually for the first time in 2021 after canceling the event in 2020 because of COVID-19. The conference is Samsung’s opportunity to get developers excited about developing for its devices, much like Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. In the past, the Samsung Developer Conference has also been a vehicle for showcasing new technologies before official product announcements. In 2018, for example, it provided a glimpse into Samsung’s foldable phone designs before the Galaxy Z Fold or Galaxy Z Flip made their debuts.
CNET’s Megan Wollerton contributed to this report.