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Google’s Open API Policy Could Entail Big Developments for Integrators

Last week generated some exciting news for the DIY smart home space with Google opening up its Home APIs for third-party developers, though anyone interested in the smart home’s middle market has plenty to be hyped about as well. That’s because while still benefitting from the knowledge and expertise of professional integrators, the middle market has largely been limited by one thing: its products.

You’re never going to be able to achieve the functionality of a Savant system with the price point of a Zigbee product, but while demand for an affordable smart home system is there, the functionality and user experience of these more middle-market systems have always left a little to be desired, especially for CE pros who so often stake their names and reputations on the products services they provide.

It doesn’t help when certain products decide to conditionally work or simply refuse to work with other products when trying to set up more comprehensive automations, which is something Matter was supposed to fix, only for that expectation to lead to disappointment thus far.

While there’s still a long way to go, many recent developments have opened up plenty of new and exciting possibilities for the middle market by addressing many of those exact issues. The only question now is whether or not manufacturers are going to be able to maintain the momentum by greatly expanding the capabilities of devices meant for these more affordable smart home systems.

Google’s Open API Policy Drastically Opens Up the Potential for Middle Market Solutions

The single biggest issue that has plagued the smart home’s middle market has been interoperability between devices. Even on Matter, getting certain brands to work with another is an issue the CSA still working on fixing.

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For the time being, however, I see an unintentional band-aid being introduced with Google’s move to open its Home APIs for third party developers. Barring Google approval, any developer is now going to be able to work on apps and integrations that leverage Google Home.

We’ve already seen what this entails firsthand with ADT announcing how it plans to bring facial recognition capabilities to its platform through Google Nest cameras, and how Eve is finally being made available for Android devices, with intentions of developing automations that can trigger off changes in phone states.

Where this comes in for Matter interoperability is that, as a player in the Matter space, Google’s Home APIs can be used to create integrations that directly interact with Matter devices. It’s unfortunate that the biggest news for interoperability on Matter so far is coming from Google and not Matter itself, but the ability for people to freely work with Google Home’s API to create seamless integrations is still a pretty big boon for the standard.

For professionals, Google Home already has a sizeable footprint in the market, making continued appearances at CEDIA Expo and being picked up by plenty of professionals in the industry. With its access to these robust networks of devices, the news of its APIs being opened to the public means that people are going to be able to get far more creative and in-depth with the integrations across its network, meaning that, as a middle market solution, Google Home could start to shine.

And just as a rising tide raises all ships, that has the potential to drastically increase Matter’s viability for professionals as well.

At the Same Time, Matter is Building Out Device Capabilities

At the same time, Matter did a great service to making its specification far more robust with what products are able to do on it.

While something like a Crestron system is going to use hardwired connections to communicate between components, something like Matter might use Wi-Fi instead. This make installation a lot easier and cheaper for Matter products, but it can also greatly limit the capability of smart home systems. The ability to set up scenes, automations and schedules remain largely dependent on the hard ware, and how well the devices respond to commands is up to the wireless network.

With update 1.3 however, Matter has made it so that multiple devices tied to a scene will store the information for that scene locally, linking them so that, when a scene is triggered, a single command activates all devices, versus multiple commands being sent to individual devices. Matter also added in batch commands so that, in the event multiple commands need to be sent out at once, Matter controllers will bundle them into a single message before sending, which greatly reduces latency on a network.

The addition of scenes is huge, and should be considered one of the cornerstones of the smart home experience, so this being added to Matter really helps develop the specification into a more robust option for middle market smart homes. The batch command feature is also another great quality of life improvement and overall helps smooth out the experience.

Combine that with the growing functionality of Matter devices, with energy monitoring capabilities being added across every single Matter device, and the growing roster of device types, such as water management devices and EV chargers, and you have the groundwork for something that might not necessarily compete with a top end system, but definitely offer at least the basic capabilities at a more attainable price point for many homeowners.

Whether Luxury or Middle Market, Experience Will Make or Break the Smart Home

As much as I can sit here and talk about all the potentials, though, CE pros and their businesses don’t make money off of potentials. Customers aren’t satisfied with all the potential a network can have. There are far too many networks that had great potential only to end up dead in the water.

A smart home solution should simply work, whether it’s meant for the luxury or for the middle market, and I think it’s that lack of consistency that has really hurt public perception of middle market solutions. Companies like Livesmart have made great business working with Z-Wave products, and in that case, they seem to be the exception, but with these developments I feel as though the industry might be generating some additional options for the customers and professionals alike.

(Side note: if you or your company have found a level of success working with other what could be considered ‘middle-market’ products feel free to email me as I would love to chat about that and add your perspective to this piece).

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