September 26, 2022

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

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

Matter, the upcoming standard trying to give the smart home a single unified language, is almost here — and I just tackled an early demonstration of the kinds of cross-platform compatibility that should be enabled in the future. The demo was provided by Eve, which produces a range of smart plugs, radiator valves, lighting, and safety devices.

historically, Eve only worked with Apple’s HomeKit smart home platform. This is because he did not 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 SmartThings from Samsung, Alexa from Amazon, or Google Home. So it was noticeable to see all four platforms represented as I approached the Eve booth at the IFA trade fair in Berlin.

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

This is exactly what Eve was showing at IFA. Matter’s specifications aren’t finalized yet, so none of the devices were running the final firmware that supports Matter, but it was enough to see what kinds of functionality we might be able to expect when Eve devices are updated to support it.

Amazon Echo of the fourth generation controls the energy of Eve.

The Amazon table contained a fourth-generation Echo speaker, along with a typical non-smart bulb plugged into an Eve Energy smart plug. Currently, Echo speakers cannot control Eve products, as the latter are not Alexa-enabled. But both products are compatible with string, one of the wireless protocols the command works on and can run locally. Eve has been showing off how Matter will enable these two previously incompatible devices to talk to each other.

The representatives of the Eve suite were very adamant that no one else but themselves used voice commands to control all of their smart plugs, so I was relying on them to issue commands that would control Eve’s devices. “Alexa, turn off Eve Energy,” a reps asked the fourth generation Amazon Echo. After a (very long) cadence, a lamp was connected to the Eve Energy smart socket.

Matter’s design makes it simple and seamless for users across different platforms to control the same smart home products locally. The result is a more cohesive experience, where whatever voice assistant you choose to use can control all of your Matter-enabled devices and where configuration changes made on a device across one ecosystem are automatically reflected everywhere else. Each of the four pilot plants was using the same Eve Energy smart plug model, without the need for separate models for different ecosystems. Since the extension already supports Thread, updating it to support Matter has been a relatively smooth process, Eve’s director of public relations, Lars Felber, told me.

The Nest Hub (2nd generation) turns off Eve Energy with a voice command.

On the Google table, there was both a possible thread The second generation of the Nest Hub The Google Pixel 6 Pro works with the Google Home app. First, Felber told the Nest Hub, “Ok Google, turn on my lights.” The moment the Google smart display recognized the command, the Eve Energy smart plug behind it flicked the attached light bulb. The smart display sent a signal to the smart plug via Thread to get it working, thanks to Matter.

Using an Android phone running the Google Home app was less fluid in the demo. “Phones don’t run with a thread,” Felber explained to me. As a result, the phone needed to connect to the Nest Hub via a local Wi-Fi network so that the smart display could send the command to the smart plug via Thread. Unfortunately, trying to control the smart plug directly from the phone was unsuccessful. The code on the phone responded to my faucet, but the light remained unchanged.

It would have been a shame not to see Matter perform so flawlessly, but admittedly the trade show floors are one of the worst possible places to demonstrate such technology. Felber told me there were about 50 mesh Wi-Fi networks in the showroom we were in, and even the least crowded Wi-Fi channel still had nine devices. The Thread protocol also uses the same 2.4GHz frequency as Wi-Fi, which leads to more interference. The amount of noise also made it difficult to issue voice commands without screaming away from the stand’s various smart speakers. Additionally, the material standard is currently not final – so some recklessness may be expected.

The SmartThings Hub is hidden under the table.

A third table showed Matter’s integration with SmartThings. Confusingly, there was only one Samsung phone (Galaxy S22) on this table, with no subject boundary router in sight. But Philber assured me that the company was using the Aeotec-manufactured SmartThings Hub — which for some reason was hidden inside the table — to transmit the signal to Eve Energy. While the demo is completely misleading, it worked really well. Using the SmartThings app to control smart components is instant.

Finally, there was Apple’s table, which is the least surprising of the four because it showed a hardware setup already supported by Eve’s exclusive HomeKit lineup — albeit now updated to use Matter instead of just Apple’s HomeKit. Besides the smart plug and lamp on that table, there was an iPhone 13 and a HomePod Mini smart speaker that served as a thread limit router. Smart plug control via either one was very responsive.

Eve’s power is controlled by the HomePod Mini and iPhone.
Photo by John Porter/The Verge

Although the launch of the Matter standard means Eve hardware is on the cusp of becoming more functional, current owners don’t have to buy new hardware to reap the benefits. Felber says that Eve plans to push an OTA update for all of its Thread-enabled products (which represent 14 of its 18-product family) to use Matter. Eve Energy will be the first, and hopefully by the end of the year, with other devices like Eve door and windowThe Eve weatherThe Eve’s movementand the Eve Thermo Then.

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

Photo by John Porter/The Verge